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This review is from: The Song of Brian (Paperback)
I launched into the Song of Brian and almost regretted it when, before I was half-way down the page, I read the lyrics of the opening theme for the Life of Brian. This was one of numerous cultural references that were more or less obvious as the book went on, but do not despair, this is far from being a "Life of Brian II: The Apocalypse" After all, there would be no room for a Life of Brian III, and nobody does a series of two in anything.
So what is the Song of Brian? What can you expect? It certainly carves its own path and makes up its own rules, so be ready for some very unusual twists in the book. It is a book about the Apocalypse, if that helps, so if you haven't read the Book of Revelation, then at least a passing knowledge of the Omen would help. If you are religious, conservative and easily offended, this may not be the book for you. You may even consider it blasphemous.
I don't think this book can be reviewed without reference to religion, and Christianity in particular. It presents a cosmological view that is not far removed from the Gnostics, who believed that the God of the Old Testament was replaced by the God of the New Testament and that the two were foes, a little bit like the rivalry between Tiamat and Marduk in Persian mythology. Religions are seen in terms of polarity between the good bits that make sense and the baggage of the centuries that come to define the different religions.
The divine characters (as depicted on the cover) are The Ram Headed God and Gabrielle (not Gabriel) who is a woman with the head of a rabbit, horns of a deer and (optional) wings of an eagle. The Ram Headed God is driving forward the Apocalypse, Gabrielle is responding to it. Her response is low key; recruiting Brian to a rather indeterminate role, whereas the Ram Headed God is very definite in his instructions to the Four Horsemen and various other agents.
The style of the book is confident and the prose is good. The one thing that bothered me was the Senator's southern drawl being written phonetically. I think that a written reference to it and the odd cultural reference would be enough, but I found it distracting. Nobody else is portrayed as having an accent, so it does not sit well. It got particularly bad during his conversation with Brian about the history of the Bible, when he almost loses the accent altogether in order to talk about details of Biblical development that I found did not sit well with the character.
The author's medical knowledge comes through, and there are some very authentic military references too. He also knows and has affection for the nerds who enjoy comic book shops and those intricacies of collectable card games, which he both parodies and demonstrates an intimate understanding of. I had to laugh at a description of the typical clientele of such shops when I was sitting on the bus, as I was wearing knee-length shorts, sandals and a t-shirt that said "'Twas a rough night (W Shakespeare, MacBeth Act 2 Sc iii). Unfortunately that did not mean I was off to the Android Dungeon, but I have been known to visit its equivalents.