Everyone knows about the immaculate conception and the crucifixion. But what happened to Jesus between the manger and the Sermon on the Mount? In this hilarious and bold novel, the acclaimed Christopher Moore shares the greatest story never told: the life of Christ as seen by his boyhood pal, Biff.
Just what was Jesus doing during the many years that have gone unrecorded in the Bible? Biff was there at his side, and now after two thousand years, he shares those good, bad, ugly, and miraculous times. Screamingly funny, audaciously fresh, Lamb rivals the best of Tom Robbins and Carl Hiaasen, and is sure to please this gifted writer’s fans and win him legions more.Amazon
This is my Spoiler Free Book Review for Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore.
I intend to use the ***ASPECT method for my discussion and will not spoil the ending.
Ok, I just want to go on record here as saying: 1. I am not a prude. 2. I am not a Christian. 3. I really disliked this book. Feel free to stop reading.
Atmosphere / Tone
Irreverant, jocular, historical fan fiction… This is pretty much what you expect from a book with this title.
Jesus is renamed Josh in this book and the story follows his life and gives us all the expected beats from the gospels with thirty years of extra footage so to speak. In this version Josh goes and learns from other mystics and holy men on his quest to becoming the Messiah. Along the way, he invents Judo and has madcap adventures.
The plot didn’t overly bother me, or at least, the main plot points. I personally never wondered about how “awesome” it would be if Jesus knew Kung Fu…. but Christomer Moore obviously did and that’s fine. There is a huge portion of the life of Christ we don’t know much about and that is ripe for fan fiction. So I understand the draw to write and create and obviously take liberties as you go.
But I don’t feel like Moore is a fan of Christ. More on this in a sec.
Back to plot, We know from the very beginning that our narrator, Biff, has been brought back from the dead to write his version of the life of Jesus… so we know he died and anyone with even a cursory familiarity of the Christian mythos knows how things are going to go for Jesus. So…. there is very little tension anywhere. Instead, the book in a long-winded meandering list of life events told front the POV of Biff.
Character / Writing Style
So let’s talk about Biff and by extension Moore’s writing style because the entire book is first-person perspective aka Biff’s voice.
Biff is an asshat. He never passes up an opportunity to make a dick joke, a racist joke, a dick joke, be sarcastic, make another dick joke, talk about getting laid, some fart/poop jokes, and… hey, let’s talk more about getting laid for good measure. Yes, he is super loyal to his BFF Josh (Jesus) but he is also a self-serving narcissist who exemplifies low-brow adolescent bro behavior. He, (Biff or Moore, it is hard to tell) obviously finds himself endlessly amusing and the “jokes” are a mile a minute. There are only a handful of passages that aren’t over the top or played for humor. And… as schticks go, this one wore very thin very fast.
Again, I am not a prude. I curse and make the occasional fart joke, but ffs, this was excessive.
Biff was extremely unlikeable and it was incredibly painful to have to spend so much time in his head.
And then… oy vey. Sigh. The conceit of this book is that Biff is the BFF of Jesus and therefore he sees Jesus being all Jesus-like and doing all the Jesus things. (no shying away front the supernatural elements in this book, Jesus is clearly gifted with magical powers and uses them a lot.) And yet, Biff, the one person besides Mary, who KNOWS for a fact that Jesus is the Messiah…. well, Biff doubts. Big time.
Which. Ok. Maybe that is Moore’s way of telling us that humans are stupid and we don’t appreciate the things we have or we can’t get past our own egos to understand holy things… but… I think that is giving him too much credit. It reads that Biff doubts because Biff is just that kind of asshat guy who totally thinks he knows more than everyone, even the Son of God.
This gets me to who the heck is this book for?
Because if you are a Christian, a believer, a person who follows Christ or at the very minimum believes that he was God made flesh… this book is not for you. It is sacrilegious and downright offensive.
If you are more of a Jesus was a human with a divine spark, a touch of divinity… then this doesn’t work for you either because either way, your God, or God-adjacent person, is being besmirched. So again, sacrilegious and offensive.
If, however, you are an atheist or a nonbeliever, this book might appeal to you… but I have to wonder why.
Because honestly, it reads like how a lot of high-on-their-own-farts atheists talk…. Very belittling and judgmental and mocking of religious folks. This book is sorting of getting its jollies off by making fun of Christians and their whole deal… and that is just… tacky.
I’m going back to if Moore is a fan of Christ i.e. is this fan fiction?
In fan fiction, you take characters who already exist and you pop them into circumstances of your own making. What if Buffy and Spike got married? What if Kirk and Spok got married? What if Frodo and Sam were more than friends? What if a portal opened up and the Firefly cast ended up on Tatooine?
But I think, I think, the cardinal rules of fan fiction are: don’t totally change the original character. If you have to make Frodo into a girl who actually lived in the 1950s, then maybe don’t start with Frodo in the first place.
Moore is taking Jesus and then taking away what made himn Jesus while subjecting us to the point of view of an asshat who filters everything through adolescent immaturity. What we are left with is… a mess.
At least, that’s what I think.
Obviously, a lot of people find Moore really funny. And I sort of get the draw of taking those high and mighty Christians down a peg. (Trust me, I have had more than my share of run-ins with holier than thou Christian jerks) but for my money, this goes beyond punching up and into beating a dead horse territory. We get it. You want to make fun of Jesus by having him be a foul-mouthed unsure of his divinity kung fu master obsessed with adultery and bacon… uhhh, sure.
I guess I sort of skipped ahead into Entertaining and “Would I recommend it?” territory.
No and no.
But what the hell do I know. Moore is a very famous author and tons of people like this book. I honestly don’t know if I am being over-sensitive, my sense of humor is just out of sync, or if maybe this book was funny 20 years ago and just hasn’t aged particularly well. Your millage will vary, as always, but I just can’t get behind this book.
Why, you might be wondering, Why This Book?
Yes it is true that I just read the fantastic The book of Longings, another historical fan fiction about Jesus which is weird considering that I am (again) not in any way a Christian… but in this case, I read this book becuase of book club.. Yes, my book club picked the book. (Proof that book club is a democracy.)
Part of the joy of book club is reading things you would never have picked up on your own and having your mind expanded and your horizons broadened. The pain of book club is sometimes multiple people in your group vote for a book like this and you know you are likely to be outnumbered by people that found it HILARIOUS. Ugh Ugh Ugh.
At least my book club is always includes a“read-themed” potluck and bacon is an easy (and popular) thing to bring.
*** ASPECT Method (I created this, I used it, feel free to do the same.)
A Atmosphere: How did it make me feel? What was the world like? This might include the overall tone.
S Style: What was the writing style like? Simplistic or sophisticated? Clunky or beautiful?
P Plot/Pace: Was it engaging? Were there holes? Did it feel too rushed or too long?
E Enjoyment: Was it a chore to finish or compelling enough that I picked it over other fun activities?
C Characters: Were they believable, sympathetic, interesting?
T This? Why did I read *This* book?