I remember when I heard that Anne Rice was coming out with a new book in The Vampire Chronicles series. This was my reaction.
On one of her Facebook posts, Anne Rice asked her readers when we discovered her books. This is my story. I was twelve or thirteen. I had mostly outgrown all the Christopher Pike and R.L. Stine books that I used to read. The stories were good but they didn’t challenge me. I was also a serious misfit in my small-town school. I was goth way before it was as accepted as it is now. I see business women with spiky purses and shoes but, once upon a time in the nineties, people freaked out if you wore stuff like that. If you wore spikes to school you could pretty much guarantee a trip to the guidance counselor. I was a sophomore in high school when Columbine happened and that’s when the media was blasting the Trench Coat Mafia and that made the ostracism worse since goths were officially being blamed for a school massacre. The only massacres I participated in were butchering the English language with terrible, mopey short stories and poetry. Anyway, this was back in 1995 or 1996, before Facebook existed. My family had its first computer and I spent a huge amount of time online on the Yahoo goth groups. I had maybe three friends at school but I could talk to people all over the world that liked what I liked and made me feel accepted. I’m still in touch with some of these people, actually, so that’s enduring friendships spanning sixteen years. The top book recommendations in these groups were always Anne Rice books. I picked up Interview with the Vampire and I was hooked. Louis’ theological problems were way deeper than anything I had ever encountered before but here was a story about a whole group of people who lived within society but not as a part of it.
The funny part was that I was in accelerated classes, I had been since I was eight-years-old. It was a small town so I was with people I had known since I was young and I wasn’t friends with most of them. Part of why I didn’t like them was because every single class was like a competition to see who could be the best. They were the kind of people who would snatch a test out of your hand to see your grade. I really hated the competitiveness and how people would read books not because they liked them but because they were considered advanced. Reading The Vampire Lestat gave me new insight and made me wonder why I was playing a game I hated and obeying rules made by other people. I kept doing the assigned reading but whenever I had a chance to write about books of my choice, I started turning in reports about contemporary horror, mostly books by Stephen King, Poppy Z. Brite, and I actually did turn in reports about Interview with the Vampire and The Silence of the Lambs. My own, small Lestat moment.
Hearing that there was going to be a new Vampire Chronicles book after something like eleven years was like hearing that a dear old friend was coming back. I grew up with these characters. I have a hard time reading fiction sometimes, since I’m so close to the Asperger spectrum. I have feelings, I understand feelings, but if you want me to interpret other people’s feelings then you may as well put me in the corner with a bucket over my head because I’ll have no clue what’s happening. I’ve never really had a problem understanding Anne Rice’s characters, though.
This introduction has been way too long so on to the book. Prince Lestat takes place after the events of Memnoch the Devil. Lestat is melancholy and living a life of isolation while contemplating his past adventures. He’s also having trouble coming to terms with today’s technology, regularly forgetting to keep his phone charged or how to use email. There are more fledglings than ever who stalk the elder, “celebrity” vampires, in between fighting each other. Some fledglings, including Benji (Made by Marius for Armand in The Vampire Armand, along with Sybelle) demand leadership within the vampire community that Maharet and Mekare seem unwilling to provide. An external crisis finally forces the elder vampires and those they care about to pay attention. That’s really all I can say without entering spoiler territory and I really want people to read this so I hope this summary is tantalizing enough to get you to pick up a copy.
Do not read this book if you have stuff to do. I had a very hard time putting it down. It just happened to be published during the convergence of my History of Funeral Service final, my last-minute preparations for Walker Stalker Con, and starting a new job. My lead pointer EXPLODED all over my Mucha-inspired portrait of Michonne. Just, exploded. Lead shavings all over a picture I’d been working on for weeks. So I’ve been furiously drawing and studying and reading in five-minute-portions.
Seriously, this book is a joy to read. It has a tension and an urgency that I really didn’t feel with the other books, maybe that’s why I couldn’t put it down. Plus, instead of following one point of view, there are lots and lots of points of view. It’s good hearing from characters that we haven’t heard from in a while and there are some new characters to get to know. Not a lot, it isn’t like Battle Royale which I also liked but every chapter had a new narrator. It got to the point that you were numbed to what was happening to the characters and it was hard to care since there were just so many of them.
The writing feels very lush, decadent, and sensuous. That’s why you read a book by Anne Rice and that’s why I ignore most contemporary fiction. What’s currently popular feels very sterile so I avoid it. If you don’t like that style then you might not like this book. Some of Ms. Rice’s writing reminds me of Arthur Machen, especially his work The Great God Pan.
You don’t necessarily have to read The Vampire Chronicles to read this book but I honestly wish I had reread them more recently. It would have been helpful to have a refresher in whether or not they had agreed to not make any more fledglings and what Marius’ advice for making fledglings were.
I’ve heard people criticize Ms. Rice’s writing for being too theological. I have to say that as an atheist there isn’t anything in particular to be offended by. It’s more like gentle spiritual undertones that even a heathen like me can accept. There’s this kind of optimism in some of the characters that reminds me of Carl Sagan. There’s no “Believe in Jesus or you’re going to heeeeeeeellllllllllllllll.” You’ll hear so much worse at Thanksgiving with my extended family.
Science played an interesting role in this book. It’s always irked me that none of the characters in the past tried a scientific study of themselves. I’ve always wondered, aren’t you curious about yourself? And it’s not like Marius or Lestat couldn’t afford an MRI machine, although I’m not sure if they could figure out how to use it. I think Marius could but I’m not sure Lestat would have the patience and he admits that he’s hopeless with science. Happily, this is addressed.
The only problem I really had with the novel was the branding within. Phones aren’t smartphones in the book, they’re iPhones and speakers are by Bose. As a culture jammer that tags every single ad I get a chance to, I really hate the way companies have lodged themselves in my brain. I dislike living and working in a world where free space isn’t for art or quiet contemplation, it’s for ad space. That’s why I love the work of Jillyballistic so much. So it’s really jarring in this beautiful narrative to suddenly see Apple products mentioned. These vampires are so rich that I can pretty much assume they’re using all Apple products, even if they may not know how to use Illustrator, so why bother naming them? I don’t have this issue with the clothing, though, because each brand of clothing has a different artist behind it. You say Armani blazer and your mind conjures up an image that’s different from say, Alexander Wang or Commes des Garcons.
I think my favorite part of the book is when Marius is painting flowers in an abandoned house in Brazil. There’s something so lonely about that image. (As an artist, I was happily surprised to see Marius using acrylics. I thought he’d be oils or go home. I’d love to give him some spray paint and see what he makes with that). That sums up the series for me, living on the outside of the human world but not being able to let people in because bad things happen to mortals that linger in the vampire world. Being a vampire doesn’t mean these characters need love any less than a human, it also doesn’t mean they have any more insight into what it means to be alive or how we choose to make our way in the world. I guess that in the end you have the choice of either creating or destroying but, regardless of what you choose, do it whole-heartedly. Also, we don’t get to choose the families we’re born into and share genes with but we can choose our friends and allies. That’s a good lesson for vampires and for humans.
Recommended Music: I listen to music while I read because my neighborhood is loud and I rarely ever have silence. These pieces went well with the reading. “Montage From Twin Peaks–Girl Talk/Birds in Hell/Laura Palmer’s Theme/Falling” from the Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me soundtrack. “Patria Opressa” from Verdi’s Macbeth. Requiem in D Minor by Mozart. Anything by Bat for Lashes, especially off of the Two Suns album. The song “Daniel” also seems oddly suitable. An amazing person put most of the music played on Hannibal on Spotify and that goes really well. Pretty much anything by The Decemberists. “The Infanta” really captures the grandeur of the lives of the elder vampires. I also respect any songwriter that rhymes “folderol” with “chaparral” and actually makes it work in a song. The Crane Wife album also goes very well. Old goth music like Sisters of Mercy. “Motherless Child” by Ghostface Killah.
Moderately edited on 11/12/2014