Now ruling Hell, Michael has a lot to handle and little time in which to acclimatise to his new role. He has to consolidate his rule to ensure that Hell doesn’t fall into complete chaos without Satan at the helm and start making plans for his ultimate goal
But that also means pinning down exactly what his ultimate goal is – revenge against Asmodius, or rescuing Charlotte, his true love, from Purgatory. Which is more important to him and does it matter which path he chooses?
And can he become powerful enough to do either?
The more he learns and prepares the more he learns about the entire world around him and how sorely in need of reform it is – but how can one man manage that in the face of the will of god? And what would he reform it to?
There is a change of focus in this book, as Hellbound was a very personal book, focused almost entirely on Michael, on him learning who he is, learning the nature of Hell and, ultimately, the big reveal. This was an excellent way to firmly establish the character and his viewpoints as well as to explore the world through his lens – a limit that was necessary to make the end reveal all the more powerful.
I Am Satan expands the world a lot more, we see a lot more of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven through the eyes of many inhabitants (even if told from Michael’s point of view) and, therefore, more of the nature of the world without Michael’s views, Asmodius’s hate or God’s propaganda. It took things that were hinted at before and widened the lens to show how deeply flawed the creation is in so many different ways. Even elements that looked so possible on paper in the first book, like the redemption from Hell when souls have confronted their sins, fades with this wider lens and we see how conditions in Hell are such that most souls will inevitably end up further corrupted more than they will ever face redemption as they’re put into a rule-less, brutal world where the strong and ruthless are rewarded and the weak suffer and are preyed upon (this also, as a side note, also makes for an excellent comparative metaphor to our own prison system).
The book also makes an excellent job of not just demonising god as evil – that would be easy and simplistic, and this book is anything but simplistic. There’s even parts of the book where it’s expressly said that the world suffers when god is inattentive. It’s more that god is incapable or unwilling to see things outside of his own lens of experience – it’s a classic case of ignorance and lack of empathy more than active malice (at least before the end of the last book) as well as a complete lack of understanding the human experience. This leads to suicides being harshly judged, being unable to see the burdens placed . God sees the forest and ignores the trees – and sees no problem in cutting huge swathes out of them to improve his view and make everything prettier.
All of this is revealed in slow stages, through the stories of Judas and Mary Magdalene (both of which have some fascinating twists to their stories – including an excellent reimagining of the cleansing of the seven demons from Mary), through the knowledge of Zoroaster, the Perceptionist and various other figures – never too much at once and always building together a series of stories all coming to the same conclusion to give a complete picture built up of a series of elements.