Grahame-Smith, the man behind Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and what may be my favorite presidential biography, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has tackled another subject. What if the Wise Men of the Bible and Christmas story fame were actually a bunch of thieves who've recently escaped from Herod's prison and are on the run from the authorities?
One of my very favorite books is Christopher Moore's Lamb. In fact, on my bookshelves right now, among my leatherbound classics is a special addition of Lamb, bound in bible leather. You know how the Bible tells us about Jesus' conception (immaculate) and his birth (joyous, important and causing quite a stir in King Herod's camp)? It leaves a great big chunk of his life out after that. All of a sudden he's 30 years old when we pick up his story again. Moore fills in those gaps. A lot of his tale is thoroughly anachronistic, but I have made Lamb's Jesus, my Jesus. I want to believe that Jesus started out as this sweet and wonderful guy. Since there is no one who was actually witness to any of this and it doesn't contradict anything we have been taught, because in this case, we've strategically not been taught about this period, who is to say that this isn't what he was like? I'm dealing out that "can't fight it" card for all matters religious, and stating emphatically, I have faith that there is more than a kernel of truth in this story.
I didn't have very high hopes for this book. The idea is kind of creepy, that these hardened criminals break out of Herod's jail and try to put as much distance between themselves and the authorities as they can. In the course of their getaway they stumble upon our famous manger scene. Balthazar, Gaspar and Melchyor are not looking for more fugitives, especially those without any fighting skills, and of the holy variety. Of course, they later discover that there are some perks to protecting the son of God.
I can read and enjoy pretty much anything, as long as I like characters. I think it takes some doing to take terrible people like Balthazar and actually make them sympathetic. Grahame-Smith manages this. Of course, it would be impossible to make Jesus, Mary and Joseph unlikable, but to make an escaped convict thief into someone you feel for, well that earns you some credit with me. Balthazar had a very hard life and there's still love and good in him. He doesn't whip it out and put it on display much, but it's definitely there. I kind of liked him. Besides, he put his life on the line for a bunch of strangers, when he was already in trouble. You know there was going to be some serious mitigation of his sins in the afterworld.
There are no vampires or zombies here and I didn't miss them at all. I bet there is a faction of people who will not be happy with the handling of such an important story in Christianity. However, those people tend to be unhappy regularly and I don't feel sorry for them at all. The rest of us, have been given another interesting and entertaining story that provides a counterpoint to what we already knew. I like a book that makes me think, that puts new ideas in my head and this definitely fit that bill.