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Ken's Guide to the Bible

Ken Smith

Blast Books

US Trade Paperback First Edition

ISBN 0-922233-17-9

Publication Date: 1995

143 Pages; $7.95

Date Reviewed: 06-05-02  

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 2002



Non-Fiction, Science Fiction, Horror

If there's a book readers -- and non-readers -- have to deal with every day of their lives, like it or not, it's The Bible. For those who are disinclined to read the Bible, and even those who have, Ken Smith, co-author of the (never read by me) 'Roadside America' books, has gone through it to find all the naughty bits, all the violent bits, all the absurd bits, and all the weird bits. He's collated them all into this slim volume which should give ammunition to those who contend that this is not the beatific tome it is purported to be by some mainstream religions. I'll quote from his introduction: "Ken's Guide to the Bible is a map of the good book's bad secrets, a leveler of the scriptural playing field that flags everything in the Bible that those in the know don't want you to see. It debunks Bible myths that have circulated since God-knows-when and it gives quick, easy-to-grasp overviews of the Bible's books, major concepts and outstanding personalities." Does it now? Well, yes. But rather irreverently. This is no mere Cliff Notes. 'Ken's Guide to the Bible' is a sourcebook for those who want to take Bible quoting holier-than-thou anybodies down a peg. It's not exactly sympathetic to the commonly held view of The Bible.

Assuming that's OK with you, the reader, you're in for something of a treat. 'Ken's Guide to the Bible' is eminently readable. Ten pages of introduction give you the basics. He describes what the Bible is ("The Bible isn't a book, but a collection of books"). He discusses the differing definitions of Old and New Testament, and offers a Bible-buying guide (look at Ezekiel 23:20, "She dotes upon her paramours" versus "She was filled with lust for oversexed men"). Smith mentions things that aren't in the Bible ("Anyone selling their soul to the devil", "Cleopatra"). He gives a run-down of "The Bible's Top Ten Influential Characters". And, he lists the icons he uses to identify passages in the Bible as containing 'Sex", "Blood'n'Guts" and even "Ken's Two Cents Worth". ("Ken's sledgehammer prose is as biased as any religious diatribe. Here at least he admits it.") Is it sledgehammer prose? Not really. It's rather light and funny. The book is laid out with lots of white space, so it doesn't break your brain with huge paragraphs of dense and unreadable text, like, uh The Bible.

The remainder of the book is divided into 'Old Testament', 'New Testament' (so far so good) and 'Jesus Hangover' (uh-oh). There are two appendices. One is the misleadingly-labeled 'Embarrassing Bible Quotations', which merely points to the verse and chapter of the quotations in question, but does not include them. 'Ken's Concordances' consists of two lists, one "Bible Sex Concordance" and "Bonus Anti-Abortionist Horror Concordance". That's a lot of territory for a book of less than 150 pages.

If you're a serious scholar, looking for a definitive Bible reference, then 'Ken's Guide to the Bible' is not the book for you. If you're a serious scholar looking for a rather cracked Biblical reference, then Smith's slim book is probably more useful. Horror and science fiction readers and writers might find this book an excellent helper or inspiration, depending on your needs. And finally, fire-breathing liberals should keep the book to hand to ease nerves wrangled and jangled by current events. Smith is a little light on the references, to my mind; the lack of quotations in the appendix labeled thus is particularly distressing. On the other hand, there is a wealth of well-spotted sex, violence, absurdity, gender-bashing, erroneous beliefs about the Bible and more.

'Ken's Guide to the Bible' is, in the final analysis, a book that you'll pretty much instantly know if you need. Some will want it for the fire-heap, and others will purchase it to wave in the faces of those throwing it into the fire. Consider this review "Rick's Guide to 'Ken's Guide to the Bible'. It's my humble hope that upon reading this, you'll know which side of the fire you fall upon.