Monday, 29 October 2012

I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan (4/5)

The back says: The end is nigh, and the Prince of Darkness has been given one last shot at redemption, if he can manage to live out a reasonably blameless life on earth. The Old Dealmaker negotiates a trial run – a month with all the delights of the flesh. (The flesh: slightly worn, one previous owner; a writer.)

But the experience of walking amongst us has more pratfalls and detours than Luce foresaw: instead of teaching us what it’s like to be him, Lucifer finds himself beginning to understand what it’s like to be human.

I say: I have always been intrigued by religion (my father was a priest, so that’s probably why) and I love to read/hear/see things that deal with faith, and the root of all evil and good, so obviously I had to read this.

This book is supposed to be the book that Lucifer writes, as Declan Gunn, about his experiences on earth. It starts out with a lot of foul and quite unpleasant language – explained by Lucifer as his unaccustomed use of the English language – and after a few pages I wanted to give up on the novel, but I stuck with it. And glad am I that I did because it gets better as the story progresses.

So, we have the Devil in a human body, told by God that if he manages to stay out of trouble (and evil) for 30 days he will be redeemed and allowed back into heaven when God destroys everything (including hell).  The Devil, as we can gather, accepts the challenge. At first he is so mesmerised by everything he sees and feels – note: he has never been human before – and I really liked the way that Duncan presented how astonished he was by everyday things. The sky, the sun, the streets, a dog, ice cream – it was all new sensations to him and he was savouring them all.

Of course, and this comes as a surprise to no one, he doesn’t live a good life as human. In fact, he goes about trying to do as much evil as he possibly can – there are limitations to being human, after all – all the while telling himself that he is trying to sort out Declan Gunn’s life. You see, Gunn was just about to commit suicide when God removed his soul and let Lucifer enter his body, so obviously Gunn’s life is a proper mess.

In between getting updates about Lucifer’s doings in Gunn’s body, we get to find out Lucifer’s side of creation, heaven, the Garden of Eden, hell and everything in between. It is clear here that Duncan has read and been inspired by Paradise Lost by John Milton because the notions he presents about all those things lie in direct likeness to Milton’s. However, I don’t really see this as a negative (although it did result in me marking down the novel); if you’ve read the poem you’ll recognise it and if you haven’t it won’t really matter.

I must say though, Duncan presents it in a much nicer form that Milton did.

[Aside: I think that remark is considered blasphemous in literary circles]

One of my favourite films is Constantine and this novel reminded me of that; angels and demons taking human form and having their battles here on earth. There are no battles in this novel, but a few confrontations. I have to say that I’m really impressed with the way that Duncan unfolded the story, how he started out with making Lucifer all crude and one-track-minded and then had him sort of humbled by the human experience. After all, he’s spent most of his existence in writhing pain trying to persuade humans to do evil in order to own their souls, so it was great to see him understanding what that means in human terms.

I also like the touch of Lucifer remembering a few people mentioned whose souls he had battled for – I think that made him think differently of his work.

I, Lucifer is a great novel and the only reason I’m not giving it a full 5/5 is because of the Milton thing.

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