Remember how Anne Rice rediscovered Jesus and swore she would never write about vampires again? How long did that last? Eleven years? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I will go on whatever adventure Anne Rice takes me on, even if it’s an adventure she promised to never take again. We’re all allowed to change our minds every once in a while, I suppose.
I pre-ordered this book on amazon in like March, as soon as I saw that it was coming out. I have been equal parts overjoyed and trepidatious about its release: it sounded like the book I’ve been waiting for her to write for two decades, the one where all the vampires in her universe share the stage again for the first time since The Queen of the Damned. But how could anything I’ve been waiting for for over half my life ever possibly live up to my expectations? So you see my concern. I elected to line-jump this one, though I do feel a little bad about it because I still haven’t read The Wolves of Midwinter, but I feel like it isn’t every day that Lestat returns to the world of the living, and those Marin werewolves have been around for like a minute in comparison.
I started this book officially yesterday, though I did take a sneak preview a few days ago. I was slightly put off by the glossary of terms that starts the book off. I mean, who in the heck needs a definition for “Blood Drinker”? Surely anyone who purchases this book knows what one of those is. And here’s another thing. “In the Blood.” I don’t remember ever hearing this used as a synonym for “vampire” ever before in the Anne Rice canon, and yet the characters use it all the damn time, at least all the damn time in the first hundred or so pages of the book. Don’t try to make up new terms and pass them off as always having been there. Loyal readers will be annoyed. But they will keep reading, so maybe it doesn’t really matter if we’re annoyed.
The novel is divided into four parts. Part I is narrated by Lestat, and is an overview of some of his adventures since the last time we saw him. It’s sort of depressing. Lestat is having some sort of emo life crisis. He visits with his friends but doesn’t stay anywhere. He feels isolated. And there is an occasional voice in his head, which is a little creepy. He also meets a few new characters, including Seth and Fareed. Fareed is a scientist-vampire, and has been spending time trying to figure out the biology of vampires. I think Anne Rice may have been reading Deborah Harkness. The “science talk” of this chapter leaves Lestat (and probably also Anne Rice) at a loss. It interests him, but I get the impression Lestat would rather think of himself as a “dead thing” than as a human with some sort of infection or mutation. Fareed says to Lestat, “We’re not dead things. That’s poetry, and it’s old poetry, and it will not endure. Only good poetry endures. We’re very much alive, all of us. You body’s a complex organism playing host to another predatory organism that is somehow transforming it little by little year by year for some distinct evolutionary purpose. Don’t you want to know what that is? (22)” Lestat allows Fareed to do some experimentation/sample collection, even going so far as to somehow make it so Lestat can have actual intercourse with an actual human woman. For those who don’t know, Anne Rice vampires don’t “do” sex like the vamps in other mythologies. All their sexual pleasure is derived from the giving and taking of blood. So for Lestat to actually produce semen is a pretty big deal. I wonder what they ended up doing with the semen…?
I’m a little way into Part II right now and this section seems to be stories of humans and vampires whose lives have been touched by Lestat in various ways. First we meet Rose, a human whose guardian is her mysterious Uncle Lestan. It will come as no surprise to anyone that “Uncle Lestan” is actually Lestat. He provides for Rose’s every need, sending her to the best schools and exposing her to culture and art and all the best things money can provide. Rose’s life is not without tragedy, and if the chronicle of her trials had gone on any longer than it had I think I would have been annoyed. I also just met Cyril, who seems to be one of the ancient ones, who also hears the Voice that Lestat hears. Unfortunately for Cyril, all the Voice tells him to do is find fledgling vampires and kill them. The Voice talks to Lestat about how much it loves Lestat, and makes recommendations about where to go next on his travels. I also started the chapter about a vampire named Antoine right before I paused in my reading to start writing my post. Antoine is actually one of Lestat’s offspring from his days in New Orleans with Louis and Claudia, but that’s all I know so far. Oh, and he plays the piano.
Anne Rice is using her traditional lush writing style in this book so far, which I’m grateful for. She tried this more sparse thing with her books about the childhood of Jesus which I didn’t like as much. So that’s a plus. The thing about this book that bugs me a bit is how she is trying to bring The Vampire Chronicles into the 21st century, with references to iPhones and DNA and podcasts and whatnot. It’s not a language she speaks well, and she should leave mixing modern technology into vampire lore to the people who do, like Deborah Harkness. I’m hoping that the scientific subplot improves as things go along, but I’m not sure that it will.