My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I came to The good man Jesus and the scoundrel Christ having read the His dark materials trilogy but found none of the withering and thought provoking criticism of the power afforded to organised religion in those works here. In fact, Pullman’s retelling of the story of Christ felt a little juvenile and little lazy. It added nothing salient to the weary debate about the value and nature of religion, and at times seemed like an unnecessary and cheap point scoring exercise.
Of course Philip Pullman is no stranger to religious controversy and perhaps, given a certain inclination of faith The good man Jesus and the scoundrel Christ is a deeply controversial work. For my part – not being of that particular inclination – I can only set aside the apparent controversy and conclude that without it this is little more than a story about the nature of stories. I’ve read plenty of stories about stories before; the blurred lines between fact, fiction, truth, history and memory have been explored time and again elsewhere and sadly this book didn’t feel anything like a stand out example of an over familiar post-modern genre.
It’s disappointing not to find something positive to say about a novel, so I suppose it’s fair to say that there is some charm in the fable like nature of this one – although perhaps this owes more to the gospels themselves than to Pullman’s rendering of them.