Review of Allison Hewitt is Trapped by Madeline Roux
By COYLE NEAL
“Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them.” Revelation 20:13
The last zombie book I read left me thinking, “this was great, but what it really needed was a good dose of feminist angst.” Fortunately, I stumbled across Allison Hewitt is Trapped. In this book, the title character blogs her way through the zombie apocalypse. Beginning at the bookstore where she worked, she and a group of friends fight their way through the undead on a quest to find her mother and ride out what seems to be the end of the world. Will she survive? Will she find her mother? What about true love—is that even an option once the dead have risen? The book itself is a series of blog posts, and this fairly unique format helps maintain respectable pacing, a solid narrative, and just the right amount of tension to make a decent read, even if there was more “I’ll get angst-y and go off by myself because I just can’t handle people right now” than I really like in a book.
Beyond the quality of the narrative, Allison Hewitt is Trapped likewise holds philosophical and theological interest. Zombie stories in general are both fascinating and horrifying (though they’re not usually my preferred sub-genre). They raise questions about mortality; they force us to ask about the differences between life and death (is that really still my spouse/parent/child?); and they challenge us to identify the place of the soul. And this is without even beginning to examine group dynamics (both in terms of the zombies as a group and the human survivors) and the response of society as a whole to a truly catastrophic physical, psychological, or existential event. Allison Hewitt is Trapped self-consciously raises these questions without answering them. Which is perhaps for the best, since even the greatest philosophers have struggled to find answers to such questions. (Not questions about zombies, sadly, though I would pay good money for a retelling of Plato’s Republic where the Philosopher-Kings have to fight off the undead.)
No doubt Christian readers will be interested in the book’s questions about and reflections on God. In a sense, zombie stories use Christian ideas about the end of the world, the Resurrection of the dead, and the symbolism of communion (eating flesh, drinking blood) but retold from a non-Christian perspective. As Christians, we believe that someday the dead shall all rise and the unrepentant shall be judged. I think that to some extent what the non-Christian hears is: zombies. That is, a horde of people who draw life from the body and blood of another rising up from the dead to take over the earth. Of course that’s not what is meant by Christians, but I think at times we can be unwise in the way in which we talk about the end of the world, and this un-wisdom can result in misconception on a large and frightening scale. This can be a challenge to us to be clearer on a couple of points.First, that the heart of the Christian life is not mindless conformity, but personal love. It is our responsibility as Christians to care for others, not to reshape the world in our own image. Our ideal is not seeing hordes of others just like us—those infected with the same beliefs—marching across the earth claiming it all as our own. Instead, our goal is to serve others with kindness and love, just as we have been served in salvation. Our unity in Christ is a unity of faith in the Gospel resulting in love for God and others—not the insistence that everyone else live exactly as we do.
Second, we should be clear that the foundation of this life of love is faith in the atoning work of another, not irrational parasitic destruction of the rest of society. For centuries, naysayers have characterized Christianity inherently irrational. Christians are seen as nothing more than mindless drones who will believe anything (the crazier the better) as they leech off of society and reap the benefits of the hard work of great scientists, progressive politicians, and secular social reformers—all this even as those same Christians work to destroy the very society that supports them (it was to refute this accusation that Augustine wrote his City of God). Again, the parallels with zombie literature are pretty clear. I’ve already noted that this is a misunderstanding of the nature of true Christianity which is rooted not in leeching off of the world but in self-sacrificial service to others. Even as we serve it is also our responsibility to be precise in our presentations of the Gospel and our articulation of the doctrines of the faith. Christianity has a long tradition of this kind of clarity, that has been somewhat obscured with the rise of emotionalism in the past two centuries. We would do well to get back to the older presentations of the faith embodied by Calvin, Aquinas, and Augustine.
Overall, Roux has written an excellent book that’s mostly enjoyable to read but also has elements that are worthy of reflection and discussion. Recommended for everyone who likes a good zombie story.