Glen Duncan’s I, Lucifer begins one steamy summer as some heavy negotiations are taking place in Heaven. God has decided to give Lucifer, the furthest-fallen of all fallen angels, a second chance. The Prince of Darkness can return to the fold, provided he manages to last one month on earth without sin. The human form chosen for this celestial experiment? A depressed novelist of little renown, currently contemplating suicide in his Clerkenwell garret.
Lucifer eagerly grasps the opportunity for a holiday on earth, and uses his host’s identity to re-write the story of Creation in a format that has Hollywood moguls kissing his feet. It’s not popular with Him Upstairs, of course, what with the Devil being portrayed as a maverick free-thinker and God as a humourless autocrat. But Lucifer’s having too much fun to care. He’s experiencing the pleasures of the flesh for the first time and everything – the odour of sweaty tube trains, cocaine, ice-cream, dirty sex--delights him. By the time the archangels are dispatched to bring him back, the Lord of all that’s inhumane can’t think of anything he’d rather be than human.
Lucifer befogs his audience, alternately spitting fury at them like some sulphur-charged Dennis Leary and then insisting that he’s a nice guy, just misunderstood. What’s clear, however, is that Glen Duncan is not merely one of those writers who can come up with amusing concepts. He’s a sharp, sometimes savage observer of the human condition, whose talents are as many as the legions of Hell.--Matthew Baylis