Robyn Blaber's Reviews > Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost by John Milton
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May 23, 12

bookshelves: british-literature, poetry
Read in May, 2012

Is this the greatest work in the English language? For me, the crucial thing to decide would be whether Milton was in on the joke, that is to say whether be believed in the Christian mythology that he wrote about. From historical accounts he was a Protestant and believed in religious tolerance... so long as the one being tolerated was some other variety of Protestant. Because of this, I answer my question with a "no" because this is not a work of expertly crafted fiction, but an inspired epistle of belief. Chaucer and Shakespeare can rest easy.

The story itself begins shortly after the angels who opposed Jehovah get cast down to hell. Their leader, a plucky thing with a sword and excellent orator gives steel to the castaways and leads another charge on Heaven. From the beginning, you like Milton's Satan. I even cheered for him, after they get beaten back by the angels and Satan regroups them and rallies them to a successful and triumphant charge (he's the only General who should have ever uttered the words, "On my mark, unleash Hell." [he doesn't' say this but could have]).

When Jehovah unleashes his son Michael to sort out the situation, he gives the son all of his Godly Powers... much like when MCP gave SARK all of his powers in the movie Tron. Without the magic TRON frisbee however, Satan is no match for this new warrior who is literally in "God mode". Like a douche who's just hacked a game server, he sends Satan and his band of contemptuous angels back to Hell without breaking a sweat.

Here you have to really admire Milton's Satan. He's so terribly Quixotic. He has absolutely nothing to gain in the universe by opposing Jehovah and everything to lose. He coins the now cliche phrase, "Better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven." You can't help but think, "Yeah Satan! What now?"

It doesn't take long for Satan to come up with a plan. Jehovah had only made angels up to this point in his design career and that was pretty much it. Imaginative, he wasn't. So he decided to terraform some lonely planet and give it the spark of life. The pinnacle of this experiment culminates when Jehovah tops off his creation with a couple of monkeys and even teaches them to talk.

When Satan learns of the news, he's ecstatic. Having faced an omnipotent enemy twice and having his ass handed to him on a plate... twice... he prepares his third attack to fuck up Jehovah's experiment. There's no reason. He knows he'll only bring more grief upon himself, but you have to admire him for trying.

Well fuck up the experiment he does. He fucks it up so badly that Jehovah ends up killing ALL the talking monkeys in a massive flood save one that could use tools well enough to make a boat. At this point, you know that Satan did a good job, having inspired a lot of fornicating and poo flinging indeed. The fornicating even spread to the animals. Jehovah in kind, killed all the cats and dogs and zebras, who had apparently become as wicked as fuck.

Had the story ended here, I think we'd have the greatest story told in the English language, but unfortunately it doesn't. The original talking monkey, Adam, on the verge of being tossed out of Paradise (hence the name Paradise Lost), gets filled in on the coming advent of Christianity. The mythology of Christianity is explained, an Shakespeare keeps his crown. It was a thrilling read, nonetheless.
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