Okay, so you’ve seen, and this is just a conservative estimate, 1,489,226 television shows and movies based — sometimes exceedingly loosely — on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843). But how many literary spin-offs have you read?
Adam Roberts, the British science fiction writer and parodist — I talked about him back in March, in this post — has written I Am Scrooge (Gollancz, 2010), a very funny retelling of Dickens’ classic story, with one tiny, almost insignificant addition: zombies. Scrooge, you see, is somehow immune to the plague that’s turning the rest of humanity into the walking dead, and the ghosts of Christmases past, present, and future are really keen to find out why.
If you’re a fan of Roberts’ brand of humor (and I am, very much), you’ll love this Yuletide mashup. If you’ve never come across his hysterical parodies — or, for that matter, his elegantly written science fiction novels — you’re in for a real treat. And, needless to say, zombie-philes will eat it up.
Louis Bayard’s Mr. Timothy (HarperCollins, 2003) focuses on the grown-up Tiny Tim, who, with a young companion, exposes the dark side of London’s elite. Timothy Cratchit undergoes a transition that echoes that of his benefactor Ebenezer Scrooge — he’s a hard-edged cynic when the story begins — but the novel isn’t precisely a sequel to A Christmas carol. In fact the book feels a bit unsure of itself at times (is it an examination of its central character? is it a crime drama?), but you can’t deny that it’s well written and pretty darned interesting.
You should also check out The Man Who Invented Christmas (Crown, 2008), by Les Standiford — yes, that Standiford, the author of the John Deal mystery novels. It’s a splendid story that puts Dickens’ classic story in its often surprising context (its author was going through a serious slump when he wrote it, for example), and it really does give you a stronger appreciation for A Christmas Carol and its rather startling impact on modern history.