A childhood pal of the savior is brought back from the dead to fill in the missing 30-year "gap" in the Gospels in Moore's latest, an over-the-top festival of sophomoric humor that stretches a very thin though entertaining conceit far past the breaking point. The action starts in modern America, specifically in a room at the Hyatt in St. Louis, where the angel who shepherds "Levi who is called Biff" has to put Christ's outrageous sidekick under de facto house arrest to get him to complete his task. Moore (Bloodsucking Fiends) gets style points for his wild imagination as Biff recalls his journey with Jesus dubbed Joshua here according to the Greek translation into and out of the clutches of Balthasar, then into a Buddhist monastery in China and finally off to India, where they dabble in the spiritual and erotic aspects of Hinduism. The author gets more serious in his climax, offering a relatively straightforward, heartfelt account of the Passion and Christ's final days that includes an intriguing spin on how the Resurrection might have happened. The Buddhist and Hindu subplots seem designed to point out the absurdity and excesses of religious customs, but none of the characters are especially memorable, and eventually both plot and characters give way to Biff's nightclub patter. As imaginative as some of this material is, the sacrilegious aspects are far less offensive than Moore's inability to rein in his relentless desire to titillate, and his penchant for ribald, frat-boy humor becomes more annoying as the book progresses. Moore has tapped into organized religion for laughs before, but this isn't one of his better efforts.
(Adult/High School) An angel has resurrected Levi bar Alpheus, known as Biff, to tell this story of his life with Joshua, better known to the modern world as Jesus Christ. As youths, they travel to the East in search of the wise men who gave gifts to Joshua at his birth, because the young man has a problem: he knows he's the Messiah, but he doesn't know what to do about it. Along the way, he and Biff come in contact with the spirituality of the East, along with a smattering of martial arts, strange poisons, abominable snowmen, and more. The story concludes with their return to Israel and Biff's own explanation of the events that make up the traditional gospel narrative. Readers who might be offended by the author's casual treatment of Christian themes may also take umbrage at his treatment of Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, and much else. However, the author manages to share a variety of the world's spiritual insights while creating interesting and vivid characters. The style is smooth, drawing readers into the story seamlessly except for the need to laugh out loud every page or two. The humor is good-natured, despite the fact that Biff claims to be the inventor of a practice known as "sarcasm." In an excellent afterword, the author explains the choices he made in writing the novel, which will fascinate would-be writers, as well as provide a rebuttal for the book's likely critics. —Paul Brink, Fairfax County Public Library System, VA
Absurd? Of course, and as in Moore's other books, the jokes, ranging from the sublime to the sophisticated to the utterly sophomoric, make the book. What Lamb lacks in theological sophistication it more than compensates with mirth. Although many will find something offensive in this novel...they will find it simply impossible not to laugh. —John Green
An audacious and irreverent novel about Jesus' childhood seen through the eyes of his best pal. Moore (Blood Sucking Fiends, 1995, etc.) has penned an amusing tale guaranteed deeply to offend all right-thinking Christians. The conceit is this: In 2001, Jesus decides that someone should write the missing gospel of his childhood, and he selects Levi-called Biff-the wisecracking companion and alter ego of his youth. Biff is resurrected and locked in a hotel suite in St. Louis with the angel Raziel, who is there to insure that he gets the writing job done. Raziel quickly becomes hooked on TV soaps, while Biff, grumbling, sets to work. Jesus' childhood, it turns out, was like that of most Jewish kids of his day (Moore offers much rich historical detail here), except he was the Messiah. This makes him sweet-natured and incapable of cruelty, lying, or sin, all of which puts him at a distinct disadvantage in a world that's violent and lustful. Enter Biff, the street-smart friend who protects Jesus from his own naivete, observes his early attempts at miracles (restoring lizards, etc.), helps him to understand sin (by fornicating with a harlot while explaining it to Jesus in the next stall), and much more. Mary Magdalene (Maggie) is on the scene, lusting after Jesus and lusted after by Biff. Though Jesus is pretty sure he is the Messiah, he is also, like any kid learning a trade, not sure what he should (and should not) do as Messiah. He sets out on a loopy and sometimes-hilarious quest to discover his destiny (and test his powers), while Biff, thoroughly cynical and amoral, accompanies him. The style is a bizarre mix of serious and sometimes brutal historical fiction laced with black humor, wordplay, in-jokes, and sharp one-liners worthy of a good stand-up comedian. Sometimes it all works well, and sometimes the jokes seem strained. Interesting, original, not for every taste.
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