Monday, June 23, 2014

Book Review: Lamb by Christopher Moore

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal

Written by: Christopher Moore

Published: 2002

Synopsis: The birth of Jesus has been well chronicled, as have his glorious teachings, acts, and divine sacrifice after his thirtieth birthday. But no one knows about the early life of the Son of God, the missing years -- except Biff, the Messiah's best bud, who has been resurrected to tell the story in the divinely hilarious yet heartfelt work "reminiscent of Vonnegut and Douglas Adams" (Philadelphia Inquirer).

Verily, the story Biff has to tell is a miraculous one, filled with remarkable journeys, magic, healings, kung fu, corpse reanimations, demons, and hot babes. Even the considerable wiles and devotion of the Savior's pal may not be enough to divert Joshua from his tragic destiny. But there's no one who loves Josh more -- except maybe "Maggie," Mary of Magdala -- and Biff isn't about to let his extraordinary pal suffer and ascend without a fight.

“Blessed are the meek, for to them we shall say "attaboy".”

 Laura had Alley appreciation week a few weeks ago, so this week I'm going to carry on the tradition by doing happy dances and fist pumping while chanting Alley's name over and over.

Go Alley! Go Alley! Go Alley!

In case you're new here, Alley's kinda a bit of a Christopher Moore fan. Just a little one though, it's not like she's read and re-read his books or anything, or professed her love for him on a blog. Or wait, maybe she did. Actually yeah, that's kinda why I'm dedicating this to Alley, because her enthusiasm finally paid off and I got around to reading, and loving, Christopher Moore's Lamb. This book is all kinds of awesome. It's fun and silly and inventive and just a little bit heart-warming.


Biff, officially Levi but nicknamed after the sound made when he's hit on the head, is brought back from the dead 2000 years after the fact to write his gospel which will fill in the gaps of the missing years when he accompanied his best friend Joshua (Jesus*) to find out how to be the messiah. And it's a hell of a journey. From their early days pining after the same girl (Maggie AKA Mary Magdelene) to travelling to meet and study under each of the three wise men, to witnessing the carnage at the festival for Kali, to buying elephants and vanquishing demons.

There's a lot of stuff going on in the 20 years or so they spend away from home, and while the events are pretty integral to them growing as characters and men, the real heart of the novel is the bromance between Biff and Josh. Like every nerd on the internet, I love a good bromance and Christopher Moore delivers, and then some. They tease and prank each other, argue and snipe, but they are two halves of a whole. Josh, as the son of God, is a little naive. He believes the best in everyone, and isn't really about to see the forest from the trees. Biff is his protector, physically and emotionally. While Josh is learning the tenets of Buddhism and the divine spark, Biff is learning to brew poisons and perform martial arts (and inventing judo - or Jew-do). They're the physical embodiment of the yin and yang amulet that Biff wears around his neck, one is the poison and one is the antidote, but both have their roles and both need the other. Considering this is the (lost) story of Jesus/Joshua the bromance seems incredibly apt. The story we all know of Jesus is one of sacrifice and love, but it's nice to think that there's someone who loved and sacrificed even more for the man who would become the most influential person to ever live**.

The angels are what really made this GIF appropriate.

So there's an elephant in the room who I probably need to address. I am not religious. Technically I was raised Catholic but I haven't been to any kind of bible study since I was 10. I'm mainly raising this point here because of what I'm about to say next, i.e. I don't really have a leg to stand on. Any time a book deals with a sensitive issue, people lash out and try and ban it or rail against it***. At first glance I could understand why people might look at the title and synopsis of this book and think that Moore is trying to either sensationalise the story for profit or just troll Christians. That is absolutely not what this book is. I'm sure there's plenty of blasphemy in the book and Moore says himself in his afterword that he took liberties with the story, but like Moore then says:
“This story is not and never was meant to challenge anyone's faith; however, if one's faith can be shaken by stories in a humorous novel, one may have a bit more praying to do.”
So if you've avoided this book because you were worried that it was written by an atheist mocking your beliefs, then don't worry. And on the flipside, if you're an atheist/agnostic and you don't think a book about a religious figure is really your cup of tea/you know nothing about the whole thing then also, don't worry. It might use a religious figure to tell the story, but it's about a lot more than that. It's about the basic principals of Christianity, sure, but that can also be boiled down to the Wil Wheaton slogan "don't be a dick".

Jesus's whole message in a nutshell.

I've made this book sound incredibly emotional and serious, and while I think you can take some brilliant things from it, it is first and foremost a funny, funny book. From dad-level humour to some downright clever funny business, this book had me laughing out loud a lot. So I think I'll end this review on one of my favourite sections, where the reanimated Biff ponders the nature of today's rap music and slang.
“I've tried to get the angel to watch MTV so I can learn the vocabulary of your music, but even with the gift of tongues, I'm having trouble learning to speak hip-hop. Why is it that one can busta rhyme or busta move anywhere but you must busta cap in someone's ass? Is "ho" always feminine, and "muthafucka" always masculine, while "bitch" can be either? How many peeps in a posse, how much booty before baby got back, do you have to be all that to get all up in that, and do I need to be dope and phat to be da bomb or can I just be "stupid"? I'll not be singing over any dead mothers until I understand.”

Like I said. Funny.

*this isn't a case of changing the name randomly. Joshua is the Greek translation of the Hebrew name Yeshua. 

**Or not live. Or be the amalgam of several men claiming to be messiah. whatever, you know the drill.

***Although I think Alley said in her review that this book hasn't really gotten that kind of negative press. Which is brilliant.


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