Paperback: 506 pages
Publisher: Orbit (2 Aug 2007)
The Fundies are going to hate this one. After all, Monty Python's Life of Brian really offended them, because it refused to treat the lifetime of Christ with the po-faced seriousness that they insist upon. On the other hand, both that film and this book treat that era with affectionate respect as well as humour, and though the premises are somewhat different (in this one, it really is Joshua bin Joseph who is featured), I don't think this will really offend those believers who aren't determined to be offended.
But perhaps I'm wrong, being lapsed to the point of atheism.
Anyway, the premise if that Joshua (as Jesus was then known) had a best mate named Levi (or Biff for convenience), and that he was also childhood friends with Mary from Magdala (aka the Magdalene, or Maggie as she appears here). And that in the period between coming of age (say, 15) and starting his preaching, he spent half his life doing ... well, what? The gospels don't say. Moore's hypothesis is that Biff and Josh end up passing through Arabia and eastward, interacting with the Tibetan lamas, learning their skills, going on into India to encounter Buddhism and the cult of Kali, and reacting both to and against them. Biff is a pure jock, and acts to some extent as the dark background against which Josh's light contrasts.
(You could also count it as a prequel of Practical Demonkeeping, since a certain demon appears in both.)
And in the end, of course, the gospel period happens, and Biff's witness stops, and until he's resurrected to write his gospel, the story itself stops.
I enjoyed this, though I did approach it with a certain amount of caution - these days, any fiction coming even slightly close to the major figures of current religions is under threat of total censorship - either external or self. It probably will offend some, but those people will be offended by anything. It does manage, by dint of referring to Jesus as Joshua and Mary Magdalene as Maggie, to bring a freshness to the story that makes one wonder what exactly it was like to live in first century Palestine.
Recommended, with caution.