Like Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything and Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, the Church's The Bible attempts to answer the eternal questions of where we came from, where we're going and what we can expect to find when we get there. However, unlike Bryson and Hawking, the Church has made absolutely no effort to make their epic tome readable or even remotely plausible.
Nevertheless, despite the impenetrable prose and frankly unlikely plot, The Bible is an international best seller, perhaps for some of the same reasons as Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. Both use iconic religious imagery, and both use the modern penchant for conspiracy theory to add a little zest to the proceedings (although Dan Brown does it better) - one of the central themes of The Bible is that God created Heaven and Earth and then attempted to cover it up.
An aspect of The Bible that lets the reader down is the wildly uneven style. The blood and thunder of the first part (or “Old Testament” as it's rather charmingly called) is completely undermined by the sea change that takes place at the beginning of the second part upon the birth of the central protagonist. Suddenly we are being taught charity and forgiveness – this from the same book that only a few hundred pages earlier was (between long, boring genealogical passages) exhorting us to shun the disabled, to kill everyone, women and children included, and to show no pity.
Furthermore, just when one has got used to this new, gentler, style, the whole thing is turned on its head again in the final chapter “Revelation” – a phantasmagoria of apocalyptic imagery and fantasy violence which wouldn't look out of place in the season finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Despite all this, there is much that can be found to educate, entertain or enlighten here; some of the sequences have about them an essence of timeless fable. One just wishes that the editor had done a better job cutting out all the filler – as it is this is a weighty volume that would give the complete Harry Potter a run for its money in the page-count stakes. Basically I couldn’t pick it up.