THE BOOK OF JOBY (12/09/07)

Posted Dec 8, 2007
Last Updated Apr 10, 2008

The author is Mark Ferrari.  Remember that  name.  And Joby is a 6-Star book for our decade.  (Five stars just aren't enough.)

I have twice undertaken to read the Bible's Book of Job, and found it seriously tiresome. Recently I read a new and unorthodox version of basically the same story, by long time artist/illustrator Mark Ferrari.  Titled The Book of Joby, it is a first novel, and allegory, from Tor Books.   And it is NOT tiresome.  A 21st century novel, it opens with a prolog: the Creator and the archangel Gabriel in beach bum attire, in a beach-front restaurant.  They are the morning's first patrons.  Then Lucifer enters, immaculately dressed. 
    The meeting is clearly no accident.  They are there to explore the possibility of a wager proposed by Lucifer, one they've made before, centered on various players in various roles and circumstances: Job, Jesus, and mostly unspecified others.  "The same tired old wager."  
    In this instance, the central figure is Joby Peterson, an engaging and imaginative 9-year old (in this go-round), and the wager is, Lucifer can/cannot get Joby to renounce the Creator and willingly turn to Lucifer.  As for the terms: Lucifer has 30 years to turn Joby from love to hatred, and he pursues the task with all the guile and ruthless cruelty you might expect, honed by millennia of experience.  And assisted by some of the most truly evil minions you could find!  
    A marvelous story format to explore and expose good and evil.
    Fortunately the story has some remarkably kind and beautiful people...but most of them don't know what they're up against, and the terms of the wager limit their support.
    And the stakes?  The universe!  I'll leave it at that, saying  only that Ferrari makes it quite believable.  
    Joby's idyllic early life soon sours, despite his goodness.  Eventually he finds sanctuary in a remote and mysterious upstate California coastal town called Taubolt, in a setting of great natural beauty that Ferrari makes very real, and very poignant, because...but I'd best leave that for the book to show.  Enough to say that Ferrari's skill with words is as polished, nuanced and evocative as his artistic skills.

The outcome is a very close thing, incidentally.  Harrowingly close.

I read the whole 640 pages aloud to my wife.  Gail was a long-time voracious reader, disabled now by strokes.  Reading aloud to a listener seems to intensify the experience, and despite its love and beauty, wit and humor, it cranked us through an emotional wringer.
    Why, I  wondered, would "the Creator" accept such a challenge?  Mark's (and the Deity's) explanation is beautiful, compelling, and if you're susceptible to it, a distillation of wisdom.  And the end?  It's a perfect tie-up.  Delightful.  The Book of Joby is the best modern fantasy novel since John Crowley's stunning, and award-winning, Little Big of 30 years ago.

Incidentally, Joby is getting editorial reviews, and reader reviews, to die for.  Mark has just finished an extended book tour, and Tor has him scheduled for another.

David Palter

Dec 17, 2007

Interesting. Robert A. Heinlein also addresses this subject in his novel "Job: A Comedy Of Justice" which is more of a satire on contemporary Christian theology than a serious examination of the true meaning of the biblical book of Job, but nonetheless, the result is a very successful novel, perhaps the most sophisticated of Heinlein's long and illustrious career.