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Lamb: A Novel
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Did you know that Noah postponed his death for 800 years by convincing a sympathetic Angel of Death that he (Noah) was behind in his paperwork? Such is one of the fascinating factoids found in LAMB, the story of Christ's life as told by his life-long best bud Biff, otherwise known as Levi, son of Alphaeus and Naomi of Nazareth.
Biff, so nick-named for the daily slaps upside his head he required as a child, is raised from the dead in the twentieth century to write another gospel. As the millennium approaches, the Son of God is unhappy with the versions written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and wants a re-write. So, Biff is held a virtual prisoner by his minder, the angel Raziel, in the St. Louis Hyatt Regency until the manuscript is finished.
After a few introductory scenes in which a young Joshua (aka Jesus) restores life to dead lizards, has mixed luck with deceased humans, and becomes infatuated with a budding Mary Magdalene ("Maggie"), Biff's story hits its stride after Joshua, at about thirteen, debates the Pharisees in the Temple of Jerusalem. Then, our two heroes set out for the Far East in search of the Three Wise Men (Balthasar, Gaspar, Melchior) that attended Joshua's birth. From them, in Afghanistan, China, and India, Joshua learns the wisdom of the Eastern religions in preparation for his own ministry. Since Joshua is forbidden by his Heavenly Father from "knowing" women in the biblical sense, he relies on Biff to apprise him of the experience. And Biff, a ladies man, is just the one to do it, especially after several years living with the Eight Chinese Concubines, who have such names as Tiny Feet of the Divine Dance of Joyous Orgasm, Silken Pillows of the Heavenly Softness of Clouds, Pea Pods in Duck Sauce with Crispy Noodle, and Sue (short for Susanna).
After seventeen years of wandering and adventure, Biff and Joshua return to Galilee, where the latter gathers his apostles and disciples and begins the ministry familiar to readers of the traditional gospels. Of course, there are embellishments. Biff's narrative ends on the evening of the Friday of Joshua's crucifixion.
LAMB is inspired humor. It's also irreverent, but not maliciously so. The book is author Chris Moore's attempt to flesh out the story of Jesus (Joshua) - to give him a more endearingly human side. For example, when Joshua transforms water into wine at the wedding feast at Cana, he samples his miracle perhaps a little too much. And, when his disciples are astounded when he walks on the surface of the Sea of Galilee, Joshua says:
"I just ate. You can't go into the water for an hour after you eat. You could get a cramp. What, none of you guys have mothers?"
As one born and raised Catholic (and since "fallen away"), I immensely enjoyed the flippancy of LAMB. Sister Mary's grade school catechism class was never so much fun. While a Christian of a more fundamentalist belief might find LAMB faintly blasphemous, I would hope not. I trust even JC could laugh at a good dirty joke as he sat around the village well with the lads.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 25 October 2007
Christopher Moore is very very brave. His works so far have been for the most part extremely funny, setting a benchmark for himself which is hard to consistently write at. Lamb, is not as overtly funny since it is heavily grounded in history. That said, Lamb is still the funniest take on religion out there and of equal importance (and this is where skill with creativity comes in) it is not overtly blasphemous. Sure, it'll have some readers frowning as Jesus gets high on caffeine and gets heal-happy, some will believe that it mocks their chosen religion (for it's not just Christianity that is central to this book - oddly enough) and some will suggest that Jesus could never fit in to a wine amphora and it's just plain ridiculous. Moore doesn't really aim this at people who know The Bible, but is aiming at a larger audience, the General Public, who know all the miracles and stuff, and have a faint idea about the history. So with this in mind Lamb creates a marvelous, although lengthy, wry story, based on a story everyone can relate to. Most of the story details what the existing Gospels ignore, Jesus' adolescence. Kids will be kids right? It's brave and it's very well done. Guaranteed to provide smirks as a minimum.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Very little is known about the childhood of Christ, and I love Moore's imagination of what happened during those "lost" years between his birth and age 30. In Moore's epilogue, he explains the narrative choices that he made, and they are all plausible, some are even laudable. He has researched his subject, and the poetic license he takes with the story is done with full understanding of his choices.

Although I consider myself a Christian, my knowledge of the Bible is rudimentary. I have not made a lifetime of studying the scriptures, but I did recognize a lot of things that were part of my childhood Sunday school teachings. I appreciate and admire that Moore has given Christ a sense of humor and foibles and doubts. He was, when all is said and done, a human, and growing into the role that he was born to play had to be painful, and even funny, at times. Humor, too, is one of God's creations, and I would love to think that He who died for my sins smiled and joked and was amusingly confused by his situation on occasion.

The story is told through the voice of Biff, Jesus' best childhood friend. Biff is not the unquestioning follower that we might expect to see - he wants to save Jesus from his destiny and protect him from all who would hurt him. He is also tempted by sins of the flesh and swears early and often (but then, many of the characters do, including Jesus). For lack of a better word, he's a goofball, and he's the perfect foil for the serious aspects of the Savior's journey.

Jesus is frustrated at times by the stupidity of people around him. He is amused by the irony of healing the Untouchables by actually touching them. He accepts his chaste life but is curious to hear about what he's missing. He is occasionally angry with God for not answering when he sorely needs answers to his many questions. In short, he's unsure what he's supposed to do, and this book is a humorous slant on what might have taken place on that journey to Golgotha.

I give Lamb four stars instead of five because some sequences went on a bit longer than they needed to. Moore makes his points brilliantly, but then adds more to them, and it doesn't serve the story as well as some judicious editing might have done.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 17 November 2011
I enjoyed more the first part of the book, that described our heroes' studies away from home. The tone of that part of the book was lighter and more entertaining, raising quite a few laughs and chuckles. The narrative style seemed to change once the characters returned home, becoming less flippant as the story had to fit with other accounts of the events of that time. Maybe it didn't change and I'm prejudiced by my (negative) views on religion but I certainly found the latter stages lacking in entertainment value. Not a great book, I wish I had stopped reading as they returned from their travels.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 5 April 2010
A friend of mine recommended the book to me, but when she told me what it was about I was a bit sceptical. Even when I read the back I wasn't really sure if I was going to like it. I am not a religious person hence I thought I'd not be able to connect with the book.

But as soon as I started reading the book I couldn't put it down again. It is so funny! Absolutely hilarious!!

What I really liked was the way the book is written. It's clever, VERY funny and I enjoyed every page of it. I embarrassed myself by laughing out loud when I read the book on the bus but I just couldn't help it.

I also read "The Stupidest Angel" which is funny as well but it was not even nearly as good as Lamb. A few more of his books are already on my bookshelf but I'm kind of afraid they will disappoint me.

Lamb is a very intelligent book, because clearly Christopher Moore did a lot of research when he wrote the book.

It actually is one of the best books I've ever read.

I highly recommend this book to anyone which a good sense of humour.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Levi is the son of Alphaeus, a stonemason in the town of Nazareth. Lamb starts by recounting how the angel Raziel is dispatched by the Son, two millennia after Levi's demise at the age of 33, to revive him and to bestow upon him the gift of languages (not tongues!) and the task of recounting a very special story. Locked away in a suite atop the Hyatt Regency in St. Louis, Levi starts, albeit unwillingly, by explaining how he acquired the nickname Biff, and why he is best-suited to the task of documenting the events that surrounded his best pal, Joshua, son of Mary, whose stepfather was a carpenter from Nazareth.

In between thoughts of escape from his angelic protector and captor, Biff tells us about the boy Joshua, his attempts to communicate with his real father, and Biff and Joshua's journey together as they sought out the three gift-bearing travelers who attended Joshua's birth. Let Lamb take you on a journey of imagination, through lizard resuscitation, abominations and Amphibians, encounters of the adolescent kind, the difference between sarcasm and irony, the Kama Sutra and the Bhagavad Gita, sea voyages and camel rides, a fight with the demon Catch, The Great Wall of China, shaving the yak in a Buddhist monastery (Go sit!), the Silk Road and Rumi the Untouchable near Calcutta.

Biff would do anything to prevent his pal from suffering the treachery that Joshua's disciples knew would befall him at the hands of his own people, a hierarchy of powerful and influential religious leaders. What better person, then, than he to add another to the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Mary the Magdalene?

I agree with Christopher Moore when he notes in his closing comments that "this story is not and was never meant to shake anyone's faith", and that "one may have a bit more praying to do if one's faith can be shaken by the stories in a humorous novel". If you know the Bible, this book may not be for you - if you do not, go grab a knowledgeable friend and ask them which bits are truly written... I found laugh-out-loud laughter in the pages of Lamb.

Lamb is published by Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins, first released in 2003 under ISBN 0-380-81381-5 (pbk), 444pages. This review is of that edition. Lamb has also been released in the UK on ISBN 1841494526 (512pages) in August 2007 with a revised cover.

© pgn0 April 2007 (revised May 2007, originally reviewed by me on Ciao.co.uk)
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 2 September 2008
A rip roaring adventure that puts a human face on the son of God. You have to love the characters and Moore's research and attention to detail are second to none. This tale fills in the missing years of Jesus' life through the words of his best friend Biff, and the journey they take together to manhood and beyond... to the end...and beyond.
Believable? totally. Funny? you bet. Fulfilling? very.
This book should be on the wish list of every christian, and non-christian alike and as Moore points out in his notes: If this book challenges your faith...you may need to pray a bit harder.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 4 January 2013
'Fantasy comedy' writer Christopher Moore could not have picked a more controversial topic for his novel Lamb. Inspired by Soviet author Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita (which, in my opinion, is one of the best Soviet literary works because of its satirical nature), Lamb is a retelling of the life of Jesus Christ "through the eyes of his childhood pal, Biff".

The fictionalised account is a first-person narrative from the perspective of Biff who is brought back to life in the present day to write a gospel that tells the "whole story behind Jesus's life". This artistic license arises from the fact the gospels in the New Testament do not cover the early life of Jesus. I was also surprised to learn while reading this novel that much of the commonly held beliefs about Nativity are, in fact, folklore that has been added in relatively modern times.

The novel starts off from the time when Jesus was a kid, tracing his journey as a teenager who realises that he is the Son of God. As they grow up, Jesus and Biff depart on a spiritual journey that takes them across the world to study with three Magi - who are, in the story, a wizard living in Afghanistan, a Buddhist monk in China, and a sage in India. The basis for this is the now mostly-debunked scholarly theory that Jesus travelled to or was otherwise influenced by Buddhism. Regardless, the novel borrows theology heavily from other religious texts such as the Torah (frequently quoted by the characters), the Gnostic Gospels, the Bhagavad Gita, and the works of Eastern sages such as Lao Tzu and Confucius.

The overall tone - the closest parallel I can think of is Monty Python's The Life of Brian - is somewhat irreverent but at its core, the story is respectful of divinity of Jesus. The controversial aspect of the book arises from the fact that it considers both the fictional Biff and Mary Magdalene as close friends of Jesus, albeit it stops short of calling them apostles. Mary Magdalene, especially, as she plays the role of Jesus's love interest.

If you're willing to look past this, Lamb is a rollickingly funny novel that still manages to give food for thought on what morals we should have as human beings. It has Jesus fighting demons, being on first name terms with a Roman legionnaire, rescuing sacrificial kids in India, and making friends with a yeti. In the words of the author, the book has an answer to the 'eternal' question: "What if Jesus had known kung-fu?"
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 7 June 2010
For a long time David Sedaris held the top spot in my heart for humorous writers. Christopher Moore very quickly shoved him aside after I read Fool, which is hysterical and I may have fallen in love with the Black Fool just a little bit. I followed that with The Stupidest Angel which, although very funny, didn't have the same effect on me and I worried that none of Christopher's other books could be as good as Fool. I was so wrong!

I don't consider myself very religious, although I was bought up as a catholic, and I know enough from the bible to recognise the events that take place in Lamb, but not enough to remember which apostle was which. In no way was I offended by anything in this book and I certainly wasn't expecting to be, but what really surprised me was the emotion I felt from this story. It is just as funny, if not more, as Fool, but I didn't think I'd cry quite as many times as I did. The bond between Biff and Joshua really got to me, I don't think I noticed just how strong the unconditional love that Biff feels for Joshua is until near the end. You would think, being the best friend of the Son of God, following him around the world, knowing how Maggie loves Josh while Biff himself is in love with her, Biff would at some point feel jealous, resentful, second-best to the Messiah, but it never came and I love Moore for that. I also love Moore's interpretation of the Jesus' personality - the naivety, the compassion and the humour.

I know a book is good when I wish it was twice the length that it is. There were only two books in the world that I feel that way about - To Kill A Mockingbird and The Beach. Lamb is now one of them. And it's a pretty long book as it is.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 7 December 2007
I am a committed Christian and I thought this book was just great! It made me laugh out loud and I felt that, on the whole, Moore really respected Jesus. He added to my faith rather than took away from it with his portrayal, particulary the intense humanity of Jesus as well as his otherness. Whether this was intentional or not, it doesn't really matter - I felt my mind and heart engaged with the story. My mind was broadened, and my heart warmed. In his epilogue he suggests that anyone of faith who is offended by the book could perhaps do with praying a bit harder, and I can only agree.
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