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Thursday, January 30, 2014

In which I tell you about a book and give you the proper warnings and let you figure out if you want to read it or not

Here's another book whose title will probably tell you whether you want to read the book or not. Ready? Here goes: Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal.

It's rare for a book's title to so fully explain what's within the covers. It's funny, it's flippant, it's kind of sacrilegious, and it deals with Christ's (here it's Joshua) life during the gap between the Frankincense and Myrrh stuff and the Matthew, Mark, John, and Luke stuff. I haven't seen Life of Brian but it's probably kind of similar. I'm not sure if Joshua himself drops the F bomb, but most everyone else does, is what I'm saying.

Look. I warned you. The thing about this book is that it's a work of fiction and certainly acts like it. The historic foundations of it are based on research, as in Jerusalem is based on real accounts of that time period, and in that sense I think it does a good job shedding light on what the real Jesus' childhood could have been like. But it's pretty much a fantasy novel. There's a giant demon in it, is what I'm saying.

I say that to justify myself when I say that I liked this book quite a bit. It's very funny, and I like the idea that Biff acted something like a Holmes to Joshua's Watson. This might take some explaining and luckily this train ride isn't going anywhere so I'll go ahead and explain it. See, the fun thing about Watson in the Sherlock Holmes books (and also captured quite well in the BBC reboot) is that Watson has no guile. He essentially can't lie, isn't sneaky, and is optimistic and friendly and lovely. Sherlock is the sociopath who barely understand human emotion and depends on Watson to help him see the humanity in people. Watson needs Sherlock to look at things realistically.

In Lamb, Joshua's sinless life causes problems as he and Biff make their way through a perilous journey in a world that is ready to take advantage of someone who cannot lie or deceive or steal. So Biff does all that stuff for him. Biff doesn't have much in the way of moral compunctions, and essentially does all the sinning for the both of them. He understands the darkness in people where Jesus only sees the good. It's a fun dynamic that works best when the two are dealing with devious characters looking to rip them off. It's at its worse when the author spends many pages having Biff engage in all of his sexual fantasies about groups of, say, Chinese concubines and working through the entirety of the Kama Sutra.

There's also kind of a lame running gag about Biff inventing all kinds of things that we take for granted. I'm not sure if this is just a way to introduce anachronisms for the convenience of getting them from point A to point B or what, but I'm sure I've read this kind of joke before. It's not my fault if I can't remember where. I woke up at a quarter to five this morning and hey, give me a break already.

So do I recommend it? I don't know. For me I could read this as a fictional story, and the Joshua in the story is as close to the one I believe in as a religious figure as the guy named Jesus hanging out in the Home Depot parking lot. Every adventure story is essentially a messiah tale, anyway. Long story short, if you anticipate that this kind of thing would bother you, it probably will. Luckily I have some more books to recommend in the very near future.