Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore
After A Dirty Job, this Moore novel sounded the most interesting to me as far as the concept, and also appeared to be the most popular with Pajiba readers. While I enjoyed this one as well, and found it rather amusing, I think I slightly preferred A Dirty Job.
Due to the upcoming 2000 year anniversary of the birth of Jesus, one of the angels is given the task of raising Levi, known as Biff, from the dead, and having him write his version of the Gospels to tell people the real story and to explain what happened between the birth and the death, since a large period of Jesus's life (or Joshua as he is known in the novel) is skipped in the Bible.
Locked up in a hotel room with a rather clueless angel who quickly becomes addicted to daytime television, Biff recounts his life as Joshua's sidekick and best friend, their relationship with Mary of Magdalene (or Maggie), and his journeys. Overall, I felt the novel was strongest in the first section as it went over their childhood. In order to determine what he needs to do and how to do it, Joshua goes on a quest with Biff at his side to find the three wise men and ask them for guidance. This leads him to a sorcerer in what is currently Afghanistan, a Buddhist monastery and India. The section with the sorcerer kind of dragged for me, but the other two sections were entertaining. Moore's humor and style definitely makes use of stereotypes on occasion (something I noted during A Dirty Job as well) as can be seen in the section with the Buddhist monks.
While Biff is seen as the dumb friend, he is also the one that has to protect Joshua because Joshua is occasionally too trusting and not very world-wise. One of the running gags in the novel was that Biff would often come up with advanced scientific theories that now are accepted as truth and be looked at as if he were crazy (such as suggesting evolution and that the world was round). I actually thought that was kind of cute.
Once Joshua and Biff return from their journey, the novel progresses quickly to the final conclusion, and also explains why Biff has been omitted from the Gospels, despite his importance. Overall, it was an entertaining read, and while Moore attempts to make Jesus slightly more human, he also portrays him as always being aware of his position and duty. I definitely thought some of the choices that Moore made were interesting, such as saying that Joshua was not allowed to have sex. I guess one of the reasons I really noticed that one is because it reminded me of Anne Rice's Memnoch the Devil, and how Memnoch related a discussion he had with Jesus/God regarding humans, and that to truly understand being human, it was necessary for God to forget for a moment that he was divine (really, it relates to sex in the novel somehow - I mean it's old-school Anne Rice - doesn't it always relate to sex?). However, Moore's Joshua definitely is interested in sex even if it is forbidden which leads to Biff's various encounters with prostitutes so he can explain it to him.