Monday, 16 January 2012

Book #8 The Second Coming by John Niven

The Second Coming

Around the time of the Renaissance God decided the human race was in good shape, thought it was high time he took a holiday and went fishing. As time in Heaven passes quicker than that on Earth, he returns a couple of weeks later to find 2011 and the world in an absolute mess, summons Jesus and sends him back down to rectify matters.

The first 60 pages of this novel are sublime. They are genius. Hilarious, eminently quotable and genuinely exciting. Though some of the Christian faith might find this controversial novel heinously blasphemous (it is) if you're open and you have a decent sense of humour you'll still love this depiction of God beating Halo 3 and Jimi Hendrix getting stoned with Jesus. I did. Oddly, the only thing I found uncomfortable was Ronald Reagan, I didn't object to him being in Hell so much as the cruel way he was depicted. I was a bit offended by that, but the rest of it was so outstandingly original I was majorly excited for the remainder of this novel. And then..........?

And then this novel dies on its arse. Dies. And becomes dull, pedestrian and cliched. It's one of the biggest disappointments in a novel I have EVER experienced. JC in his thirties in 2011 as one would hope is hanging out with the poor, the mentally ill, the abandoned, the social bottom rung and trying to help them. He also has a sideline as a musician. One of the problems in the novel is JC's social circle, so hard to care about that I finished the novel on Saturday and now can't remember most of their names. The arc with Claude particularly feels redundant and puzzling.

The second main section of the novel alongside  Jesus and his crew is his entry into an American Idol style contest. All of this section is horrible writing. Steven Stelfox is Simon Cowell with the exaggeration dial turned up to 3000, and it is a parody of the misery of this sort of contest and the surrounding celebrity culture. Pop Idol first hit our screens about 10 years ago, the zeitgeist of this sort of satire has long since passed. It is as old and done to death in pretty much every medium as the opening of this novel was fresh. It's practically mouldy. It made me a bit sad that this was the best he could do. 

The third section is inevitable and even practically predictable from the moment Jesus and friends move onto their farm. Niven takes some well aimed shots at the worst of religion, both Christianity and Islam in this and the prior section, but that's about it. Gutted. Actually gutted.

If you are in a bookstore, take this book and sit down with it in the coffee shop, read those stellar 60 pages and then put it back on the shelf. 10/10 for those extraordinary pages, 3/10 for the novel as a whole

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