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Book Review: I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan

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At some point during my second year of University, I was in a state that can only be described as ‘severe procrastinisation.’ I had already checked the social network sites that I am a member of several times and had just logged into IMDB. After checking out all the usual spots such as news and recent releases, I began to type in actor’s names; you know — just to see what they were up to. As I approached E, I typed in Ewan McGregor — a personal favourite. It showed a new film that was “in-production” entitled I, Lucifer.

For some reason, that I have attempted to analyse but with no success, the title had already hooked me in. The tag line just furthered this interest; “The devil gets one last chance at redemption in the body of a suicidal writer.” This was when I was suddenly pulled out of procrastinating by my housemate calling me stating we had a lecture to go to.

It was to be over a year later, three weeks ago in fact, when I was casually walking around my local book shop and saw a bright red cover dominating a particular shelf. It was I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan. For once, I thought to myself, I am going to read the book before the film. First of all, this book is probably not the usual holiday read, but alas, that is where I took it.

“I, Lucifer, Fallen Angel, Prince of Darkness, Bringer of Light, Ruler of Hell, Lord of the Flies, Father of Lies, Apostate Supreme, Tempter of Mankind, Old Serpent, Prince of this World, Seducer, Accuser, Tormentor, Blasphemer, and without a doubt Best Fuck in the Seen and Unseen Universe (ask Eve, that minx) have decided – oo-la-la! – to tell all.” 

This is the opening to the novel and I had already begun to laugh. Sure, it’s not quite how Shakespeare would have phrased it, and if you’re not into adverse language then stay away from this book. I, however, was already beginning to enjoy the novel, definitely very different to what I would normally read and was positively excited about this new venture into fiction. I settled on my sun lounger ready to laugh some more. However, after page 100, my laughs were few and far between. The laughs that did pass my lips (those laughs where a slight escape of air leaves your mouth to make a sound resembling ‘huh’), were the kind when your Nan tells you a story about Grandad losing his false teeth… again. It gets old Nan, and so does this book.

The main plot of the story is that “The Devil” is given another chance by God to redeem himself. This is done by Lucifer taking the form of a human in the recently deceased body of Declan Gunn, (yes it seems to be a play on words with the author’s own name,) who was previously a struggling writer. It follows Lucifer’s prose as he adapts to human life and tells the audience of his constant battle with God. Much of this is very clever as Lucifer gives his alternate version of “the facts” about creation and so forth from there.

From early on in the novel there are several clichés, such as the location of heaven and hell, with the image of God sitting on a fluffy cloud never leaving your mind. However, it still is entertaining as we follow Lucifer as he tries to adapt to life on earth and cope with everyday situations. At times, you can even sympathise with Lucifer as he describes life in Heaven as pointless. “All my time, in fact, sailing around Heaven telling Him what a wonderful guy He was for allowing me the privilege of sailing around Heaven telling Him what a wonderful guy He was. I didn’t know why,” Lucifer concludes, “but it suddenly seemed… well… pointless.” 

The author cleverly turns it around soon after, because as soon as you begin to feel sympathy, Lucifer will do something unimaginable: for instance, to try to rape and murder someone.

It is hard to say to people the book is a comedy. Dark humour, we shall call it. After this, Lucifer’s antics are pretty tame. Remember this is The Devil we’re talking about. Predictably he uses drugs, eats rich foods and sleeps around after magically putting several thousand pounds into Gunn’s previously overdrawn account. But his main goal is to sell a script about his life, the “true” Lucifer version, to a movie director, which he succeeds in doing extremely quickly after sleeping with his 50-year old publisher. That’s Gunn’s previous publisher obviously. Well, I think that’s who she was. For the life of me, I couldn’t tell you her name. The other characters are so weak I can’t remember a single one of their names. Bringing in this aspect of the entertainment industry as well as the higher classes, just seems, at times, to be a platform for Duncan’s satirical jibes that he desperately needed airing.

I reached page 137 if I recall, and put the book down. Lucifer was at some sort of party or gathering about his new book that would be adapted into a film. When I went to read some more, I could have sworn I was up to page 155 when I realised he was still at this one party. I was gutted when I had to rewind all the way back to at least 137 to understand what was going on. That’s not the feeling you want when reading a book.

What started out as a witty and entertaining novel, fell short half way through. I unfortunately just can’t get past that page, much of which is drivel at this point as I have no idea who half of the characters are. I’m tempted to put I, Lucifer down and not even skim to find out the ending. It has even put me off seeing the film, if it is ever made that is. Maybe I’ll stick to watching the films first…

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  • Selvam

    I stopped at page 51. I am not going any further. I may watch the movie adaptation if it garners good review.

  • Teejay

    It’s actually a brilliant book, incredibly funny and incredibly serious at the same time. I highly recommend it for anyone who likes to read a book the whole way through.

  • Taylor

    It gets funny again around page 200.