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This Devil's a Charmer,
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This review is from: I, Lucifer (Paperback)
From a descriptive-writing perspective, this book is almost flawless. Glen Duncan has the ability to engage all the senses of the reader, and to do so in a way I've never seen bettered. Were I to review this book purely on the power of its evocative descriptions, it'd earn five stars without a doubt. I could overlook the peppering of grammatical misdemeanours (comma-spliced sentences; commas where they don't belong; missing commas where they do belong; several instances of using 'her' where the correct pronoun is 'she'), as they don't happen frequently enough to impede one's enjoyment of the text. They're niggles, that's all. Those schoolboy errors do, however, draw attention to the irony that - while he has developed a writing style which is heavily reliant on long, esoteric words - Glen Duncan never mastered the basic mechanics of the English language. He gets the difficult stuff incredibly right, but sometimes trips up on primary-school basics. Strange indeed. His writing is the literary equivalent of a sparkling gold Rolls Royce with breathtaking aesthetics and a sense of majesty, yet a peek under the bonnet reveals a few clunks and rattles in the heart of the machine. I couldn't shake the impression that Duncan often uses the longest word for the job, rather than the best one. Yes, he's an artiste who wants to impress with sweeping flourishes of poetic language, but Norman MacCaig - perhaps the greatest of all poets - would have advised, "Study brevity." Sometimes the epic multisyllabic prose works beautifully, but it can begin to feel more than a little pretentious.
As for the story, it's not particularly original; God offers Lucifer a sabbatical from Hell in the form of a one-month inhabitance inside the body of a recent suicide victim, writer Declan Gunn (an anagram of Glen Duncan), as a chance for the Devil to achieve redemption and stand once again at the side of his Maker. Duncan's description of Lucifer's overwhelming joy - and surprise - upon experiencing the world through human senses is gorgeously creative. True to his hedonistic reputation, Lucifer goes on to overstimulate all his human senses through every vice available as he follows his own agenda. As weeks pass, the fallen angel comes to see existence from a human perspective. He even feels flashes of empathy for humankind. Duncan's Lucifer is a foppish luvvie, a bisexual lecher, a seducer who charms humans into committing evil deeds. The luscious descriptions of human sensual experience are so vivid that they jar the reader out of his/her taking-them-for-granted attitude towards the senses. Whether you love or hate it, this book reintroduces the reader to the miracle that is human perception in all its forms. Glen Duncan writes with an authentic voice, descriptive flair and a passion for words which is palpable. If he ever gets around to truly mastering the nuts and bolts of grammar, while retaining his unique voice and breathtaking descriptive ability, then Duncan could become England's equivalent to Salman Rushdie. Until then, perhaps it is appropriate that this story - impressive as it is - contains the little flaws which make it all the more human. Just like the experience of its main protagonist.