No doubt a sarcastic, occasional-F-bomb-dropping rendition of Jesus may tick off more than a few religious folk, but if you're not of that persuasion, then Lamb, by Christopher Moore is a whole damn (and possibly damning?) lot of fun! All you have to do is read the novel's subtitle — The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal — to understand that this is satire of the richest variety.
The hinge for the plot of the book (again, written by the rather vulgar, dimwitted Biff) is that Jesus knows he's the Messiah, but has no clue how to be a Messiah. So, just short of his teenage years, he decides to travel with his buddy Biff to find the three wise men who were in attendance at his birth to see if they can clue him in. Each wise man — Balthasar, Gaspar and Melchior — represents a different religious tradition (mysticism, Buddhism and Hinduism), and Jesus learns everything from how to multiply food to the idea of the Divine Spark, which he and Biff re-brand as the Holy Ghost.
But the real genius of this book is its humor; a delicious mixture of slapstick, wordplay, and inside joke (thank goodness for those 12 years of Catholic education!). As one example, Biff spends the better part of two weeks sexing prostitutes as a "favor" to the Christ, so he can better understand the sin of lust. "Thanks for sinning for me, Biff," he says. Or, consider that the "real" reason that bunnies are associated with Easter is that Jesus gets hammered at the Cana wedding (you know, the one where he changes water to wine) and is drunkenly fascinated by the cuteness of a nearby bunny. They're so cute, he wants them around anytime anything bad happens to him, he says. Finally, here's one of the many silly forehead-slappers: The "H" in Jesus H. Christ stands for "Hallowed" because "....hallowed be thy name," we pray.
My only complaint about the book is that it's about 100 pages too long. There is a rather pronounced tone shift in the last quarter of the book, as Biff begins to relate the actual New Testament events of Jesus' public ministry and the crucifixion. It's almost touching in spots, and doesn't really fit with the rest of the book. I wish Moore had just stuck to the "unchronicled" part of Jesus' life, and concluded with Biff and Jesus returning from their journey.
Still, on the whole, this was a great read — lots and lots of fun. Have you read Lamb? What were your impressions? Any favorite humorous moments?