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I, Lucifer: Finally, the Other Side of the Story Paperback – April 2, 2003
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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 Driscoll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
Very wild story, a quick page turner..I highly recommend!
The thing is this: Duncan does not just chronicle the debauchery of his characters; he wallows in it, revels in it. And in "I, Lucifer" he seems keenly aware of this inclination of his. He may, perhaps, even be uncomfortable with it. In any case, one of the characters tells Declan Gunn--the fictional narrator whose name is an anagram of Glen Duncan--that, while it may be his "obligation to write about it [insert your own sordid perversion or horror]...it's also your obligation to understand what it means to you and why you're doing it" (207).
Duncan seems to struggle with this, and the imagery is a bit uneven because of it: at times we get full-frontal descriptions, other times we get an ellipsis and an invitation to fill in the blanks on our own.
That said, it is precisely because of asides like the one above that one cannot help but respect Duncan. He's a thinker. And while he seems to have trouble keeping his head (never mind anything below his waistline) above the most degenerate aspects of human existence, the indulgence is not without a cerebral--er, moneyshot.
Like his other books, this one too reflects upon what it means to be human in a world that is at best indifferent and at its worst, cruel. What is Hell? "Two things," we are told. "The absence of God and the presence of time" (208). Sound familiar? Yep, most of us are already there.
There is also plenty of social commentary in the book, though most of it is en passant as opposed to a sustained argument. Likewise, as Lucifer, the main character cannot help but discuss historical events such as the Inquisition, the Holocaust, and even Stanley Milgram's experiments on violence and authority. Again, most of this is just by the by, in passing.
In the end, I am not sure that we are any better off after having read Duncan's book, but we have been slightly amused and given plenty to ruminate on.
I would be amiss if I failed to mention how articulate Duncan is; he manages to make the language work for him in a way that is all too easy to miss and, paradoxically, all too uncommon these days. Form follows function in Duncan's books, and this is another reason why I continue to come back for more. If Duncan is going intellectual slumming, I can't help but want to go along with him, even if I sometimes feel as though the trip may require more than I can endure.
I feel like this premise had more potential than was used. The set up didn't seem as creative and polished as it could have been. It was written well enough, somewhat witty, but it also had a lack of relatable characters for me. I did not care about Lucifer as he went and experience humanity, and while it was humorous at times, a lot of it fell flat.
I cringed at the way he thinks, his treatment of his temporary host was deplorable. Really liked the concept of the devil being surprised at how painful it is being him. Are we supposed to sympathize? I did. Silly, I think I like this Devil. But then, I'm going to heaven. See how this book can be so engaging?
A really Good Read, made me think and smile and feel, thank you, Mr Duncan