Review: “Prince Lestat” by Anne Rice

21412673Almost 30 years after the defeat of Akasha, the Queen of the Damned responsible for the massacre of thousands of her own kind, there is a new crisis among the Undead. A mysterious Voice has been speaking to various vampires, young and old, provoking them to incinerate others of their kind. Meanwhile, the ancient ones whom the others depend on have hidden themselves away invarious places around the world, ignoring the pleas of the young ones to come together to prevent the destruction of their tribe. Only the strongest have a chance of answering the essential questions – who is the Voice, what is his motive, and how can he be stopped?

Prince Lestat was written in an entirely new way than Anne Rice’s previous books in the Vampire Chronicles series. Rather than being narrated by one principle character, each chapter jumps to a new narrative connected to the main plot. There are, of course, the ever-enduring personalities – Lestat, Louis, Marius, among others. But there is also a multitude of new or rarely seen characters, sometimes characters who were only mentioned in passing in the first books of the series. It is both surprising and pleasant to see these faces again after so much time.

While the structure of the book may be new, the main theme of Prince Lestat remains that which has pervaded all of the series – that is, the question of a vampire’s (and thus, humanity’s) inherent good or evil nature. The Voice that disturbs otherwise peaceful vampires demands the destruction of others, and some see little wrong in doing away with what they see as solely evil creatures. Others insist that this is arcane thinking, that no creature, even Undead, is inherently damned.

A new theme I noticed is a thinly-veiled hostility toward organized religion. This is no surprise to me, considering Rice left the Catholic Church a few years ago, disillusioned by its hypocrisy. She also has a progressive stance on science, which is also heavily reflected in the book.

In general, the book is very much representative of the world today, in which science tries to overcome superstition and people try to overcome their fears and assumptions in order to make a more peaceful world for everyone.

TL;DR: While Prince Lestat cannot live up to the first five books in the Vampire Chronicles series, it is a welcome addition after a 10 year wait.

4 stars


The Vampire Chronicles: Interview with the Vampire

If anyone still thinks Interview with the Vampire is a story of a bloodsucking killer in the same vein as Dracula (pun intended), they have obviously not read the book – or grossly misunderstood it. The book, and all those that follow it in the series, are about a very human desire for meaning in an ambiguous world. 

**Warning: The remainder of this post contains some serious spoilers**

From the start, Louis is repulsed by the thought of taking human life. As soon as he learns that he can live off the blood of animals, he subsists off rats. Even after he returns to killing humans he still feels revulsion and sorrow when he does it.

The entire book relates his search for the meaning of his existence, even if (or especially if) that meaning comes from the Devil. Louis is so desperate to believe that he’s evil. He doesn’t want to accept that there’s no meaning to his life except for the meaning he creates himself. He’s exceptional among his fellow vampires in his inability to create his own meaning. He needs someone to explicitly tell him why things are the way they are.

The first person he turns to for meaning is, of course, Lestat, who only mocks him and at one point says to Louis and Claudia that they are “greedy, brooding vampires who haunt our own lives.” When Louis realizes he cannot get any satisfaction there, he and Claudia attempt to destroy Lestat, and then flee to Europe, but not before Louis makes a stop into a church for the first time since his brother’s funeral. Though he claims not to believe in God, he makes it obvious as he steps into the church that he wishes for God to reveal himself, to strike him down as he enters.

The most revealing statement Louis makes to reveal his desperation to be confirmed as an evil being can be found on page 136:

“It struck me suddenly what consolation it would be to know Satan, to look upon his face, no matter how terrible that countenance was, to know that I belonged to him totally, and thus put to rest forever the torment of this ignorance. To step through some veil that would forever separate me from all that I called human nature.”

In Paris, Louis finally discovers in Armand someone who may be able to provide him with the answers he’s been searching for. He seeks the ultimate meaning from Armand who reveals that he has no meaning to give. I think it’s this, along with the loss of any meaning he did have (protecting Claudia and Madeleine) that led to his despair and eventual apathy toward his life.

In a 2010 interview, Anne Rice puts this concisely in her own words and expresses her own feelings on the search for meaning:

“The Chronicles themselves were about the search, the refusal to accept that it’s a dark meaningless world. And I’m still obsessed with this. I believe in God now, but I’m obsessed with, how do we live a good life? How do we serve God? How do we know what he wants of us, if all around us we see corruption in the churches, disagreement…”

To be clear, Rice does believe in God, though she left the Christian church just months before this interview was conducted.

Alright, so I have one down!

In the future, I hope to explore the theme of meaning further, as well the following:

  • Lestat and his relationship with music
  • Undertones of incest in Rice’s work
  • Blaming God

Next up, my favorite book in the world: The Vampire Lestat.