cover image The Gospel of Corax

The Gospel of Corax

Paul Park. Soho Press, $25 (386pp) ISBN 978-1-56947-061-9

Not many authors have the chutzpah to write an apocryphal gospel, certainly not one told by an engaging gay criminal sidekick of Jesus, but Park has done just that, with great verve and provocativeness, if not much theological good sense. Park's previous novels have been science fiction (Celestis, 1995, etc.); here, he uses his keen imaginative skills to blend historical fact with wild flights of fancy. A runaway Roman slave attempting to dodge his own psyche as well as the men out to capture him, Corax possesses a store of knowledge that runs wide and deep. He is fluent in many languages and is able to perform seemingly any medical procedure, talents that come in handy during his far-ranging and bloody journey. On the run, Corax rescues a still unknown Jesus from a Jewish jail, where he's being held on suspicion of treason. Together, the two trek to the foothills of the Himalayas, where Jesus' embryonic teachings are fully formed by Buddhist and other Eastern masters. This is a dark narrative, full of brutality and misery--so much, in fact, that at times the gruesomeness borders on the cartoonish (as does Corax's medical derring-do). What's more likely to rub some readers raw, though--besides Park's earthy depiction of Jesus--is the novel's claim of Eastern influence on Jesus' teaching (a claim not new with Park, but one with little evidentiary back-up), and its implied favoring of Buddhism over biblical religion. Yet Park is an accomplished storyteller, and through vivid imagery he manages to sweep readers back to rougher times, offering a memorable portrait of one man and a challenging one of the man he calls ""rabbi."" Author tour. (June)