Philip Pullman’s newest isn’t likely to end up a fundie favorite

If Christians had a rough time with Nikos Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ, I don’t quite see them lining up to buy the latest from Golden Compass author and staunch heathen Philip Pullman. The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, releasing May 20 in the US, is described thus:

…the remarkable new piece of fiction from best-selling and famously atheistic author Philip Pullman. By challenging the events of the gospels, Pullman puts forward his own compelling and plausible version of the life of Jesus, and in so doing, does what all great books do: makes the reader ask questions.

In Pullman’s own words, “The story I tell comes out of the tension within the dual nature of Jesus Christ, but what I do with it is my responsibility alone. Parts of it read like a novel, parts like history, and parts like a fairy tale; I wanted it to be like that because it is, among other things, a story about how stories become stories.”

Written with unstinting authority, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is a pithy, erudite, subtle, and powerful book by a controversial and beloved author. It is a text to be read and reread, studied and unpacked, much like the Good Book itself.

Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, depicting a war against God, is a modern fantasy classic, and if your only exposure to it is the well-intentioned but murkily executed Golden Compass film from a couple of years back, you owe it to yourself to check out the books themselves. They’re very much the anti-Narnia. In this video clip, Pullman responds with simple honesty to a question about Christians finding his new book offensive.

I’ll be putting my pre-order in.