Ever wondered what it would be like if the devil could tell his side of the story? Well look no further than I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan, a darkly comic novel in which the Fallen Angel is offered one last chance at redemption. Justifiably suspicious of the offer, he agrees to a month’s trial period, which he spends inhabiting the body of one Declan Gunn, a down-at-heel writer whose last acts before Lucifer’s introduction were to purchase a pack of razor blades and run a hot bath. With Gunn’s body at his disposal, Lucifer proceeds to make the most of his time on the corporeal plane, with varying results, and sets out to tell his side of the story while he’s at it.
Right from the outset it’s clear that this is going to be dark, clever, funny, and most of all irreverent. Duncan’s Lucifer is knowing, cocky, brutally honest and delightfully entertaining, determined to make the most of his time in Gunn’s body but constantly getting distracted by newfound sights, sounds and smells, unaccustomed as he is to human existence. Even while engaging in a month-long bender of truly epic proportions, funded of course through nefarious means, he takes great pleasure in singing his own praises and needling both God and his former angelic brethren, sharing his thoughts, however biased, on events from his own fall and his involvement in the garden of Eden, to the various ways in which he claims to have persuaded mankind to turn away from God.
It’s a wonderful concept for a book; at it’s heart the question of what Lucifer would do if given the chance to spend some quality time in a human body. Would he genuinely try to live well and earn forgiveness, or would he take advantage of his very nature and look to serve himself? It’s not hard to guess what the answer is, and Duncan builds up a fantastic cast of shady, morally dubious characters who he manipulates, takes advantage of, or in some cases actively supports in order to work towards whatever plan he has for his time on Earth.
If there’s a flaw with the book it’s down to the very nature of the story and its narrator; by his own admission Lucifer is prone to indulging himself and wildly sidetracking, and while largely that works well it does sometimes feel as though he’s rambling. Many of the detours he takes are genuinely interesting, and occasionally disturbing, but occasionally the book’s pacing feels a little bit off, which slightly spoils things. That’s only a minor criticism though, and overall it’s beautifully written, full of dark humour and sharp insights into the human condition. Crucially, the whole thing works by being strangely believable and really great fun. If ever there was a character who qualified as an anti-hero it’s Lucifer, and Duncan’s managed to capture one view of him that’s truly inspired.