Wednesday, June 23, 2010

CSFF Blog Tour: Imaginary Jesus - Real Review!

Fellow CSFF Tourists, ladies and gentlemen of the blogosphere, you may wish to sit down. You are about to experience a rare and, some might say, life-changing event. Something that has happened precisely once in the history of the universe to date.

Yes, it’s true. I am about to review the featured book. During the tour.

Unfortunately the little backwater in which I live was outside the reach of review copies, but the publishers very kindly made a pdf available, which means that (a) I can review the book; and (b) I get to ask my mother-in-law for a book for Christmas whose nicely irreverent title will probably offend her. Bonus!

That nicely irreverent title – Imaginary Jesus – and the ‘not-quite-true story’ tagline were pretty much enough to sell the book to me.

And, I’m happy to say, I was not disappointed. No, hang on, scrap that. I was more than not disappointed, I was, um… well, ok, like many of my fellow bloggers this week, I had no idea what to expect. What I didn’t expect was time travel, fake Jesuses by the dozen, a theologian who was an ass (how many times do you get to say that in a serious book review?) and to laugh out loud at practically every page. I seriously cannot remember the last time I did that at a book. Especially a Christian book, but that’s beside the point.

There are too many good things about this book to mention. The flagrant disregard for the fourth wall:
That reminded me of the Frog of Hate, and I reached into my pocket and was pleased to find him still there, eight chapters later.
The aforementioned irreverence:
Maybe you have forgotten the story where Jesus was walking with his brother James to the synagogue and they were about to cross the street and Jesus grabbed James and said, “Look out for that dog poop.”
And the fact that Matt Mikalatos seems to have got hold of my sense of humour and distilled it into a novel about Jesus.

On the slight downside, some of the Imaginary Jesuses (Televangelist Jesus, Magic 8 Ball Jesus) come straight out of American culture and perhaps don’t have quite the resonance here that they do out there in the colonies, but the point is clear nonetheless.

In between the laughs and the irreverence, there is, it should be said, a serious point. I imagine that, given the ‘not-quite-true’ nature of the story, some of story Matt’s backstory must be based on author Matt’s real life experiences. And so the story takes a (slightly) more serious turn when Matt decides to ask the Secret Society of Imaginary Jesuses why his unborn child died.
Free Will Jesus snorted. “True, I allowed your baby to die. Meticulous Jesus chose for your baby to die.”
And this sort of thing – bickering between Jesuses – goes on throughout the book, all the while Matt is trying to track down the real Jesus, aided by his new friends Pete (yes, the guy from the Pearly Gates) and Daisy (a talking donkey). It’s how I imagine Robert Rankin would have written The Shack. It is totally insane, and yet… and yet… it does show us something about Jesus. The real one and all those we may have imagined as we looked for him.

I love this book. I have been touting this book in web forums for a few days. I’m stopping passers-by in the street and asking if they’ve seen Imaginary Jesus. Now I’m telling you: read this book!  

Imaginary Jesus now has the official title ‘The Book I Wish I Had Written’. There’s a trophy for that, but my publishers won’t mail it overseas.

Brandon Barr Keanan Brand Grace Bridges Beckie Burnham Valerie Comer R. L. Copple Amy Cruson CSFF Blog Tour Stacey Dale D. G. D. Davidson Jeff Draper April Erwin Andrea Graham Tori Greene Becky Jesse Cris Jesse Jason Joyner Julie Carol Keen Krystine Kercher Dawn King Leighton Rebecca LuElla Miller John W. Otte Donita K. Paul Crista Richey Chawna Schroeder Rachel Starr Thomson Fred Warren Phyllis Wheeler KM Wilsher


Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Hahah! I may have enjoyed your last line more than anyone, Steve, because I share your pain every time a PR person tells me sorry but only to North America.

So glad you liked the book. And I do feel privileged to read your review.


UKSteve said...

And thank you Becky for introducing me to Imaginary Jesus!

Matt Mikalatos said...


Wow. I am speechless. Well, except for the part where I am about to make a speech. Other than that, completely speechless. Thanks so much for this amazing review. I think "The Book I Wish I Had Written" goes into my "Nicest Things People Have Said" Journal tonight. And I'm very sorry about all the American Jesuses. I will make sure to include "Stiff Upper Lip Jesus"
in a future book.

Thanks again for a great review!


UKSteve said...

Did I just have my review reviewed by the author of what I was reviewing?

Also, bring on the Trans-Atlantic Imaginary Jesus Face-off!