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Book Review: badbadbad by Jesus Angel Garcia

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According to the Bible, prior to his fall from grace, the Devil went by the tag of Lucifer, Son of the Morning Star. Not much is known about who Lucifer was or what he did all day long, except he was the epitome of virtue and sinlessness. In other words, he was probably pretty boring. After his famous crash and burn, the Devil’s tag was changed to Satan, which means ‘adversary.’ Plenty is known about Satan. He’s the original bad boy, the Ur-bad boy. Variously portrayed as exaggerated, quaint, and absurd, he is anything but boring.

Enter Jesus. No, not that Jesus. Jesus Angel Garcia, who is the author of badbadbad, a kick-ass new novel, whose protagonist goes by the same moniker. The storyline goes like this: Jesus Angel Garcia is left in the lurch by his wife, who takes Jesus’ baby son with her. Through chance or by the hand of God – who knows? – Jesus metamorphoses from janitor to webmaster. In his new career, Jesus builds and maintains websites for churches. This is his day job.

Jesus is introduced to his night job by the son of a preacher, the pastor of the First Church of the Church Before Church. Cyrus, who is the son of the preacher, leads Jesus down the primrose path to another kind of job, which is more of a calling than a job. Jesus’ calling involves – for lack of a better term – a kind of sexual therapy. He finds his patients at fallenangels.com, an online social network for heretics, weirdoes, fetishists, and erotomaniacs.

The Real Question is who needs therapy? Jesus Angel Garcia, who by this point is going by the tag of JAG, or the erotomaniacs?

Since badbadbad revolves around the tension created by religious obsession versus sexual obsession, there’s no lack of entertainment, which is augmented by the author’s application of trendy lingo. For example, when describing JAG’s hair: “short, spiked, bottle-blond. I let her touch. ‘A cock’s albino crown,’ she called it. ‘A bed of sun-kissed nails.’” There’s a sense of imminence to the vernacular, making the story more proximate.

badbadbad’s current cultural references are many and fun. Expressions such as the First Church of the Church Before Church tickle the reader’s funny-bone. Here, the author is taking potshots at contemporary denominations’ tendency to invoke ‘that old-time religion,’ i.e. whose doctrinal tenets are more like the church of the first-century. And the Reverend Bartholomew Puck’s sermons are dead-bang parodies of religion’s rewardism – if you do this, then you’ll get that.

Garcia enjoys poking fun at the silly behaviors of human beings, yet at the same time there’s an underlying sympathetic theme, as if Garcia is saying, “It’s okay. You’re fragile. Go and sin no more.” In other words, human beings, even though they’re all messed up, are likable and worthwhile. They just take a little getting used to.

In the end, badbadbad comes across as the combined literary effort of Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut, and Robert Anton Wilson: subtle word play, bizarre humor, and unorthodox paradoxes, packaged in sizzling verbal pyrotechnics. Which translates to one heck of a good book.

On the Read-O-Meter, which ranges from 1 star (ugh) to 5 stars (wowee), badbadbad receives 5 stars for wonderfully bad behavior.

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