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I love Philip Pullman for his wise interventions in the field of education, his wonderful quartet of Sally Lockhart books (still the best thing he's ever written) and the wild imagination and sweeping ambition of His Dark Materials- but he has written some stinkers along the way- how anyone can bear to finish the unbearably turgid Scarecrow and his Servant (unless its a case of Emperor's new clothes) I cannot fathom. This book is as bad as that- no worse.
My religious position is an irrelevance- this is simply dull, dull, dull whether you cleave to Christ or tread a humanist road. To finish a book- (I would never have bothered had book club duty not demanded it) with the overriding thought of 'what was the point of that' always seems to me a damning indictment. The most interesting bit (not a tough contest) was the author's explanation at the end, but it's perhaps telling when an author feels the need for such a postscript. The intriguing premise of Christ and Jesus as two brothers is woefully undeveloped and not enough on its own to carry even such a short tale as this. If you want to read the stories of Jesus I suggest you turn to the gospels themselves and leave this well alone.
I remember Mr Pullman explaining a primary aim of his work as a writer was to earn enough money to look after his family - and there's certainly no shame in that- but the success of Northern Lights et al has perhaps doused that particular creative flame and I fear the best of the writer with it- but I would be delighted to be proved wrong- so please Mr Pullman, make the next one a proper story, not anaemic piffle like this.
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on 20 October 2014
Rather disappointing and far-fetched
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on 20 February 2013
You'll "get it" in the first couple of pages, but boy oh boy does it draaaaaaaaaaaaaag out a short, simple and entertaining idea. I read it on Kindle, so I don't really know how many pages long it is, but I think if it was 3,000 words it would make a neat short story.
I really didn't want to read pages and pages of "almost" bible quotes dressed up as part of the story.

There are probably worse books, but I have never had the misfortune to read any of them.

I am too disappointed to write any more.
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on 15 January 2015
After reading all Philip's fabulouse other books and some twice, this is his worst and I couldn't read it through.
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on 2 January 2011
It takes a while for the ground to be laid, and then Pullman sinks his teeth into the 'story' of Jesus and the so called miracles. It reads as a more plausible Life of Brian (without the jokes), and Pullman shows ALL religions for what they really are, Power Hungry Dictatorships created on this earth - the only Kingdom there ever will be. I read this over christmas, and it didn't ruin the 'event' one bit!
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on 20 January 2011
If you have always thought of Jesus as a nice, gentle, modest kind of man, don't read this book. If you believe that Religion is the Devil's work, read it. It's an interesting concept, but doesn't change the fact that God (if he exists) is totally unreasonable in his expectations and should have given up after the Adam and Eve debacle.
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on 21 June 2012
There are no surprises in this book. The whole plot is foreseeable from the first few pages; Jesus is going to be the preacher of the Sermon on the Mount, and his twin brother, Christ, is going to be responsible for all the ills of institutional Christianity. I entirely agree with Pullman's thesis that the Church has smothered the message of Jesus, but it is not an original idea, and he does not add any great insight to it. Most of the chapters rewrite passages from the Gospels (mixing the Synoptics with St John), but here and there we get a chapter in much more abstract style in which Christ gets instruction from a mysterious stranger, who is planning the future of the Church. For no good reason "the stranger" becomes "the angel" later in the book. The longest chapter is the meditation of Jesus in Gethsemane, where his simple "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me" together with the idea of "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" is expanded into ten rather wordy pages. Fearing trouble with Christian fundamentalists, the publishers have hopefully written "THIS IS A STORY" on the back cover, but no well informed Christian would imagine anything else; there is nonsense in the basic premise that "Christ" could be the name of a man; it is the translation of the Hebrew "Messiah".
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on 13 December 2010
A rather unusual book in that the story is based on the Bible story of Jesus, but with a rather unusual twist
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on 9 July 2014
no a bad read
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on 9 January 2011
An excellent and stimulating read. It assumes, however that we all know that liberties are being taken with an existing story, rather than creating a new one. No evidence is offered for assumptions made eg Jesus having a twin brother! but I gather from reading the whole work that the point is well-made that we are in the hands of the storyteller, who can weave his story as he wishes, to enhance its message or make it more "interesting".
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