Book Review: Lucifer’s Lottery by Edward Lee

The more I think about this book, the more I believe I’ve been trolled by Mr. Lee. That is to say, that I was enjoying the story right up to the end where I felt somewhat let down by what I perceived as his shortcomings in having wrapped up the several story threads in the novel. The more I think about it, however, I suspect that what I perceived as shortcomings are a deliberate poke in the eye of the reader. I want to explain, but I have to warn you, there’s no way to do so without spoiling the novel. So, if you intend to read Lucifer’s Lottery, I recommend that you read this blog entry no further.

BE WARNED, SPOILERS ABOUND!

The Good: The setting and execution. The entirety of the book is a love letter to excess (that is, a typical Edward Lee novel). Lee makes a heroic effort to present the sights to which the main character, Hudson Hudson,–shades of Humbert Humbert–is treated in the most revolting way imaginable. All of the tortures of Hell are physical, incidentally–none are mental–giving the book a burlesque feel that makes it less horrifying and more comic. As far as a parade of horribles goes, Lee does his best to really sell the worst he can imagine. If you’re patient, it’s a decent tour of depraved creativity.

The Meh: The rest, sadly. There are three subplots that are left more or less unresolved at the end. None of these side stories affect the main character’s arc and do little to change the landscape of the setting. It feels like the set up for a different novel that got squeezed into this one (it’s a novel that I would have very much liked to read, incidentally).

More disappointing, however, is the end of the protagonist’s story. The denouement is abrupt and predictable. It might have been made better by a little more prolonged lead up(but by the point Hudson has the opportunity to act, Lee has already spent over 300 pages taking us on a tour of Hell; I’m not sure my patience as a reader would have held out much longer). I disliked the main character almost from the start (possibly a personal prejudice I have against men of the cloth), but I still didn’t feel like his ultimate betrayal held either a sufficient amount of payoff for his failings as a man or a priest, or was ironic enough to feel comically satisfying. It just is.

The Verdict: As an experiment in excess, the book as a whole worked for me right up to the end, which was the exact same experience that the main character had. This is what gives me pause and makes me think that perhaps this book is actually a clever piece of metafiction. Hudson becomes a detached consciousness led on a journey by an author (in this case, H.P. Lovecraft) through the Abyss. It seems apt then, when Hudson’s soul is trapped in a pumpkin (a snot gourd, more specifically), that Lee shifts from an omniscient third person to a second person narrative. You are Hudson. You are obsessed with Pamela Anderson. ಠ_ಠ Lovecraft/Lee is teasing you . For the reader to feel like a bit of a trick has been played on him at the end mirrors  Hudson’s emotional journey. Enjoying your safe, detached trip through Hell? Here’s your unceremonious punishment, you pervert!

I enjoyed the book and have a suspicion that it’s smarter than it appears on a cursory read. Let’s call it 3½ stars out of an arbitrary five.

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~ by poǝןɔɐɯ uǝʞɔɐɹq on 12/01/2012.

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