Several months ago I stumbled across a book on Amazon. A mediocre cover, no reviews, but I flipped through it and it caught my interest: speeches by Satan defending himself, a topic close to my heart (and my research). This week, stalling on some other projects and feeling inexplicably lazy, I spent most of my time on my antique oriental couch absorbed in what turned out to be one of the greatest books I’ve read, possibly ever.
This is the review I posted on Amazon:
If you want to learn about the fall of Lucifer, the creation of mankind, and the war in heaven, you have three main sources: The Bible, Paradise Lost, and The Other Side of Evil. It is not lightly that I compare this new book with these two classics; this massive achievement is a retelling of Satan’s biography, given in first-person, explaining as it were “the ways of Satan to Men.”
Already open to the idea that Satan’s backstory needs to be fleshed out and that in Satan’s rebellion hides the truth and epicenter of the entire Christian edifice, I’ve read countless attempts to justify Satan’s rebellion and highlight the cruel tyranny of God – but most fail.
The reason The Other Side of Evil succeeds is that, while sticking mainly to the story we know, it also invents a rich, diverse landscape of characters, events and details that help us to follow Satan through his transformation from loyal and loving servant of God, to usurper, traitor and insurgent – a role he resists as long as he can. The author makes Satan sympathetic, honest and transparent in a way that has never been done before, while at the same time, highlighting metaphors and tie-ins to contemporary politics that are already easily visible in the original story: the 99% and Occupy Wall Street; Israel and Palestine; Contemporary American Politics and the Problems with Democracy.
There is much that could be made of these connections (whether or not I am accurately representing the author’s intentions or merely adding my own reading), but they are incidental to the power of the story itself; an enthralling, absorbing epic that I know will stick with me for a long time.
Even the ending, which surprised me by suddenly turning Satan from democratic savior into a cruel foil for God’s tyranny, offers food for thought.
This is a book for Christians, for Atheists, for Philosophers, for Dreamers. This is a book about freedom, politics and revolution. I’m not exaggerating when I say it could be a life changing experience.
Things Satan Says that I Liked
“Let me diverge once again, if you will indulge me. Why would I fight against God, if I knew, by some law of predetermined fate beyond my control, that I was bound to lose? I mean, really.”
“You have been persuaded to believe I foment chaos and disorder,” Satan continued. “This is also true. Out of chaos, something uniquely potent is derived: creativity. And God does not want you to be creative.
“If you have lived long enough, you will understand that in any argument, each party is more interested in establishing how valid their argument is than in weighing the proof that exists in the argument itself. And it is there where I hope to make an impression on you. Where I hope to relay the real image of Heaven and Hell. And you should be skeptical, for in each retelling of the past, the inconvenient or embarrassing elements are discarded or passed over in silence, while the glorious elements are oft repeated, until we believe in worlds that never actually existed. I need to be persuasive enough to make a good enough argument, to show you all the elements. To make you consider the possibility that God is not who you think He is and that Satan is not what God says he is.”
“If you do not act now…you will lose the opportunity to act. Do not think that such action, revolution, is evil. Revolt motivated by violence alone is evil, yes. But rebellion inspired by the desire for betterment of all? Now how can such a revolution be evil? If there is violence, it is for the sake of sudden, nearly spontaneous change, directed by one, powerful central figure willing to give up his gains at the end of the day.”
“To bring about the radical transformations needed to make this mission successful, you cannot invest your hopes in mere discussion. It is action you should invest in, led by the One. I am One. The One. One, whose mind and methods will mold and transform the highly ordered, but insidious existence God created, shaping that blasphemy, a blasphemy in its true sense, into the liberty you hold dear. I come to you, not to fulfill my personal ambitions, but to attain the dream of all. That I swear to you. Allow me to do what you will not. I will do what you cannot. My deeds, whether you consider them moral or not, will be justified by the results.”
This is towards the end of the book, where Satan suddenly becomes an elitist and tyrant. I don’t disagree with his views here, but it still a surprise since the whole idea of revolution was predicated on the glory of democracy and rule-by-the-people.
“Freedom?” Satan asked incredulously. “Freedom is the problem, my young friend. You and Maalik are both fools. The divergent views freedom throws up are the constant cause of instability. I tried to teach the Council a hundred thousand years ago. I tried to instill the Senate with the same knowledge after we built this city. But they dithered and were too stupid to understand that with so many points of view comes an equal, if not greater, number of ways by which to proceed!” Satan said flamboyantly. “Freedom deprives us of central authority and in the absence of such authority, a kind of nihilism is born, with everyone entitled to his or her individual point of view, no matter how grotesque or abhorrent that point of view may be. Freedom protects those individuals’ points of view, blind to their inherent absurdities and weaknesses, bestowing on them the same status as those ideas with true and objective merit!” Satan looked back to his battered former student. “Freedom breeds idiots like you.”
As a newly ardent fan of the book, I also redid the cover, because I don’t think the original does it justice: