Behold the Man
by Michael Moorcock
One of the stranger books I’ve read of late, the high concept of this book is simple: a London student in the 1970s takes part in a time travel experiment, and goes back to the days of Jesus — where he finds himself taking over the role of Christ. To Moorcock’s credit, he doesn’t rely on the concept alone to carry the book. It’s structured nicely, and spends much of its time taking apart the character of Karl Glogauer, its lead.
The result is one of Moorcock’s better books, I think. It’s short, focussed, and gets at a lot of material in a short space. It’s both experimental and highly disciplined. And it has to be said that Moorcock’s quite adept at using the Christ scenario to tap a kind of iconic energy. He does it with a light touch, setting up a properly inevitable climax. It’s a subversive take on the Christ story, of course, but Moorcock handles it well enough that, to me (and I’m not a Christian), it doesn’t feel exploitative. In fact, because it’s not exploitative, it is that much more powerful — compare, by contrast, something as witless as Garth Ennis’ Preacher graphic novels, and you’ll see what I mean. Overall, then, quite a success.