I can’t remember exactly when I read Ishmael, but that was my first introduction to Daniel Quinn and his writing style. Because I enjoyed that book so much, someone recommended that I read his follow-up novel, The Story of B. So, I bought the book, but it sat on my shelf (or I carried it around on my trips without ever opening it) for a couple years.
Finally, as I was down to the last book I brought with me to Costa Rica, it was time to open The Story of B and find out what the fuss is all about. What I found is that, indeed, there is certainly something to fuss over. Anyone searching for meaning in our world and the human experience can benefit from Quinn’s work.
This review will provide a brief overview of the plot before diving into my main takeaways. It is, by no means, a complete summary. If you want to absorb all the knowledge that Quinn imparts in its pages, you’ll just have to read The Story of B for yourself.
The plot of the book centers on Father Jared Osborne. Father Osborne is a middle-aged priest who, in the book’s opening pages, is summoned to the office of Father Lulfre, his “higher-up”. Lulfre tells Osborne that he has a special mission for him. He says that rumors are coming out of Europe about the appearance of the Antichrist.
While other denominations have long forgotten their duty to keep a watchful eye for the arrival of the Antichrist, Father Lulfre explains that the Laurentians have maintained their vigilance in this mission. He tasks Osborne to travel to Europe to investigate whether the rumors are true and, if so, whether this figure is actually as dangerous as people are saying.
The Story of B tracks Osborne through his discovery of this Antichrist, whose followers call him B. It chronicles the unlikely relationship that develops between Osborne and B as the former tries to understand the message the latter is spreading. All the while, B is working to help Osborne understand the follies of his worldview and attempting to impart upon him a new vision of how man is meant to exist on Earth.
B’s Definition of ‘The Antichrist’
Early religious authors suggested the existence of a figure diametrically opposed to everything that Christ stood for. In some texts, it is written that the arrival of the Messiah would be followed shortly thereafter by the arrival of the Antichrist and that the battle that ensued would lead to the ultimate vanquishing of evil. This would, in those texts, place a nice tidy bow on the timeline of history. Everything would be “done” after that.
Other set forth the idea that, because the Messiah (Jesus) had already arrived, the next ‘arrival’ would be that of the Antichrist, whose mission would be to lead all humanity to sin. In this story, the Antichrist would become nearly as beloved as Jesus himself, before the ultimate battle that vanquishes evil, sees God triumph, and, again, puts a nice, neat bow on the timeline of history.
In The Story of B, Quinn takes things a step further and says that “The Antichrist isn’t just the antithesis of Jesus, he’s equally the antithesis of Buddha, of Elijah, of Moses, of Muhammad, of Nanak, of Joseph Smith, of Maharaj Ji–of all saviors and purveyors of salvation in the world. He is in fact the Antisavior.”
Who is B?
B is Charles Atterley. B is Shirin. B is…YOU! I know it might sound confusing, but I’m going to leave it right there. If you’re dying to know what I mean, you’re just going to have to read it for yourself.
A Journey Through History
My favorite part of this book was that it took the reader back (farther back than you may have ever considered) to understand why we live the way we live today and to impart the lesson that our way of life isn’t the only way. This journey through history also shows us that there is much less separating East and West as some of us (myself included before reading) might imagine.
This journey will take you back far more than 10,000 years. It will take you back before our Agricultural Revolution. It will take you back before war and famine and poverty and so many other ailments existed among the human species. It will show you how quickly our population has exploded in the last 10,000 years, and how relatively slowly our population was increasing before that.
It will help you understand the intricacies of why the tribal system was so successful for the human species for so many years. It will take you back to offer insights on why the Egyptians, Mayans, and Aztecs all built pyramids. What it won’t do is to give you all the answers, but it will make you ask questions and consider how you’ve been looking at the world around you.
B’s Major Lesson
There are many, many lessons that lie within the pages of this book. There are thoughts on religion, politics, social systems, sustainability, and so much more. But the most important lesson comes in the form of making us re-imagine our place in the world and, indeed, in the community of life. Our human history extends much further back than the first tribes that organized into farms and villages to test a new agricultural system. That system has given us the ability to create great food surpluses, but it has also created opportunities for devastating famine.
For me, B’s lesson was a reaffirmation of an idea that has dwelt in my subconscious for some time now. We are part of the community of life, rather than rulers of that community. We are subject to the laws of ecology just as is every other species alive on this Earth. For all of our advanced intelligence and technology, we can not escape our biological origins. We come from this Earth, our ancestors knew how to live on this earth without destroying it, and we are capable of remembering how to do so as well.
Learn The Story of B!
While I hope you’ve enjoyed this summary of my most important takeaways from Daniel Quinn’s The Story of B, I want to stress that there is really no substitute for sitting down and the digesting the entire book on your time. If you do choose to purchase The Story of B after reading this review, I’d love to know how the book speaks to you!
Also, I’d love to hear what other types of books or authors you’d like to see reviewed on this site. I’m always looking for new opportunities to read and review. My only regret is that my reading list tends to grow much faster than I’m able to check items off of it, so if you do leave me a suggestion, I appreciate your patience as I dive into the many books on my shelves!
Please leave a comment below if you are inspired, perplexed, saddened, or angered by any of the ideas presented above. I welcome any and all comments and will do my best to respond hastily. I’d also encourage you to share this with others if you found it particularly insightful or helpful. Be sure to tag @ballisterwriting on Facebook or Instagram if you do!
14 thoughts on “The Story of B”
The Story of B by Daniel Quinn makes me kinda curious; I am a Christian, you said B is the Antichrist, who says B is? I think I know what you meant by this…. We are living our lives in a way that opposes the way Christ proposed that we should live it. Right?
Books I will love to see you talk about are motivational and inspirational books. Those that can build my confidence.
If you’re looking for a motivational and inspirational book that will build your confidence, I highly recommend Becoming Supernatural. I think you may have given my review of that book a look already, but here’s the link to it if you haven’t!
To answer your question, B is labeled the Antichrist within the context of this book by the church establishment. They see B’s teachings as a direct threat to their own teachings and I think that Quinn suggests that part of the reason that they feel threatened is that B suggests that human existence should be viewed through a wider historical lens (i.e. a lens that includes much more time than the 10,000 or so years we’ve been practicing ‘modern agriculture’).
B challenges us to reframe how we think of our place in the world in relation to ourselves, other living species, and the planet itself. In the book, some members of the church see this challenge as a threat to their established ideas of right and wrong (and who’s on the right side of history).
Hello there, it is really nice to see you share this book review of The Story of B. From your brief summary of this book, I found that this book will be interesting. I think Daniel Quinn must have put in a lot of work, experience, efforts and time into this book. I keep wondering why you say B is me
Without giving too much away, Quinn infers that we are all B because we all have a responsibility to live in ways that facilitate healthier relationships between humans and between humans and the natural world. I’ll leave it there, as Quinn goes much deeper into HOW we might do this in the book, but I truly feel those lessons are best taken in the context of reading the fully story. So you’ll have to check it out for yourself!
I just stopped by to congratulate you on a well written review. You gave us just enough of the plot (ok, maybe even a bit too much) to make it enticing and to lure us in.
One question: if I wanted to read this (and now I knd of do!), should I just go ahead or should I read Ishmael first?
I wouldn’t say that Ishmael is a precursor to The Story of B. Each book can stand on its own and holds different lessons and storylines. Great question and thanks for it!
I am too much curious about The Story of B. Your summery makes me curious to read the book. I love to know more and more. I believe you could help me to know more and suggest me to grab knowledge about humour, education, technology, travelling, dramatic, romantic, horror, detective or any type of enjoyable novel or story. I am really very interested in the book The Story of B.
I’m glad you are intrigued by this story! I highly recommend it and if you’re looking for books that cover some of the other topics you mention, check out my full selection of book reviews to see if there’s anything else there you’re interested in!
I didn’t think I was going to be interested in this book when I began reading your review, but you have changed my mind! It sounds like an extremely exciting book, and I love to read about stories that challenges the traditional way of thinking. I cannot wait to get this book and dive into it! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on it!
I’m thrilled that I’ve been able to change your mind and plant a seed of curiosity Travis! Please come back and share your thoughts with me once you’ve read it!
Your review on The Story of B just put me under suspense. I wished you had explained more but you said if i want to find out more, I will have to read the book myself which is exactly what I will do. I was also intrigued by the major lesson you stated about the book. In all, this book is a must read for me. Thanks for introducing this to me through your summary.
You’re very welcome! As you pointed out, the point of my summary was to catch your attention but to keep the mystery of the book intact. It’s a wonderful read, and I highly recommend it, as well as the other book from Quinn that I’ve read, Ishmael.
I love this synopsis. It reminds me of the first book in the Arkane Series, called Stone of Fire by Joanna Penn (J.F. Penn). Enjoying the plot in Stone of Fire, I’d be inclined to read Ishmael. For this book, you really got me with going back 10,000 years through history. Being a history buff who loves anything, fiction or nonfiction to do with history, especially a complete history of human civilization, I have to at least go on to the book’s Amazon profile.
Hey Todd! I’m glad to hear you’re intrigued. I’d love to hear from you once you’ve read this book (or Ishmael) to share thoughts on its contents. If you’re a history buff, you’ll definitely like this read. It takes you back even further than the 10,000 years but focuses on that time in history because of the important development of ‘modern agriculture’ that occurred then. Let’s connect once you’ve read it!