Review by Ian McArdell
Lucifer Genesis is the final instalment in the late Paul Darrow’s trilogy of Blake’s 7 stories, charting the ongoing exploits of the character he so memorably brought to life: Kerr Avon.
First published by Big Finish in 2015, it has been recorded as an audiobook by Darrow’s colleague, Stephen Grief. Grief, of course, played the role of Travis in the television show’s first year. Up front, it is worth saying that I have not read either of the other Lucifer books, but it does not seem to matter – Lucifer Genesis is a relatively self-contained epic. It is also one that has a tremendous scope, with an intricate plot charting Servalan’s rise to power, then weaves in and out of established onscreen Blake’s 7 events. Throughout Avon is positioned as Servalan’s nemesis, with characters such as Blake and Travis merely diversions to be handled along the way.
While we learn of Avon and Servalan’s backstories, it is the context in which the writer frames the Blake’s 7 universe that is most unusual. Earth’s political situation is explained as something far closer to the present day and markedly different than anything suggested elsewhere in the show. The Terran Federation is comprised of geographical power blocks, smaller Federations like Russia and America who vie for power. Additionally, the Federation is locked in an enduring state of tension with the Empire of Cathay and the Chinese are an ongoing threat in the story.
As we learn about Servalan, an orphan adopted into the powerful Alan family, the author cannot resist a joke. Her unusual name apparently derives from being christened by a priest with a speech impediment! While she spends some time in China growing up, Avon too learns his strategic skills there as part of an exchange programme.
He looks at Servalan’s motives, first based on revenge for the death of her parents and then an all-consuming lust for power. He also considers Blake’s ambitions and what might happen should his revolution succeed.
Eventually, the story moves past Blake and Servalan and even the Federation, showing us the eventual fate of Avon. At the end, his only companion is the irascible supercomputer Orac, the possession of whom remains a consuming passion for all concerned throughout the book. It leads to a bloody, if ultimately satisfying, final confrontation. One appropriate for a character who never liked to lose.
There is no getting away from the fact that Lucifer Genesis is a strange beast of a book, albeit one with a clear authorial voice and from a definite point of view. Paul Darrow suggests as much at the beginning, framing it as Avon’s reminiscences and reminding us that the victor often gets to write the story from their point of view. It is a freeing notion and, borrowing an old phrase from the Star Wars universe, you should probably view Lucifer Genesis as part of an “Expanded Universe” rather than to try and slot it into an established continuity as you might with other Blake’s 7 books and audio dramas.
Paul Darrow’s writing style is unashamedly pulpy and he deploys armfuls of well-worn aphorisms. He uses plenty of dialogue too, and his handle on the characters’ patterns of speech, particularly Avon’s, are spot on. At one point I considered counting of how many times Avon began a line with “Well now…”. At times, it was rooted in familiar territory with the Liberator, but in other sections he seemed to forget, and action scenes were filled with conventional weapons.
For his part, narrator Stephen Greif is excellent, and he makes sense of a complex book with a multiplicity of characters. He also has a particularly good take on Paul Darrow’s delivery as Avon and speaks warmly about his late friend during a short Q&A at the end. Lucifer Genesis is interesting, if not essential listening, and a tribute to Paul Darrow’s investment in his most famous role.
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