The fifth volume of Rice's Vampire Chronicles is one of her most controversial books. The tale begins in New York, where Lestat, the coolest of Rice's vampire heroes, is stalking a big-time cocaine dealer and religious-art smuggler--this guy should get it in the neck. Lestat is also growing fascinated with the dealer's lovely daughter, a TV evangelist who's not a fraud.
Lestat is also being stalked himself, by some shadowy guy who turns out to be Memnoch, the devil, who spirits him away. From here on, the book might have been called Interview with the Devil (by a Vampire). It's a rousing story interrupted by a long debate with the devil. Memnoch isn't the devil as ordinarily conceived: he got the boot from God because he objected to God's heartless indifference to human misery. Memnoch takes Lestat to heaven, hell, and throughout history.
Some readers are appalled by the scene in which Lestat sinks his fangs into the throat of Christ on the cross, but the scene is not a mere shock tactic: Jesus is giving Lestat a bloody taste in order to win him over to God's side, and Rice is dead serious about the battle for his soul. Rice is really doing what she did as a devout young Catholic girl asked to imagine in detail what Christ's suffering felt like--it's just that her imagination ran away with her.
If you like straight-ahead fanged adventure, you'll likely enjoy the first third; if you like Job-like arguments with God, you'll prefer the Memnoch chapters. --Tim Appelo
In Anne Rice's extraordinary novel, the Vampire Lestat--outsides, canny monster, hero-wanderer--is at last offered the chance to be redeemed.
He is brought into direct confrontation with both God and the Devil, and into the land of Death.
We are in New York. The city is blanketed in snow. Through the whiteness Lestat is searching for Dora, the beautiful and charismatic daughter of a drug lord, the woman who arouses Lestat's tenderness as no mortal ever has.
While torn between his vampire passions and his overwhelming love for Dora, Lestat is confronted by the most dangerous of adversaries he has yet known.
He is snatched from the world itself by the mysterious Memnoch, who claims to be the Devil. He is invited to be a witness at the Creation. He is taken like the ancient prophets into the heavenly realm and is ushered into Purgatory.
He must decide if he can believe in the Devil or in God. And finally, he must decide which, if either, he will serve.
In the first four Vampire Chronicles, Anne Rice summoned up for us worlds that are fantastic and distant, making them as resonant, real, and immediate as our own. In this, her most daring and darkest novel, she takes us, with Lestat, into the mythical world that is most important to us--into the realms of our own theology.
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