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Behold the Man
Michael Moorcock
Orion Millennium, 124 pages

Behold the Man
Michael Moorcock
Michael Moorcock has published over 70 novels in all genres. These include several series that share, to different extents, a common multiverse: the Cornelius Chronicles, The Dancers at the End of Time, Erekose, The Books of Corum, Hawkmoon: The Chronicles of Castle Brass, Hawkmoon: The History of the Runestaff and the classic Elric of Melnibone Saga. He has also edited an anthology of late Victorian science fiction, Before Armageddon. Under the pen name E.P. Bradbury, he published a series of novel-length pastiches of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom novels.

Moorcock was born in London in 1939 and began writing, illustrating, editing and printing fanzines under the MJM Publications imprint at a young age. He became the editor of Tarzan Adventures at 16 (some sources say 17), and later the Sexton Blake Library. In 1964 he became the radical editor of the experimental and frequently controversial British SF magazine New Worlds.

A multiple winner of the British Fantasy Award, Moorcock is also a World Fantasy Award and John W. Campbell Memorial Award winner for his novel Gloriana. He won the 1967 Nebula Award for his novella "Behold the Man." He has twice won the Derleth Award for Fantasy (for The Sword and the Stallion, and The Hollow Lands), and the Guardian Fiction Prize (1977) for The Condition of Muzak. He has been shortlisted for both the Booker and Whitbread prizes, Britain's most prestigious literary awards. Moorcock currently lives in London, Spain and Texas. Moorcock has also recorded music, both solo and with the progressive rock group, Hawkwind.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Michael Moorcock's Multiverse
SF Site Review: The War Amongst the Angels
SF Site Review: The Dancers at the End of Time
SF Site Review: Kane of Old Mars
SF Site Review: Sailing to Utopia
Michael Moorcock Interview
Michael Moorcock's Musical Contributions
Bio-bibliography: Michael Moorcock
Bibliography: Michael Moorcock
Vote for your favourite Moorcock novel
Michael Moorcock Tribute Site
Michael Moorcock Tribute Site
Elric of Melnibone site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Neil Walsh

If someone walks up to you and says, "Quick! Name a book by Michael Moorcock," the odds are good that the first title to pop into your head will be one of his Eternal Champion books -- maybe something from the Elric, Hawkmoon or Runestaff series -- or possibly you might name his New Worlds anthologies, or maybe even something like Mother London. I bet Behold the Man wouldn't even make it onto the list if you had to name 10 Moorcock titles.

If one of the aims of Millennium's SF Masterworks is to bring into focus high-quality works of SF that are almost entirely overlooked today, then Behold the Man is right on target for the series. First published in 1969 by one of SF's more prolific talents, today this book is largely forgotten. And that's a shame, really.

Unlike the majority of Moorcock's work, Behold the Man has a very mainstream feel to it. Sure, it begins with a time machine, and the story, after all, is about a guy who travels back to 28 AD to meet Jesus, but the flashbacks of that guy are to his previous life in England -- from the time of his childhood in the late 40s to his thoroughly mixed up adult life into the early 70s. The character of Karl Glogauer, the time traveller, is extremely realistic -- complex, contradictory, multi-layered, and both emotionally and psychologically messed up big-time.

Although born of a Jewish mother, Glogauer doesn't really consider himself to be Jewish. Or Christian, for that matter. But he does become, from an early age, obsessed with the idea of Christ, the crucifixion and crosses. When the opportunity arises to travel back to meet the historical Jesus, Glogauer doesn't think twice. What he finds, however, is not at all what he expects. In this cleverly engineered plot, Moorcock uses what is now an old paradigm of the self-fulfilling paradox of time travel stories. Far from changing history, Glogauer's presence in the past actually fulfills an historical role in a way that he never would have dreamed possible -- despite his having been accused of harbouring a slight messiah complex.

Glogauer is not really a very likeable character. He is, however, sympathetic. And interesting. And, in some ways, even admirable. His time travel experience is so radical and life-changing (to him personally, I mean) that he begins to lose track of when and even who he really is. Under the circumstances, this is understandable. But it also serves to undermine his credibility. Is he really a time traveller? Or has he finally severed all connections to reality, living out his days in a scenario created in his own very rich, but obviously very disturbed, imagination?

I don't mean to suggest that this isn't really science fiction; only that it could be read as something more... twisted. It's a masterfully written book, working on many levels, encouraging the reader to do some independent brain-bending. The author offers quite a bit in such a short space; the reader may choose to take away what she or he will.

But it's certainly amusing to imagine that Karl Glogauer died for your sins.

Copyright © 2000 by Neil Walsh

Neil Walsh is the Reviews Editor for the SF Site. He lives in contentment, surrounded by books, in Ottawa, Canada.

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