|Grand Central Publishing|
by Seth Grahame-Smith
Ever wonder what really happened on the night Jesus was born? Of course, you can look to The Holy Bible for details, but the text of The Bible is so old-fashioned and hard to understand. Combine this little hiccup with the fact that not a lot of information is provided outside of the star, three wise men and stable thing, and The Bible version comes out as more of a sketch of what happened the night Jesus was born than the entire story. This is why Grahame-Smith’s version of that night is so enjoyable.
For those devout Christians out there, I’ll admit the tale takes a few liberties with the original story, and may be a bit unorthodox in places, plus it’s a bit edgy what with all the bloody skirmishes and the psychopathic King Herod and his harem and all, so thin-skinned readers may want to pass. But without sounding too blasphemous, I find Grahame-Smith’s version much more entertaining since every moment of the event is meticulously described in living color. The story is told through the eyes of Balthazar, one of the three “wise men,” who is actually an incredibly skilled thief known as The Antioch Ghost. Balthazar is on the lam (no pun intended) from Herod’s soldiers when, through a series of serendipitous occurrences peppered with heavy-handed irony, Balthazar ends up in the stable just after Jesus’s birth. The miraculous birth is so much more entertaining through the eyes of The Antioch Ghost and his companions! For one thing, characters become more rounded and just the tiniest bit cynical. For example, Mary is a real pain in the tuchus, which is to be expected since she recently gave birth on a heap of animal manure (in my humble opinion), and Joseph comes off as sort of naïve and wimpy (Balthazar gets a good laugh when Joseph declares his wife a virgin). Herod, well, they just don’t make villains as vile and disgusting as Herod is in this story, and there’s more to Pilot than what we see at Jesus’s crucifixion. But the best part of the story is not the constant action and superior narrative, but the coincidences that work together to create a rock-solid foundation for the birth, not only of Jesus, but of the Christian religion. For older teens, for the faithful with a great sense of humor, or for those looking for a funny work of historical fiction—this one’s for you.