Old Testament Zombies: A Review of Death Has Come Up Into Our Windows

Death Has Come Up Into Our Windows (2015)
Written By: Stant Litore
Genre: Alternate History/Historical Fantasy
Pages: 137 (Trade Paperback)
Series: The Zombie Bible (Book 1)
Publisher: Westmarch Publishing

Why I Chose It: I like both zombies and Bible stories, and I thought “how could you possibly combine those two?” Naturally I had to read it and find out.

Premise:

595 BC. God is weeping behind Her veil in the Temple while the dead eat Her city.

Her prophet Yirmiyahu wakes sometimes in the night and hears those cries. He has foreseen the devouring of the city, and his warnings to its citizens are far from popular. As our story opens, Yirmiyahu is imprisoned at the bottom of a dry well; once each day, his gaolers toss the hungry dead into the well after him. Yirmiyahu will have to fight to survive the dead, dehydration, and some truly wrenching memories — memories of atrocities witnessed, lives lost, and sacrifices made that shatter the heart.

Very Mild Spoilers Below.


Discussion: My first thought when starting this book was that this could either be really weird or really cool. Looking at the cover — let’s be honest, it’s really not great — I was kind of worried it would fall into the former category.

I shouldn’t have worried.

I wouldn’t classify this as World War Z cool, but I quickly fell in love with the language and the lyrical style of Litore’s storytelling. The writing is just beautiful. It’s not as ponderous as the Old Testament, but it feels like it has the same weight and majesty as some Old Testament stories. I’m having a hard time comparing it to anything I’ve read recently. I don’t generally like style over story, and I haven’t read a lot of zombie novels. I guess I would compare it to World War Z in that the plague of dead were just a backdrop for a larger story about humanity.

I love that Litore took some less familiar parts of the Bible and presented them with a fantastical twist and a touch of horror to explain things unexplained in the ancient texts. I’m familiar with Christian fiction that does something similar by filling in the blanks of these traditional stories. This book pushed the boundaries even further into a type of Alternate History or Historical Fantasy that I’ve never seen before. Is there such a thing as Biblical Fantasy? This has convinced me that if there isn’t already, there definitely should be.

This story gives us a deeply personal look at Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah), who was a major prophet during the Babylonian invasion of Jerusalem. With the slight twist that dead bodies which aren’t properly cleansed and buried after death will rise again to feed off the living. What a fantastically compelling explanation for the strict practices regarding death and burial under the Mosaic Law (the rules brought to God’s people by Moses). In his author’s note, Litore talks about the inspiration he found in the pain and the sorrow of Lamentations, a book that mourns the break between God and His repetitively disobedient people. I can’t think of a more poignant backdrop for that grief than an outbreak of walking, hungry dead.

And while I was thrown at first by God being described as female, it became one of the more interesting aspects of this book. I have always thought of my God as male, but I have read enough fantasy with diverse pantheons that it didn’t take long to get used to thinking of He as a She, and once I did, I could see what Litore was trying to do. He talks about the idea of Shekinah, the dwelling of God’s divine presence as a possible feminine aspect of a God largely recognized as masculine. I’d never heard of this before, but I found the concept fascinating, and I loved the way Litore used it to give Yirmiyahu the role of protector and defender.

When someone says Zombie Bible your first reaction could very well be a laugh, but Litore manages to skirt the ridiculous and land firmly in the profound. Yirmiyahu’s outrage and sorrow feel very real, his relationship with his wife is both sweet and powerful, and his struggle between the evils of the world and the calling of the divine echoes the struggle within each of us.

I tend to be an idealist, so I like my heroes to end in a better place than they started. But I found Yirmiyahu’s heartbreaking journey riveting. Yirmiyahu starts in the role of Holy Prophet, a man who hears God’s voice. He is filled with God’s words. He knows what he is to do. His path is clear. But in the end his journey leads down, not up. Men, both dead and undead, batter at his faith until he ends up in a place much more familiar to the rest of us. A place of silence where faith is based on things unseen. Things felt and not heard.

This is not a happy story. This is not an adventure story. Yirmiyahu’s character arc is not the typical hero’s journey. If you’re looking for a fast-paced zombie slasher thing, look elsewhere. These hungry dead are just a setting for a deeper and more universal story between God and man. Faithfulness and despair.

In Conclusion: I loved Death Has Come Up Into Our Windows so much more than I thought I would, for the historical context as well as the spiritual. The rest of the series looks just as interesting, taking a look at other, less well-known stories in and around biblical tradition. I can see people being weirded out by it, I can also see people dismissing it for its theological aspect. I think both would be a mistake. Pick this one up for its beauty and for its pain. It deserves to be read.

Featured image (and cover art) by Navate at DeviantArt.

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