From Publishers Weekly
In Paradise Lost, Milton set out to "justifie the wayes of God to men." In this novel, British author Duncan (Hope; Love Remains) attempts to justify the ways of Satan to the hip. God gives his evil subaltern a month in a human body, with an option to own, thus permanently casting off his pain-racked cosmological being. The grim alternative for Lucifer is to subsist in eternal nothingness. The vacant body belongs to Declan Gunn, a writer on the brink of suicide. Lucifer narrates his romps through escort service dates, cocaine-laced nights and, mostly, the thrills of the wondrous human sensorium. Lucifer options his life story-from his starring role with Adam and Eve to his struggles with an autocratic God-to a film producer and torments Declan's lover, Viola, with the promise of a juicy part in the upcoming movie. But for all his jauntiness, Lucifer must unexpectedly wrestle with Gunn's conscience, including Gunn's memories of Penelope, his alternately loathed and longed-for ex. When Lucifer makes the disastrous decision to see Penelope and forgive her for dumping him, he confronts the goodness of mercy, a battle that leaves him sick with nausea and cognitive disorientation. Lucifer tosses wisecracks around as if they were hand grenades. On the wickedness of a rival of Gunn's, he quips, "There's no murder in him, and only a very predictable dribble of lust. His soul, and billions like it, provide the cosmos with its muzak." Alas, Lucifer's wit doesn't often rise to this sharply satiric level: it's more like a series of outtakes from Bedazzled. This is the archetypal promising novel-the author's talent with words eclipses the substance of his story.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Duncan's last novel, Hope
(1998), was about pornography addiction. Since then, he's apparently found God, or rather, the Devil. His latest novel features the Prince of Darkness incarnate in the body of down-and-out writer Declan Gunn (anagram, anyone?), just about to slit his wrists. The apocalypse looms, and God has offered fallen angel Lucifer a second chance at redemption by enticing him with a month of earthly embodiment--an offer he can't refuse, given his taste for cocaine, sexual mischief, and other evil earthly pleasures. In between acts of debauchery, however, Lucifer/Gunn resurrects his literary career and revels childlike in the Earth's simple offerings: tastes, smells, sunsets, London. He muses theological, contemplating free will and the Fall and thinks about--just maybe--getting back on God's good side. Seduced by our diabolical narrator's wicked humor and Duncan's clever conceit, the novel's Christian redemption moral may catch some readers off guard (wasn't this book supposed to be about evil pleasures?), but they likely won't want to put it down. Duncan's witty and perverse, yet somehow life-affirming, Lucifer is powerful indeed. Brendan DriscollCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved