I was very happy to get my copy of Brendan Powell Smith's latest work The Brick Bible: The New Testament, published by Skyhorse Publishing. Those in the online LEGO community are probably already aware of Brendan's 11 year old ongoing project, the Brick Testament, in both its online and print incarnations. To you, all I really need to say is that this is a beautifully produced paperback version including many of his New Testament stories, presented in a graphic novel style. Several of the stories have been re-built and re-photographed to update the stories reflecting newer LEGO figures, elements and colors, as well as Brendan's evolving building skills over a decade of work. There is also a Kindle version, but IMO if you're going to look at this on a screen, you're just going to go straight to his website. The huge benefit of this is that you can actually hold it in your hands and flip through the pages.
For others, I suppose some further explanation is warranted. Back in the fall of 2001 Brendan showed off his initial work to the LEGO community:
I have embarked on a mammoth new project: interpreting the Bible in LEGO. I have plans for both Old and New Testament stories, but decided to start from the very beginning. I present to you the first fruits of my labor, six stories from the book of Genesis.
Enjoy, -The Rev. Brendan Powell Smith
As he described it in that post, his Brick Testament is a LEGO illustration of the Bible. He immediately got a lot of feedback from the community, and as he added content to his site, he also got noticed by the mainstream press with newspaper and magazine stories, appearances on radio and television, and countless blog posts, tweets, forum discussions and the like (and one notable two part interview ;) ). Over the years, his work has led to at least seven print versions.
Brendan's work has not gone free of controversy. He is not personally a religious man, and one of his stated goals is to get people to reexamine the Bible, not just their vaguely-remembered Sunday School story version. He just takes the raw text and illustrates it in a pretty literal way. I won't do this here, but elsewhere (on Lugnet and on my GodBricks blog) I've taken issues with some of his interpretive choices. Brendan has always been gracious to discuss these differences, and I've enjoyed conversations with him over the years. Also, as he noted even in his first posting back in 2001, the Bible is full of violence and sex, and he has never shied away from illustrating this in LEGO form in the online version of his work. A year ago there was a little tempest in a tea pot when Sam's Club removed his books from their shelves due to complaints over that. I have elsewhere mocked that decision, but I do want to note here for anyone considering purchasing the Brick Bible for their kids, there are no plastic toy figures placed near each other in such a way as to suggest sexual situations in the print version (plastic toy violence is another thing altogether). So, if you are highly offended by plastic toy figures placed near each other in such a way as to suggest sexual situations (PTFPNEOISAWATSSS for short), have no fear. You can buy this book in peace. Now, if you are more concerned that his interpretation of certain Bible passages doesn't match yours, well, I may share your view, but that would also mean that you have to also keep a close eye on every other Biblical interpretation in popular media from Charlton Heston parting the Red Sea on to animated vegetables singing silly songs. The key is just to be an intelligent reader, and, if you are buying this for your kids, read along with them and discuss the stories.
Now, I should spend a few minutes on this book, specifically. In large part it covers the same ground that you can find on his website, though with a different format (i.e. the website has single photos with text underneath, while this book version is laid out like a graphic novel, as you can see above). Several of the stories have been re-built and re-photographed (though not all - for example at one point the Magi are riding brick-built camels and at another Jesus tells how it is easier for a molded camel to go through the eye of the needle, so presumably the Magi photo is from before LEGO first produced the camel element in 2010). One striking difference is the lack of speech bubbles.
In the web version, Brendan uses black text in speech bubbles to indicate direct quotes from the Bible, but he sometimes has the characters make humorous asides, indicated by gray text. I kind of miss the speech bubbles and the side jokes, but I think I understand why Brendan did not include those in this. The other discrepancy between the print and web versions is simply in the choice of which material to include. Over half of the book is devoted to stories from the life of Jesus, which seems appropriate, but it seems that a third of the pages devoted to the book of Revelations seems out of scale. What's left on the cutting room floor is Brendan's treatment of the epistles of Paul, which are some of my favorite of his work.
That said, I highly recommend you get this book. Both religious and non-religious readers will enjoy the presentation. LEGO builders will particularly enjoy and appreciate seeing how Brendan translated different scenes into brick form.
TolkienBricks-specific content - There's nothing specific in the text. I suppose I could go through and talk about Christ-figures in Tolkien, or about death and resurrection themes, but that's going far afield. I would add one completely self-serving Tolkien reference. Brendan's work on illustrating the Bible in LEGO form started out on a parallel track to my own Lord of the Rings project. We started at just about exactly the same time in late 2001, taking on epic works. We were back-to-back winners of the Cool LEGO Site of the Week in late 2002. When Time magazine mentioned the Brick Testament in June of 2002, they said "At thebricktestament.com Lego fan Brendan Powell Smith has faithfully re-created 50 stories from the Bible using only Legos. There are also sites devoted to Lego depictions of Lord of the Rings and scenes from Shakespeare." While they do not mention my site by name, I can tell you that they were referring to me. At that time there were only a small handful of people posting Tolkien MOCs online, and the others (most notably the amazing Jon Furman, whose ten-year-old work is still among the best) were on Brickshelf rather than having personal sites. Sure, they may have had someone else in mine, but my site also had several scenes from Shakespeare. Of course, the main differences between Brendan's project and mine are that he's a much better builder than me, and he has also kept at it, while my project has sadly lain dormant for years. As such, Brendan's work has deservedly garnered great public attention and resulted in this and other books.