Now that it is 2008, I have found a book published in 2007 that is above all the others I read last year and would have been on my favorites list if I’d read it before the end of the year. That book is Mark J. Ferrari’s debut novel, The Book of Joby, a modern-day retelling of the biblical story of Job including elements of the King Arthur legends. It is not a part of a series but rather an actual stand-alone novel.
When Lucifer hears that God and the angel Gabriel are sipping lattes in a coffee shop in New England, he drops in on them to make a bet with the Creator. Over the years, the devil has placed “that same stupid bet” with God – that he can make one of his people willingly turn to evil – even though he has only been able to win two previous bets: Eve and Judas Iscariot. This time the stakes are high; if Lucifer is able to corrupt God’s chosen candidate, all of God’s creation will be destroyed and redesigned according to the devil’s instructions.
Nine year old Joby loves to pretend he is a knight from the book on King Arthur given to him by his grandfather. He even forms the Roundtable Club at his school and encourages others in the group to do good deeds and help out the other children. The future appears bright until Joby begins to have problems with school and his parents. Joby’s life only gets worse as he gets older and God is forbidden to help him no matter how much Joby pleads.
The story may not sound original since it is partially based on two very famous stories, but these well-known tales were intertwined in a way that formed an imaginative, unique fantasy. Certain parts of the story were predictable; however, this did not bother me since I felt that these occurrences were supposed to be clear to everyone but the characters. It did not feel like a case of the author thinking “Aha! I am so clever and nobody will guess what I am doing!” while all the readers are thinking “This guy thinks he’s being so smart but any moron would be able to tell where this story is headed.” I did not care that I was not shocked when the characters were surprised at new knowledge but just enjoyed watching events unfold and reading about how they reacted.
On the subject of the characters, I loved Joby, Laura, God, Gabriel, Michael, and even Lucifer, whose interactions with God and his angels were highly entertaining. The characters were well-drawn, and developed as the story moved along, even some who may be expected to be pretty static at this point after being alive for so long.
This was not a fantasy story that had sword-fighting, a medieval setting, elves, or any of the other tropes commonly associated with the genre. It was about one man’s struggle against greater odds, the ways in which the Creator and Lucifer tried to outsmart each other, and the hard decision’s some of God’s people/angels had to make with a little bit of philosophy on free will thrown in. The Book of Joby is a diverse book that will make you feel anger, joy, or despair at times, but keeps you smiling with the bits of humor that are weaved throughout the book.
The prose was fairly straightforward but it contained a larger vocabulary than a lot of books I’ve read recently and had several turns of phrase that made it quite enjoyable.
I would highly recommend The Book of Joby to anyone who enjoys a good book, especially if they are tired of reading generic, mundane fantasy and would like a more thoughtful story to read.
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