I love subversive art, although this is probably a lot less shocking and subversive now - inundated as we are by graphic and potentially offensive content available at the merest keystroke - than it was when it was first published. Indeed, judging by online reviews, it seems that one of the more common reactions to this SF classic isn't shock at the blasphemy of the story, but instead a sort of blase boredom and cynical dismissiveness. Damn, the kids these days are hard to impress!
The book tackles a number of concepts. One is a depressingly personal look at a young Jew who fumbles his way through several painfully awkward sexual relationships as he gradually becomes a self-loathing, sex-obsessed Jungian with a Christ fixation. Another is an examination of a predestination paradox; essentially the idea that going back in time and changing something is impossible, that time is immutable and that anything you do while "back in time" has already happened in your past and is therefore consistent with history. Moorcock also looks at the desire of mankind for something to believe in, and the lengths to which some people will go in their attempts to justify and confirm their ideologies to both themselves and those they have met in their lives who have influenced them the most. These concepts are skilfully intertwined in a non-chronological narrative which follows the unlikable protagonist's psychological unravelling as it plays out in a thoroughly researched Palestine at the time of Christ's crucifixion.
Christians are pretty much guaranteed not to like this novel, but though the broad strokes of its ending were obvious pretty much from the outset, I thought it was brilliant, irreverent, and darkly humorous. It's a quick read, but a good one, recommended to anyone who is interested in the history of science fiction.