By Glen Duncan
I actually first ran across the album of the same name by The Real Tuesday Weld several years ago, which quickly became one of my favorites, but even after I found out the album was inspired by this novel, I hesitated to read it because what if I hated it and then couldn’t enjoy the album as much?
However, it was then recommended by a commenter on io9, where I’ve gotten quite a few good book recommendations recently, so I decided to take the plunge. I figured it might be similar to Good Omens.
It isn’t really. It is darker and nastier, which, I mean, makes sense, given we are talking about Lucifer here, but most modern personifications of the Devil as protagonist aim for something a little more sympathetic.
The very basic premise is that God is willing to welcome Lucifer back into Heaven on condition that he lives out a human lifespan in a human body, without committing any mortal sins. Lucifer narrates this ordeal, and is deeply unlikable—his narration is a manic flow interrupted often by praises of sex, violence, abuse and torture. I mean, it is a good job of personifying the Devil, but it was a pain to read at times.
What really surprised me, though, was the more nuanced discussion of the somewhat problematic aspects of religion, like the balance between freewill and predetermination, an omniscient being having an adversary, and Good begetting Evil. It was disconcerting to end a paragraph about bestiality and rape jokes, and start the next one on the deeper meaning of life.
So, this is a little embarrassing to admit, but in the end, I, Lucifer, a memoir of sorts by Satan himself, talked about religion, faith, and devotion in a way that really resonated with me. I realize that this does not speak highly of me.
There is a particular line in which Lucifer scoffs at his previous life as an angel in Heaven: “He turned a side of Himself to us and from it poured an ocean of love in which we sported and splashed like orgasmic kippers, singing our response in flawless a cappella.” And I thought, if Heaven is like being a fish in an ocean of love, surrounded on all sides with love, even breathing love into your body and circulating it throughout so that there is nothing but love and warmth and light in your entire existence, well, that would be pretty nice, I think.
And if you were created in this environment and had experienced only that, ripping yourself free would leave you so wholly cold and empty and hungry, that it would be little surprise that your existence outside of God would be pure torture and the crazed search for something, anything, to fill that void.
So, in the end, I’ve been happily listening to The Real Tuesday Weld’s album all week, so no harm done, and I will say that the odd, vaudeville-style song in the beginning called “Bathtime in Clerkenwell” makes a lot more sense now.
P.S. This book actually complements Rebecca’s Biblical reviews quite well. Lucifer has a lot of the same complaints that Rebecca has brought up, particularly about God “not playing fair” when He hardens various people’s hearts so that He can smote them all the harder later.