There could not be more of a contrast...
These could be regarded as the pivotal books of Paradise Lost, as book 1 presents us with the premise of the drama that is about to unfold, and book 9 depicts the crucial event that is the centerpiece of the drama.
There could not be more of a contrast in both the characterizations and the settings of the two books. Book 1 has an almost science-fiction atmosphere, showing Satan, having been expelled from heaven, essentially in outer-space with the other fallen angels. The manner in which Satan himself is presented has been a source of controversy ever since Paradise Lost was first evaluated by critics and commentators. In the eighteenth century, Samuel Johnson noted that the words Milton has Satan speak are blasphemous, but, as a writer with a religious message, Milton had every right to present him in this way. In the nineteenth century, the Romantics, including Shelley and Blake, began to see Satan as the true hero of the poem: the expression of defiance and individuality that were the hallmarks of the Romantic spirit. In the twentieth century, critics such as F.R. Leavis and A.J.A. Waldock (the latter in his book Paradise Lost and Its Critics) saw the inconsistencies in Satan's character as a fatal flaw in Milton's approach. But few could deny that book 1, simply on the level of poetry, is the pinnacle of Milton's achievement. The speech Satan makes in describing the overall situation in which he finds himself is worth quoting at length:
Is this the Region, this the Soil, the Clime,
Said then the lost Arch-Angel, this the seat
That we must change for Heav'n, this mournful gloom
For that celestial light? Be it so, since he
Who now is Sovran can dispose and bid
What shall be right: fardest from him his best
Whom reason hath equald, force hath made supream
Above his equals. Farewel happy Fields
Where Joy for ever dwells: Hail horrours, hail
Infernal world, and thou profoundest Hell
Receive thy new Possessor: One who brings
A mind not to be chang'd by Place or Time.
The mind is its own place, and in it self
Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n.
What matter where, if I be still the same,
And what I should be, all but less then he
Whom Thunder hath made greater? Here at least
We shall be free; th' Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure, and in my choyce
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav'n.
The last line has been quoted again and again as either a symbol of defiant heroism or as the height of heretical wrong-headedness and perversity.
Book 9 has a completely different atmosphere. Satan has now become a sniveling fiend, though still eloquent, searching for an animal body to possess so that he can seduce Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. The sexual symbolism of the serpent rearing its head and presenting itself to Eve is one of the most striking images in literature. Both preceding this and after it are long dialogues between Adam and Eve, both of which show their love for each other: first, unfallen, innocent love and then guilty love. Despite this earthbound book in many ways being the antithesis of book 1, Milton uses the same technique of relating himself and his writings to those of the epic poets of antiquity, though he maintains that he has a higher purpose for evoking a depiction of the "Fall of Man."