Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Devil In The Gateway

In Lucifer, Mike Carey's imagination sustains a lengthy and dramatic story despite the near omnipotence of several of the characters. It is helpful to summarise the Luciferean narrative because its successive stages are difficult to remember after, or even sometimes while, reading them. The construction of such an intricate plot cannot have been as easy the author makes it appear.

Lucifer, retired as Lord of Hell, owns and runs the Lux night club in Los Angeles, supported by his companion, Mazikeen of the Lilim, and a human employee. An unknown agency begins granting human wishes and this process threatens to get out of control. Heaven wants neither to intervene directly nor to let the process continue. Lucifer is hired to intervene and states his price, a "letter of passage" - to be explained later (Mike Carey, Lucifer: Devil In The Gateway, New York, 2001, p. 13).

Lucifer, powerful but not omniscient, gathers intelligence by consulting various agencies. The first such is Briadach, Lord of the Lilim in exile, who, in return for some Lethe water to ease the pain of his lingering illness, informs Lucifer that the power in question surrounds a human being called Paul Begai. When Lucifer investigates, Paul, mute, immobile and confined to a wheelchair because of Rett Syndrome, has just choked to death because his sister, Rachel, wanted him to. Lucifer, examining the body, establishes, first, that someone has created a "velleity" (again, we must await an explanation) and, secondly, that, since Paul was mute, it is possible that "it" (the "velleity"?) is "...drawn to silence." (pp. 24-25).

This makes Lucifer consult Duma, former Angel of Silence. Lucifer knows that the pre-linguistic hominids created "voiceless gods", which are still sustained by prayers not addressed to any god in particular. It must be they that have woven the velleity, a wish-granting spell that is drawn to silence and that grows dangerously by accumulating power from human gratitude. Duma, although now presiding over not Silence but Hell, remains personally silent, answering Lucifer's questions only with gestures. Asked where Lucifer must go to find the voiceless gods, he points downwards. Asked how far down, he holds four fingers of his left hand horizontally in front of his downward-pointing right index finger. Lucifer understands and thanks him.

So far:

Amenadiel of the Thrones has had to negotiate on behalf of Heaven with Lucifer;
Lucifer has consulted Briadach;
he has examined Paul;
he has consulted Duma;
next, he will telephone Pharamond, a retired deity in charge of transportation;
he will also negotiate with Rachel after rescuing her from the Lilim.

Such plot developments continue to occur but I will close the current summary here. I would not have imagined that the voiceless gods of pre-linguistic hominids would be able to trouble Heaven and I would also have expected an omnipotent Heaven to deal summarily with such minor deities. However, Carey imagines a sequence of responses and counter-responses that keep the story going for hundreds of pages and that transport the reader through many interesting places en route.

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