Frank Kermode writes:
This book describes itself on its jacket as ‘a retelling of the life of Jesus’ and also as a book about ‘how stories become stories’; which might lead one to expect some sort of refined Jamesian experiment, for it was James who thought a novel, if thoroughly ‘done’, was as much about itself as about its ostensible topic. The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, however, is a game of an older kind. Philip Pullman is a writer admirable for his control of tone and genre. Open his trilogy, His Dark Materials, almost anywhere and you may find bears boasting their readiness for ritual combat in language vaguely reminiscent of Beowulf, and onlookers who enjoy the company and protection of friendly daemons, all of it plausible and smooth. But this new book has nothing to do with that sort of thing, being a reworking in plain language of the familiar story of the birth, ministry and death of Jesus of Nazareth.