Behold the Man

Michael Moorcock
Behold the Man Cover

Behold the Man


What's the most logical thing a man of faith should do when he suffers a crisis of faith? Hop in his time machine and go back to the time period that inspired said faith, of course.

Which is what Karl Glogauer does. Disenchanted with his life, and driven by a crisis of faith, he agrees to test a friend's time machine, using it to travel back to biblical times and face the issues behind his crisis head on. But what's in the Bible is far from what he encounters as reality. John the Baptist is a rogue warrior. Mary and Joseph's marriage is definitely not like what it says in the Bible. And then there's the true circumstances surrounding Jesus himself......

I'm surprised Michael Moorcock wasn't lynched for this book. Seriously. The creative licenses he takes when writing this book is absolutely jaw dropping due to the sheer audacity. I can imagine the crap storm that flew his way when this book first hit shelves. This book is going to shock you, no question about that; it shocked me and I'm not even Christian. So I can imagine what it would do to a subscriber of said faith.

But beyond the shock factor, it's a slow book. It's not an event driven story, though plenty occurs; the tale is laid out in two concurrently unfolding timelines that eventually converge. In the first timeline, we see Karl's modern day life; his failing relationship, his friendship that leads to his use of the time machine, the crisis of faith that eventually pushes him to this extreme journey.

And in the other timeline we see Karl in biblical times, where he finds the legend of Jesus is far from legendary, and not even close to what's accepted in the 21st century. It's a state of matters that drives him to bring about the very events that form the basis of Christianity in the first place, breathing life into the faith he's lost. But then things slowly begin to escalate, and before he knows it he's sucked into unfolding events in much bigger ways than he first anticipated when he set out to "correct" history.

Moorcock's writing is simple, effective, and engaging. The way in which he slowly unfolds revelations and incorporates his themes into unfolding events makes it a book you're hesitant to put down at times, despite the generally slow pace and retrospective nature of the story. But at the same time, that's the point of it; this is a tale that sets out to not only jar you out of your comfort zone, but make you rethink what exactly does faith mean to you.

Overall? It's a slow, but definitely interesting read. It's rife with issues I think many Christians would be interested in, despite the very controversial content; I could be wrong about that. Interestingly enough, the only reason this book can even classify as science fiction in the first place is because of the existence of a time machine; literally nothing else about it is vaguely science fiction. It does do a wonderful job of playing with the theme of faith.

Naturally, you'll be able to say how things are going to end before long, but the point of this book isn't about the events it plays out. It's about the themes it discusses. A deep book, and one I'm definitely hesitant to recommend because of the nature of the tale. Proceed with caution, depending on your religious inclinations. Though an accepted classic, it still retains much of its potency, given the time span between now and when it was first published, and I have no doubt it still retains its ability to infuriate the devout.