Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Lestat Prince Lestat
by Anne Rice
Chatto & Windus

Supplied for review by Random HouseNew Zealand

Reviewed By: Sally Mclennan

In Prince Lestat Anne Rice returns to the world of her primary protagonist, Lestat de Lioncourt, for the first time in eleven years. It is a world in crisis as vampires have proliferated and war with one another. A disincarnate entity called simply ‘the Voice’ wages a genocidal campaign against vampire kind, tearing the vampire community apart, even as the undead are being wiped out.

The frequent criticism directed at Ann Rice is that her prose is florid, even lush. Of course, this is part of what her readers love about her writing, and what we expect from her. In Prince Lestat, happily, Rice’s rich language has been deftly edited. Hats off to whoever was responsible for this, as the perfect balance between maintaining Rice’s voice and keeping the prose smooth has mostly been struck. There is some truly magnificent writing in this book.

Nevertheless the action does, at times, drag. Perhaps this is inevitable in a novel that spans centuries and tries to depict a cast of thousands. The reader endures repetition and lengthy forays into the lives of many characters. Characters who we might have expected to appear are mysteriously absent.  But, on the whole, Rice's digressions are enjoyable and help build towards the final scenes of the book, so they are there for a reason.  I found I could put my occasional impatience with this aside.

The story pulls you into Lestat’s world as Rice gracefully suggests a personality lost in time, by quaint turn of phrase, and bewilderment around technology. Lestat doesn’t listen to an iPod or to his phone but to 80’s technology: a Walkman. He forgets how to email. His concert of choice is either Bon Jovi or classical, harking back to the character’s ancient roots. More recent music never gets mentioned. However, Rice is careful to discuss both modern phones (iPhones of course! Vampires don’t use Android!) and iPods soon afterwards making it clear that Lestat is playing catch up and time is winning.

Yet in Tale of the Body Thief Lestat embraced new technology, such as faxing, eagerly. He learned driving and violin playing without effort in earlier incarnations. This sudden bumbler previously had a memory that seemed photographic. Anne Rice’s writing is superb and her work is crack cocaine in book form (in case you wondered before now I am a huge fan). But I found myself missing the Lestat I used to know. The protagonist’s extraordinary gifts have always been part of his appeal. An immortal dunce is less interesting to me than the earlier version of Lestat and I was annoyed by this inconsistency of character building.

This manifests in other characters too. The female characters suffer from it terribly. The great Maharet sits around sobbing uncontrollably and ponders suicide-genocide. Jesse, that intrepid former Talamascan who once entered haunted houses without qualms, is suddenly dependent. The mortal Rose is near continuously carried like a doll towards the end of the book. Indeed, but for Sevraine and Gabrielle, the women of this book sometimes had me wishing I could perform spine transplants on fictional characters.

The use of science in the book is sometimes unintentionally hilarious. An elixir is invented that causes vampires to feel desire and to be able to have sex and the sole use of it seems to be in the creation of a child for Lestat. The pregnancy is achieved in a fake room decorated with blue toile wallpaper and old fashioned art, set behind one way glass, in a modern scientific lab. This is all great fun but the vampires are not known for a lack of sensuality and I would have thought that should this exist they would be taking it on a daily basis and making hay.

I could carry on listing quibbles including Rice’s very meta character reaction to her writing:

"And the stories in truth amazed (Rose), not only by their complexity and depth, but by the peculiar dark turns they took, and the chronology they laid out for the main character’s moral development."

But this seems mean spirited when I enjoyed this novel so very much. The story describes exactly the path the vampire world created by Rice would logically take and it is a joy to explore its updated topography. As with the best of fantasy we are able to explore the risks that confront us in our day to day world: the rewards and risks of oppressive leaders, technology limiting privacy, the boundaries of ethics in science. As always, with Rice, the book is immensely readable. It seemed to leave the reader well set up for a further tome even while tying the series together. If you are a Rice fan, a vampire lover, a lover of fantasy and opulence of any sort you may well find your patience with Rice’s quirks rewarded should you take up a copy of this book and sink into the world of the Vampire Chronicles. I did.

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