Time Is Irreverent 2: Jesus Christ, Not Again, by Marty Essen (Victor, Montana: Encante Press, 2019, ISBN 978-0-9778599-6-2). 236 pp. Softcover, $14.95.
Behold, born to us is a sequel to Marty Essen’s Time Is Irreverent, the madcap sci-fi metanovel that I reviewed favorably in these pages (FI, October/November 2018). As before, the book is less a science-fiction novel than a mash-up of sci-fi tropes and clichés constructed as tongue-in-cheek commentary on politics, religion, and other “forbidden” and serious subjects.
Nebbish but ruttish everyman Marty Mann and his incredibly desirable lesbian co-adventurer, Nellie Dixon, are back. Under the guidance of friendly aliens, they concluded the first book going back in time to undo the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, hoping that would change history and head off a looming future in which a buffoonish and bullying U.S. president (no, not him; this buffoonish and bullying U.S. president’s name is Handley) will very soon nuke the world. As Time Is Irreverent 2 opens, Marty and Nellie’s good work is reversed by the Colorless Ones, alien religious extremists who shoulder humanity back into a timeline in which thermonuclear annihilation is moments away.
Stealing a time machine (in a book like this, one is always lying around), Marty and Nellie head back to the Holy Land. Their plan B goes awry, and next thing you know they’ve swooped back to 2020 with a stowaway. Yep, Jesus, the Christ himself—a profane and sensuous Son of Man, the sort of Christ R. Crumb might once have drawn, but maybe that makes him the truest Son of Man of all.
High-camp plotting combines with edgy social and political commentary in the style Essen so utterly nailed in his first novelistic outing. He manages to blend broad humor with a deft touch; in a scene where Marty and Nellie are hurtling toward a crisis zone in their time machine with the actual, accept-no-substitutes Son of God on board, Essen manages to set up a “Deus ex machina” joke yet deliciously undersells it.
Ultimately, Jesus sets out to undo the whole of Christianity with a revised body of preaching—a challenging assignment, given that he can never quite get the hang of contemporary English.
Time Is Irreverent 2 is a madcap blasphemous comedy of the most delightful sort. Recommended for those whose tastes incline that way; if you loved Time Is Irreverent, run, don’t walk, to consume this perfect sequel.