Picks and Pans Review: The Queen of the Damned
by Anne Rice
Also queen of the gory-minded: "She ripped the head half off the neck, staring at the white bones of the broken spinal cord, then swallowing the death instantly with the violent spray of blood from the torn artery. But the heart, the beating heart, she would see it, taste it. She threw the body back over her right arm, bones cracking, while with her left hand she split the breast bone and tore open the ribs, and reached through the hot bleeding cavity to pull the heart free." And the platitudinized: "Finally those you love are simply...those you love." Don't forget the drivel-obsessed: "I love you because you are so perfectly what is wrong with all things male. Aggressive, full of hate and recklessness, and endlessly eloquent excuses for violence—you are the essence of masculinity; and there is a gorgeous quality to such purity." Yes, we're talking vampires, but these are no ordinary vampires, satisfied with fluttering around French doors. These characters want to change the cosmos. Rice began writing about the supernatural with her 1976 novel Interview with the Vampire, an original, engaging story that seemed very human for all the mumbo-jumbo. In 1985, however, she published a sequel, The Vampire Lestat, in which she droned on about spirits and magic and vampire pecking orders. This repetitive third volume refers frequently to those earlier books. Mainly, though, it dwells on the world vampire community's crisis when Akasha, its founding mother, decides to conquer the universe. Akasha, having built up her powers for 6,000 years, thinks now is a good time to start setting people on fire by looking at them. She was inspired by Lestat, the vampire who became a rock star, and they have an affair. No sex, mind you, though they like a form of necking that involves chomping on each other's jugular veins. At the climax Lestat and Akasha break up—Lestat worries not about palimony but about incineration—just when Akasha is on a roll, having already conquered Sri Lanka. This is not a good chiller, filled as it is with idle talk of vampire philosophy. The vampire world doesn't seem to be a metaphor, or a satirical device, and the story isn't even internally consistent. The same vampires who condemn Akasha for killing people casually grab victims and suck out their blood. The gore is relentless, too; when one character's eyes are torn out, she eats them, apparently to make sure nothing really bad happens to them. Rice opens most chapters with excerpts from poems by her husband, Stan, which are provocative and not about vampires. Otherwise she takes the whole business very seriously, very tediously, and promises in an epilogue, "The Chronicles of the Vampires WILL CONTINUE." Little does she know that this review is being written in ink that was squeezed out of old pictures of Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee and mixed with garlic. (Knopf, $18.95)
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