I've been hesitant to read this one, because I heard that it doesn't quite live up to the legend surrounding it.
In case you don't remember the hoopla about this book, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Satanic_Verses_controversy should get you up to speed.
I also read Joseph Anton before I read this, which was really interesting and shows that truth is almost as strange and compelling as fiction.
Anyways, in short? No, this doesn't live up to the hype. How could it? That being said, this is definitely a Major Work and one of Salman Rushdie's better novels.
Was it blasphemous? Well, I might be a bit offended if I were a muslim, as it does fictionalize an account of the prophet Muhammad, and gently question him. I could see how it could offend people, but honestly? a death sentence for a non-believer? That's beyond the pale. I am firmly in the camp that nobody can tell the other team what to do or not to do. I drew a stick figure on Draw Muhammed day, too. Je Suis Charlie.
Anyway, any ideology that can't take this gentle of a ribbing obviously won't stand up to serious intellectual scrutiny anyways. I've heard Jesus jokes before. I don't repeat them, but I also don't kill those who make them.
...but was the book good? Yeah, it was. A little tough to follow in parts, but great. It had about 6 intertwining sets of characters/storylines, some of which shared names, etc. They didn't come together the way I expected (which was a good thing) and kept me guessing until the end what was going to happen.
I love how the book starts out-- with a conversation between two guys falling from an exploding plane at 24,000 feet... It only gets weirder from there.
In the end, I think Rushdie's message was about ideas and power. How do the powerless act towards the powerful, and how do they act when the roles are reversed? That's also interesting in light of the book's controversy, as a certain powerful world religion with millions of followers with AK-47s, and their reaction to one (mostly) powerless author is telling.
One thing that surprised me about the book, is I expected the Devil to become a major character. There were a few small hints throughout that our characters were being manipulated by some nefarious force, but in the end, it just ended up being their own human faults that drove them onward.
Oh-- and a very, very Rushdiesque moment-- there's a character, Alleluia Cone, always described as imposing, cold, maybe icy. ...and then 3/4 of the way through the book, Rushdie calls her "The Icequeen Cone" and I almost fell over laughing... all that setup for a pun. Oh man, I love Rushdie's writing. It works on so many levels, including stupid puns.
Also, the novel does a good job of describing the cultural circumstances of contemporary (80s) London. Boy, there was a lot of racism and badness happening. Apparently 80s London was way more "Guns of Brixton" than "Our House". I have a hard time imagining that much racist badness happening in my lifetime, in the era of Princess Di. Guess that's my privilege showing again.
Anyway, a great book. Not Rushdie's best, because he's a fantastic author, but a great book nonetheless.