Monday, December 8, 2014

Prince Lestat, a true horror story for 2014

video

To hear the Prince's voice again has brought so much joy not just to me but to his many readers all over the world. The literary world had missed him. And so it is with great anticipation that I attacked this book, skipping the blurbs on the flaps and diving right into the text.

Again, the unique wry humor of Prince Lestat, his singular point-of-view, his insouciance and unpredictability fill the pages. But the book also causes a sense of inner dread for the reader. Even now Rice is successful in shredding to bits the thin line that separated fiction from reality. She plunges us into that terrifying zone of Suspension of Disbelief, that great playing arena that conscientious actors and talented playwrights strive to bring audiences to. It is in this Zone where anything is possible.

Lestat walks in this world as we do. This world of gadgetry and WiFi that has produced jadedness and, ironically, disconnection among humans. The Undead are among us, interacting in the Science we humans take pride in and find, strangely, our sense of security in. Are we really so safe? The danger becomes all too real, not only for us humans who walk in the sunlight and the night, but also for these Creatures whom we have come to love through the Vampire Chronicles.

And when these beloved Vampires face a formidable foe, express worry and concern even with their considerable powers and wisdom, then that really gives us humans something to think about. This is why I think that Prince Lestat is a true horror story for our times. This book should come with a warning: Not For The Faint Of Heart.

Who is the Voice? I have had several guesses throughout my reading, but none of them were correct! The vampires decide to meet together. The readers think, uh-oh, all these powerful blood drinkers under one roof? Is this really a great idea? But how can they defeat Pure Evil? The tension mounts with each turn of the page.

The power of the prose is that Anne Rice disappears and Lestat comes to the fore. It his voice reaching out and touching you on every single page. Though she shares "billing" on the artful cover, her name in bold red font as large as the title, it is He telling you the story.

While reading the Harry Potter series, all I wanted to do was to ride the Hogwarts Express and visit that school, even as Muggles are exempted from entering that magical castle. The reverse happens in Anne Rice's Vampire Mythology. They walk this same world we are in. We are not so safely removed from them.

Prince Lestat fascinates even as it chills to the bone. I read it only in daylight, meeting the dreadful Ancients and this amazing cast of characters only when the Sun is up. I delude myself to feeling safe at the remove of a book. I would dare not wish to meet these powerful beings in person, beautiful though they are, and even as there is this desire to tap into this internet radio station to hear their voices.

Is the underlying terror because of the recognition that these powerful beings were behaving as monstrously as humans have and do? Humans kill their own kind. We have done so since Cain lifted his hand against Abel. We have never stopped murdering since. Genocide is a constant staple on TV news shows. Is the thematic horror in Prince Lestat simply the shame of self-recognition? The truest horror we humans have faced throughout history happens when power is placed squarely in the laps of the wrong persons. Hitler and the Holocaust, Pol Pot, Stalin, Kim Jong Un, Ferdinand Marcos.

But what is evil really? What is good? These themes are explored in this thrilling page turner.

Each character introduced in a chapter moves the plot forward, and we ride this energy. And what a thrilling ride it is! Each new vampire shares his perspective on the cataclysmic events, this crisis they face. It reads like a delicious detective story, and the reader hunts for clues on each page, trying to piece two and two together, making connections from what he remembers from previous Chronicles, and trying to find a solution to this crisis.

Every incendiary chapter either explodes with a revelation, heightens action and suspense, or shows a moment of tenderness between two vampires who share an embrace or love for music. Yes, the vampires love. In that aspect humans and vampires are alike. In our capacity to love selflessly, and in our capacity as well to annihilate one another.

In various interviews captured on video and uploaded on Youtube of her Prince Lestat book tour, Anne Rice admitted to needing to read through the Vampire Chronicles prior to writing this latest volume. (There is even that slight nod to the castrati of Cry to Heaven.) And while new fans can just as well jump right into this book, with the help of supplementary appendices to this volume, I think for maximum enjoyment an initiate might want to start reading the previous Chronicles. I say this because Prince Lestat does have the tendency to spoil key plot points from previous novels, and they were delicious plot points that leap off the page if they weren't spoiled for you. Not only that, the Elder Vampires have fully fleshed-out characterizations in the previous novels, and anyone who has read them would inevitably feel some sense of intimacy or at least familiarity towards them.

Here is my suggested reading order. These titles are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
  1. Interview with the Vampire: Claudia's Story, the graphic novel
  2. Interview with the Vampire
  3. The Vampire Lestat ← you may start with this book if you're merely concerned with the vampire history and mytharc
  4. The Queen of the Damned
  5. The Tale of the Body Thief
  6. Memnoch the Devil
    (From here feel free to jump to Prince Lestat, But then I won't stop you from reading the rest in the series...)
  7. The Vampire Armand
  8. Pandora
  9. Vittorio the Vampire (this being the most stand-alone in the series)
  10. Merrick
  11. Blood and Gold
  12. Backwood Farm
  13. Blood Canticle
If you can't wait, then read Claudia's Story, The Vampire Lestat and The Queen of the Damned.

Several pieces of music, from classical to contemporary, are referenced in the novel. It's a delight that YouTube and Google exist now, and you can easily listen to them online. If only we can find the url to Benji's radio station!

One of my favorite themes shimmering through the novel is the idea that no matter how misshapen or ugly our physical bodies are, we carry inside a beautiful soul if we nourish it with love, surround it with beauty, art. You see this in the stories of Magnus and Hesketh.

Another important theme is one of a more truthful view of one's self. The Ancient Gregory speaking to Armand said it best: "You are on the threshold of a great journey, and you must begin to think in terms of what you can do as a powerful spiritual and biological being. Stop with the self-loathing. Stop with imagery of 'the damned' this and 'the damned' that! We are not damned. We never were. Who under the sun has the right to damn any living breathing creature?" Who indeed? Humans, hear this, we who make a sport of damning others as often as we damn ourselves.

Vintage Anne to turn our definition of Evil on its head, help us to reexamine it, face it, maybe accept its entity unto ourselves and learn from it. Prince Lestat offers philosophical considerations that fill an inquisitive mind for many nights, told through a fast-paced plot and flesh-and-blood characters. In the end it shows us that a true path to salvation must involve, at its core, a full acceptance and love of one's self and others. The woman who singularly created a new vampire genre now propels it into a whole new and exciting direction. I am sure that there will be a slew of Meyers and other imitators that will follow her lead and attempt to expand on her work.

The massive cast of characters in the novel may seem daunting, but a sort of dramatis personae at the back of the book helps. Even more so, each of the characters have their distinct voices, personalities, histories, and perspectives, and these preclude any confusion. No easy feat for writers of lesser talent, but this Anne Rice, whose imagination created the The Witching Hour with its many generations of witches. It is only a marvel that all of these personalities fully thrive and live in her head.

Truly, ours is an age of the Superhero. We see it in movies, in pop songs, in children's books. Didn't we see Marvel and Disney, two media giants, merge in this decade? In our time where there is much certainty, we do look for a Superhero who will be our champion, our strength, our guide, whether that Superhero is willing or not. The vampires have Lestat. Who do you look up to as your hero?

Lestat, Prince, I do not know if you check Google at all. I want to tell you I love you, as much as I fear you. I know this would reach you somehow. After all, Sir David Talbot said this about your kind, and I quote, "We're all human [still] no matter how long we go on." Thank you for showing us how to fully love and accept ourselves.

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