Christopher Moore's Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Friend might be one of the best books I have ever read. So I'd been looking forward to reading more of his work and picked this one up at the library, and though I knew it probably wouldn't be as good as Lamb, I had high hopes for it.
Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed.
Moore likes telling famous stories from new, hilarious points of view. Lamb, for example, was the story of Jesus Christ told from the point of view of his best friend, a wise-cracking smartass. Fool is Shakespeare's King Lear told from the point of view of Lear's fool, a wisecracking smartass named Pocket.
King Lear was always my favorite of Shakespeare's tragedies, and while it was a great idea to tell his story through the eyes of a character who ridiculous everyone and everything in sight, there was something lacking in the book for me. For those of you that don't know, King Lear is the story of a vain old king, who instead of naming a single heir to the crown decides to divide his kingdom among his daughters, according to which one says loves him best. Two of his daughters, Goneril and Regan, lie through their teeth and get a good chunk of the kingdom for it. His youngest daughter, Cordelia (who really loves Lear), is honest and ends up not getting anything from her father. Cordelia is banished and pretty soon all hell breaks loose when the remaining daughters and their husbands become greedier and start treating King Lear with derision and contempt. Through all this, Pocket is a detached, sarcastic observer, having sex with everyone in sight and pitting sister against sister and sticking by the king to make his ridiculing remarks about everything the old man does.
So it's a great story as it is, and it's an interesting twist to read the whole gory, dark tale from a humorous point of view. I'm just not sure why it didn't quite work for me. I think a large part of it was that, being a big fan of King Lear, I already knew the story from start to end, so nothing really surprising happened. True, there are additional scenes that Moore made up, and while they're funny on their own, I found myself impatient to get back to the real story. Another problem I had was with the character of Pocket, whom I just didn't like as a narrator. To be fair, I don't think you're supposed to like a lecherous, mean and sarcastic troublemaker, but I don't think I was supposed to dislike him this much. I just felt that there were no real motivation for the things he did, and the frantic pace of the story made it hard for me to get a good idea of who the character was.
That being said, Moore's writing is fast-paced and seriously funny throughout the whole book. It's damn entertaining to read the inappropriate jokes and the anachronistic references sprinkled throughout the book. I just wish there was a bit more meat to the character of Pocket and his story as a whole. It wasn't a bad book by any means, and I enjoyed it for the most part, but it could have been better. I'm still going to read more of his work, but this one wasn't a favorite. Now, do yourselves a favor and read Lamb. You won't regret it.