Interesting, original, not for every taste.

LAMB

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO BIFF, CHRIST’S CHILDHOOD PAL

An audacious and irreverent novel about Jesus’ childhood seen through the eyes of his best pal.

Moore (Blood Sucking Fiends, 1995, etc.) has penned an amusing tale guaranteed deeply to offend all right-thinking Christians. The conceit is this: In 2001, Jesus decides that someone should write the missing gospel of his childhood, and he selects Levi—called Biff—the wisecracking companion and alter ego of his youth. Biff is resurrected and locked in a hotel suite in St. Louis with the angel Raziel, who is there to insure that he gets the writing job done. Raziel quickly becomes hooked on TV soaps, while Biff, grumbling, sets to work. Jesus’ childhood, it turns out, was like that of most Jewish kids of his day (Moore offers much rich historical detail here), except he was the Messiah. This makes him sweet-natured and incapable of cruelty, lying, or sin, all of which puts him at a distinct disadvantage in a world that’s violent and lustful. Enter Biff, the street-smart friend who protects Jesus from his own naiveté, observes his early attempts at miracles (restoring lizards, etc.), helps him to understand sin (by fornicating with a harlot while explaining it to Jesus in the next stall), and much more. Mary Magdalene (Maggie) is on the scene, lusting after Jesus and lusted after by Biff. Though Jesus is pretty sure he is the Messiah, he is also, like any kid learning a trade, not sure what he should (and should not) do as Messiah. He sets out on a loopy and sometimes-hilarious quest to discover his destiny (and test his powers), while Biff, thoroughly cynical and amoral, accompanies him. The style is a bizarre mix of serious and sometimes brutal historical fiction laced with black humor, wordplay, in-jokes, and sharp one-liners worthy of a good stand-up comedian. Sometimes it all works well, and sometimes the jokes seem strained.

Interesting, original, not for every taste.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-380-97840-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2002

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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