Upfront disclosure: I am not a Christian, and am not convinced in the divinity of Christ blah blah blah. In fact, I'm a fairly established atheist, buUpfront disclosure: I am not a Christian, and am not convinced in the divinity of Christ blah blah blah. In fact, I'm a fairly established atheist, but solid evidence would change my mind and I would acknowledge the truth of Christianity, but I wouldn't practice it because that's a whole other essay. But I can still appreciate historical fiction set in this time and with this subject matter. For instance, The Ten Commandments (both DeMille versions, silent and sound) have got to be the funnest movies EVER.
But this book... I had already started it when I discovered Douglas was a minister. Boy, it shows. Distilling this humongous novel into one trite sentence: It's Sunday School Pablum for Adults. In fact, I can imagine devout Christians crying over this book the same way that Mormon woman burst into tears recounting Joseph Smith's broken leg and declaration of faith when I toured Smith's birthplace. Hey, there are just some things that affect people. Baffling, but also kind of entertaining in terms of observing human psychology and behavior.
So, the story: Marcellus Gallio is packed off to a distant outpost of the Roman Empire cuz he pisses off a tyrannical relative of Emperor Tiberius at a party. It's practically his first day in the middle of BFE (so to speak) and he's charged with the task of crucifying some Jewish carpenter who's pissing off the local Jewish PTB. He's immediately impressed by this dude's je ne sais quoi and after winning the dead guy's robe after a toss of the dice, feels The Power of the garment and becomes Jesus' #1 Fanboy. It's like a tech nerd touching one of Steve Jobs' black mock turtlenecks or something. The holy experience was melodramatic and kinda laughable. Anyway, he travels through Galilee talking to anyone who even glimpsed Jesus in order to get the smallest tidbit of information about his New Hero. Marcellus just can't get enough of hearing about him. Almost half of the book is a masturbatory Jesus lovefest.
The writing is not very good. I'll just put that out there. There isn't an adverb that isn't utilized clunkily when a more cleanly crafted sentence could suffice. Episodes are repeated over and over (and over) again in order to drive home the point that Jesus Was Special and the Answer to Everything. Nearly the entire book after the crucifixion is a series of dialogue scenes between characters firmly establishing the Divinity of Jesus in clunky Q&A sessions. There is always one who is convinced (or strongly persuaded) of the fact, and the skeptic. Even after Marcellus has declared he is a Christian and is convinced, when there is a scene between him and Peter (The Fisherman), Marcellus takes on the role of Skeptic in order to elevate Peter's own divine role and give weight to the fact that Jesus Is Lord. It became all rather annoying but mostly amusing as the same scenes kept repeating themselves over and over between various characters. The dialogue was almost exactly the same, the same themes and trite lines re-tread. Only the names changed.
By the end of the book, I was rooting for Caligula (view spoiler)[while Marcellus and Diana rode off in the tumbrel to the guillotine walked off to their executionmartyrdom that they were gagging for. (hide spoiler)]
Demetrius was a neat character, way more interesting than Marcellus, but imagining him as Victor Mature kinda killed it for me.
In a way, this book was interesting as an insight into how the man-made religion of Christianity managed to take off and supplant all the other man-made religions of the time. I wonder what new man-made religion will replace Christianity in due time.
Bottom Line: Since this book is so long and so repetitious, I'd stick with the audio version to make things sail along faster. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more