04 May 2010

Review: I, Lucifer

We've got a long tradition of stories involving the devil from a slightly more humanized view than what the bible gives us. Certainly, many of them still paint him to be evil, but they create a true character. Faust comes to mind, as does the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil." Blues musician Robert Johnson was thought to have sold his soul at the crossroads for his ability to play guitar, and who can forget Johnny betting that he can play the fiddle better than Satan? (And of course, Tenacious D met some sort of devil, but banished him with the Greatest Song in the World)

All the music references are the slow way of getting to the topic of today, Glen Duncan's I, Lucifer: Finally, the Other Side of the Story. The book was recommended to me by Jessica Abbazio, a fellow grad student who was working on a paper about the personification of the devil in the Stones' song. Her paper was fascinating, as was the book she sent my way.

The basic premise here: God is giving Lucifer another chance. Lucifer, who only exists in a spiritual realm (and can't even see what we see, but rather the impacts of his doings on our souls), doesn't buy it, but the setup is too good to pass on. He is to inhabit the body of a failing writer, Declan Gunn (took me half the book to figure out it was an anagram for the author), who was about to commit suicide when God snatched his soul away. The upside for Lucifer is that he gets a one-month trial run in the city of London. If he wants to give it a go, he stays in the body and tries to live a good life. If not, he can return to being Lucifer.

What follows is a month of debauchery, where the devil wrecks Gunn's body. He takes drugs, drinks, has promiscuous sex (with the ladies of the XXX-quisite escort service), cheats on Gunn's girlfriend, cheats on his mistresses. He's, pretty much, a little devil. The problem for Lucifer is that he starts to reconsider: should he stay in the body and take his one shot at eternal redemption?

The conceit behind the book is great, and Gunn (whoops, Duncan) pulls it off marvelously. I can't say too much, as the reader is left constantly wondering which way Lucifer chooses. But it's certainly worth a read, and it's definitely quick. If you hadn't had the chance, pick up a copy. I'm sure it can be had for less than a soul.

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