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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars PULLMAN NOT AT HIS BEST, 13 Jun. 2010
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This review is from: The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ (Myths) (Hardcover)

I love Phillip Pullman, ok? I think that His Dark Materials was an utter master-class. Possibly the best in it's genre of all time (notwithstanding LOTR.) The religious over tones of those books are also fairly obvious, so I was very much looking forward to Pullman broaching the subject of religion (specifically the life of Jesus and the new testament) head on. However, having now read the book this weekend in barely one afternoon, I am curiously disappointed.

First off (and this is more of an observation than a criticism) it is very short. I was planning to take this book away on my honeymoon next week, but just a few hours last night and today saw it off. The font is comically large in order to make it plus 250 pages and justify the hardback price tag, but make no bones, it is roughly 35,000 words at most. That's shorter than average for books aimed at 8-12 year olds. Assuming the plot was properly story boarded it would take an experienced writer about a week and a half to knock this out. I have to wonder why Pullman did this. The New Testament is not an exercise in brevity and I struggle to see the writer's motivation beyond that. Again, it is just an observation, but I do feel a bit short changed and take particular umbrage with publishers triple sizing font in an effort to make a book look larger than it is. Be honest about it, I say. Save the trees.

Secondly, the central message that the gospels reflect personal and political goals of the writers and not the true words/acts of Jesus, is hardly a revolution. That argument is known as "form (and/or) redaction criticism" and is as old as the hills. This, however, seems to be the sole message and purpose behind this work, and it is achieved within the first 50 pages. The vast residue of the book simply reads out as a fairly uneventful support structure to this one, core idea. Plus, the huge words on the back of the book saying "this is a story" strikes me as a bit obvious and low brow. There's no head scratching going on here, Phil, but thanks for the heads up anyway.

Pullman adopts his well known simplicity of prose throughout, and I was waiting for this to build up to the usual, subliminally vivid canvas. What you can say for Pullman is that he uses simple words and language to spell out deceptively complex emotional responses. But sadly I didn't get there here- and I'm wondering why not. I think it's because if you are adopting that sort of style you need a lot of space to achieve it. i.e. simplistic prose on mass creating a very complex whole. When you instead have simple prose in such short form all you really get is a simple story. Don't get me wrong; it is elegant enough, and well written, and clearly designed to mimic the feel of the gospels themselves, but if you are not moved by the story of Christ itself, you may find the expected depth of resonance from a usual pullman book notably absent come the final page.

In closing, despite what I have said above I do still think that people who are unfamiliar with the gospels, or the arguments against their content, should certainly give this a go. It will open a lot of eyes to the well established concepts already out there. However, If you have stuck with my review to this point you will already have gleamed my overwhelming impression that this book is a fairly lazy, unoriginal and unambitious undertaking. It will do very well commercially, but this is purely off of the back of Pullman's fame, his existing links to religious controvesy and the subject chosen. I find it slightly worrying, almost as a demonstration of this fact, that the most popular overall review is from a xtian saying little more than that they don't think the book is an affront to god. That reviewer seems to have got 300 pats on the back. I think we should review the book instead, and recognise that it falls short in several areas.

I am sure the Pullman faithful will destroy my review for this, but I think it could have been much, much better.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 27 Jun 2010 17:19:26 BDT
Harry Dean says:
very good review ,I agree wholeheartedly

Posted on 4 Jul 2010 00:41:10 BDT
I agree and find it amusing that having just posted my review and then looked at the reviews of ours we're both pretty much saying the same thing.

Posted on 14 Jan 2011 10:16:29 GMT
S. Kerr says:
You sound a bit pompous mate - from a non-xtian

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Sep 2011 16:09:37 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 6 Sep 2011 11:57:56 BDT]

Posted on 2 Sep 2011 16:12:34 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 2 Sep 2011 16:12:44 BDT]
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