Sunday, November 11, 2007

SBD: I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan

I went to get this book out from the library after reading Doug's post about his literature choices for his 12 year old homeschooled son. (I can't find the post to link to...oh wait here it is.) and I figured, if it's good enough for a twelve year old, I should be ok with it.

The story is about Lucifer, who gets on last chance at redemption and gets to live as a human for one month, with all the pleasures and joys and senses that we humans possess. He certainly does enjoy senses, does Satan.

The disappointing side is the body God's chosen to put Lucifer in is that of Declan Gunn, a fairly depressed (Actually suicidal, as he was about to slash his wrists in the bathtub when the possession took place) not successful enough writer whose broken hearted and dull and annoyingly average. Don't despair! I've always said it's confidence that's most attractive in a man, and Lucifer has plenty of that.

Now the thing about this book is, is it's told first person, by Lucifer, as it's his story told by him, through Gunn's body (Bragging bastard talks of typing 400 words per minute) and; he does prattle on a bit. Actually a lot. I began skimming almost immediately. Waffle, prattle on and on....yawn. Can you believe that?? Lucifer - yawn. They just shouldn't go together really should they. The plot would work itself back in occasionally and pull me from my skimming snooze through. About how Lucifer was going to make a success of this month (money, women, men, drugs, drink and smoke are all ticked off his to do list) and get his story out there; books movies everything. He can still read minds (Which is something I thought the Devil couldn't do. I thought God could read minds but Satan couldn't...oh well. Here, he can.)

There were many pages I just skipped. I didn't really care about the retelling of the crucifixion with Pilate and his wife. I also skipped the witch burning of a pregnant woman who was innocent (They were all innocent, let's be honest), Eden was interesting (Where he makes a very good argument that God created temptation, not him. That apple tree: All God. Lucifer was just an enabler.) but really I just kept wanting him to come back into the now. Granted, Lucifer apologizes a lot for his rambles; which did leave me feeling I was visiting an elderly distant relative in a nursing home. Someone I hoped would be interesting, but just wasn't. How unfair.

Equally annoying was how a hundred pages in, I got the feeling the author wanted this to be about him. Like he wanted to be the one who played host to Satan's vacation. The constant talk about Gunn started to get a bit weird (The issues about penis size were become a recurring theme that carry through the whole book. Never mentions his inches, but get the clear picture of frustrated averageness.) Until I noticed, Declan Gunn was an anagram of Glen Duncan. Oh, how utterly egocentric and weird. That's not confidence, that's just...wrong.

The other archangels all make cameos and the kind of angelic history is neat. Lucifer is very sarcastic, and seems a bit poncey. I found myself hearing him as Richard E. Grant a la Withnail and I. with his my loves and darlings. Condescending and tedious. I don't think even he realized he was transparent and dull at times. And when he did notice, he didn't care, onward the prattle went. Obsession with smelling and tasting things. The weird recurrence of dog shit as stimulus. The constant reference to vadge. One bit I did find amusing and very well written as Lucifer's experience with acid. A hallucinating super-being trapped in a man's body, that's a trip and half.

I didn't hate the book, but I was a bit meh by it. The views of how he just couldn't cope with having to pay constant love and homage to God, how he was curious and that wasn't acceptable. How he really just talked himself down to rebellion on a teenage level. Petulant and bratty with delusions of grandeur. How does one make the second most powerful being in the universe look like they have delusions of grandeur?There were times I did think he'd be an interesting person to have lunch with, but then he'll delicately remind everyone that he'd also delight in watching us all have our skins flayed from our flesh. Don't forget who's talking , after all.

I don't want to come across that I didn't like this book, I really did. A rarity to be sure. I laughed out loud at couple points. The writing was easy to read (Except when Lucifer was in the thrall of his past) and intelligent. I imagine it has to be a challenge to portray the Devil in all his very Fallen Angel ways. Trying to mix in the myths and religious stories, trying to create someone who you could almost like and even trust but somehow know if you let your guard down they'd turn on you. I've known cats like that, "Pet me, pet me, oh that's wonderful; purr purr, I so love you, I mean it. More please, I must lie down, stretch and: Did you just touch my belly? You touched my BELLY?! Well take this *Bearhugbite**swat**swipe*" and you watch them lick your blood off their claws and then look at you with those fill my bowl now, eyes. On this, Glenn, er Duncan! Gets it all right. Shame he let Lucifer waffle so long.

I still cannot get past the anagram thing.

***Don't you just hate weird coincidences? While walking back from dropping Shorty off at school I listened to this song, "The Day Before you came", an ABBA original, with the timely name edit (Marilyn French for Declan Gunn). Come home to find out The Real Tuesday Weld are big fans of I, Lucifer. Actually, the band members are close friends with Glenn Duncan and here you can listen to musical podcasts narrated by him.


Kate R said...

that's a great review, one of the best I've read this year (and you'll note that the year is almost over)

The cat worked but your cat example is too diplomatic. I had a cat that would do that purr...swipe randomly. You didn't have to touch a forbidden zone for it to suddenly draw blood. And then five minutes later, he'd come begging and rubbing for another ear tickle. Bastard. Never got that he was Lucifer.

Doug said...

Oh, I agree, it's far from perfect. He rambles far too much, and as my boy pointed out, there's not much plot there to hold it all together. Still, I thought Duncan had a few interesting things to say about the whole good and evil thing. Maybe not enough interesting things to hold a novel together, but enough that I enjoyed the experience overall.

Funny thing. Karen and I missed the anagram, but Jake says he caught it right from the start -- from the moment he read the author's name, then the book description on the back cover. I think it must be some sort of watershed moment when one's offspring exceeds his parents' intellectual achievements ;)

The Hotfessional said...

Weird coincidences and reading a book whose main character is Lucifer? Would freak me out some. And I'm pretty sure I'm an atheist. ;-)

I hope that last confession doesn't get the "hooray" removed from my site in your link list. Seeing it made my day!

Chilldaddy said...

Two things:

Number one: this plot is overly similar to that Bradd Pitt movie ('Meet Joe Black'?). Everybody agrees that it's impossible to come up with an original story idea, but most of us work our butts off to bake all the old ones fresh.

Number two: from your description, it sounds like this author is begging his reader's permission to adopt a hedonistic worldview. That just seems sad to me.

Number three: whoa... almost got carried away. I only had license for two.

Lyvvie said...

Oh no no no. Definitely does not glamorize the hedonistic worldview at all. In less than a month he makes Gunn's body addicted to drugs, drink and possibly gives him some serious sexual infections from all the escort girls. He gets Montezuma's revenge (At a promotion party, mid speech), gets rather fat from eating nothing but chocolate candy bars and he feels like shit. Raphael makes an intervention. Nothing is glamorous. I won't even tell you about his meeting with the pimp.

I think the writer does a great job to show it's a live fast and die young way of living. It doesn't bring Lucifer happiness as his troubles are just a scratch under the skin. They are all the acts of someone suffering great fear and trying to run from it. It's where we start to find sympathy for him, then he mugs an old lady.

I would think religious types would find this book really freaky, as they spend a lot of effort to keep Satan and temptations away, so to find oneself with inklings of sympathy (and those moments where he speaks directly to the you, the reader) for him, it can get a bit weird.

I'm an atheist and I found it a bit weird.

Hey Hotsy! always nice to see you around. The "Hooray!!" is a flag from blogroll to let me know someone I love has posted on thier blog. That way I don't miss anyone's posts, and I don't have to trawl through every link for updates. Excellent wee help that is.

Maja said...

Wow! Great review, Lyvvie.