A Slice of Fried Gold

#7 - Lamb by Christopher Moore

Sunday, April 6, 2008

#7 - Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore
Mankind, I suppose, is designed to run on—to be motivated by—temptation. If progress is a virtue then this is our greatest gift. (For what is curiosity if not intellectual temptation? And what progress is there without curiosity?) - Levi bar Alphaeus, aka Biff.
After a long, long, long time reading this novel, I have finally completed my seventh book of the year. Given that I should at the very least be at 12 by now, my ability to reach fifty two books on the year is rapidly approaching a rather unfriendly level: unlikely at best. No less, given that I finally have completed this novel, the question isn't "how likely is it that I will reach my goal of 52 books in a year?" but this: what did I think of book #7?

Given that I had recently completed another novel by Christopher Moore (A Dirty Job in fact), I knew I was a fan of his writing. He has a talent for both making humor that is entirely organic and emotion that isn't saccharine in any way, and given the subject matter of Lamb, I could hardly wait to see how he would accomplish these goals. What is Lamb about you ask? It's the story of Jesus' best friend named Biff and the 30 years of life that the existing gospels do not cover. The story begins with an Angel named Raziel being tasked to collect Biff and to get him to write his own gospel, as it is now time for the earlier part of Christ's life to be told.

The story is incredibly interesting and nearly constantly funny, with Biff being one of the single best characters I've ever read. His loyalty and levity in nearly every situation is uncanny, and incredible traits for a character. Moore sets Biff and Jesus' relationship up as any normal best friend relationship would be - lots of lewdness, jabs, sarcasm (see, Biff invented sarcasm and irony...probably why I love the guy so much), and punches exchanged, but all in good fun. Their relationship is the backbone of the entire book, and the best sections work because of Moore's incredible ability to bring this unlikely pair to life.

The story takes you from the beginning, where Biff and Joshua (Jesus' name in Hebrew) first meet as Joshua is performing minor miracles involving a recently deceased lizard, all the way to the end with the crown of thorns, the cross, and the whole nine as Biff schemes to save his best friend up until the end. With that said, the beginning and the end are nothing without the journey, and this is one that is well worth reading, giving us new views on the apostles, Biff and Joshua's saga to meet up with the three wise men for the purposes of tutelage, and the creation of an incredible amount of things (besides the aforementioned sarcasm and irony, Biff is directly involved with the invention of the modern version of coffee, the thought that the world is round, pencils, and on top of that we get to see how the concept of Easter came into fruition - it's a classic and worth reading the book for that single aspect).

Really, it's the ultimate coming of age tale, as we get to see Joshua's gradual acceptance of the fact that he is the Messiah and everything that turns him into such a singuarly selfless human being. The mere fact that his best friend is quite often the most selfish human being on the planet is more of Biff's precious irony, and gives us a wondrous yin and yang relationship between the two. It's a remarkably funny tale, albeit one obviously tinged with copious amounts of sadness (the final hundred pages or so are quite somber...obviously) and raunch (Biff is very, very obsessed with the opposite sex).

As long as you can deal with a story with quite a bit of raunch and don't mind a pinch (just a smidge) of what some would consider minor amounts of blasphemy, you should enjoy this story thoroughly. I think this book is a must read if only to see the section of the book where Joshua first tries coffee and goes on a mass blessing/healing rampage. It sounds entertaning, but Moore is such a talented comic writer, it transcends the conceptual limitation (what little there is) and is one of the funniest bits I've ever seen in print.

After reading this, I know this for sure. Christopher Moore is one of the funniest writers I've ever read. Not only that, but he has a rare gift of taking massively outlandish concepts and grounding them in a realism that makes the story not only believable but incredibly genuine. Although I may have liked A Dirty Job slightly more, Lamb is not to be missed.

Also, one final note: my copy of the book looks exactly like the Bible. Reading it in public seemed to give people this esteem in who I was, even earning me a couple of nods while reading at local coffee shops. Sorry to disappoint folks, but I was actually reading something you'd think was absolutely horrible and mostly sacrilege towards the real Bible. My bad!


Happy Lists said...

Sounds like a really interesting read. I'll definitely have to put it on my list. 52 books in one year is incredibly steep. Perhaps a more realistis 1/month would have been better? I admire you setting your own bar so high, though!

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