Arrow, £8.99, ISBN 978-0-099-59935-7
Fantasy, 2015 (Reissue)
While emo vampires are still pretty prevalent today, back when Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles made an appearance with Interview with the Vampire, it was a pretty big deal because the author had changed the usual bloodthirsty vampires into emo Goth kids when before the word “emo” became mainstream. The author also did not shy away from homoerotic moments of her characters, and in a time when AIDS and sexuality were finally permeating the consciousness of the mainstream public, Anne Rice’s vampires became allegories of everything from addiction to homosexuality. And then people saw how rich Anne Rice was becoming, and everyone jumped on the bandwagon, splashing in more sex, more angst, more sparkles, and the whole concept of emo vampires soon became a punchline.
Well, Prince Lestat finally brings the Vampire Chronicles to a full circle after 40 years (Interview with the Vampire came out in 1976). I had parted ways with the series long ago, when the author seemed to have lost her way some time after Queen of the Damned, but I thought it is time for me to catch up with old friends in this one. And my goodness, this one is so meta, the actual glossaries are part of the story itself. The gimmick, or vanity, is that the previous books were actually written in the setting, and serve as bibles of sorts on vampire life. Naturally, those books were lush, complex, amazing, et cetera, because you don’t think Anne Rice is going to pan her own books, do you? Given how many POVs are present here, I suppose this makes this book a… what, anthology in that setting? On the bright side, readers new to the series may be able to keep up, provided she doesn’t mind referring to the glossaries and summaries of past books in this series. Yes, there are actual summaries of the previous books in here too.
Anyway. the plot. Well, like the author’s past books, it’s quite hard to give a concise yet accurate synopsis. The author takes her time to get to any point in her story, so much so that any synopsis may end up giving away the entire story if one is not too careful. But then again, the title of this book is actually a huge spoiler in itself, so what do I know. In this one, the younger vampires are being torched to death by the older vampires (who have the ability to set things on fire with a thought), apparently on behest of a voice in their heads called, well, the Voice. Lestat is finally pulled from his slumber by this Voice too, who claims to love him best of all the elder vampires out there. What is going on here? Lestat reaches out to his old friends and lovers to find out.
And that’s basically the story. There are very few new things to be learned here, most of the lore are rehashed from previous books. On one hand, this is a nice way to get those readers who are new or have forgotten the lore to catch up. On the other hand, this also means that this book is almost entirely all about the babble, babble, babble. If you have little patience for huge information dumps, I have a feeling that this book is going to be a chore for you to read.
Reading this book also reminds me forcefully of why I eventually dropped the series. There are so many characters here, and quite a number of them are not really necessary to the plot. This is a problem that plagued the series ever since Queen of the Damned, as everyone and her grandmother is a vampire now, and they are all uniformly gorgeous, sexy, smart, dangerous, et cetera. So many characters here show up only to serve as entourage members, taking up space. I miss the quiet, resonating intimacy of Interview with the Vampire, and Prince Lestat is basically a boring party packed with too many people who just love to hear their own voices.
Perhaps because of the huge cast of people who just can’t stop babbling, this story is so slow that even a drugged up one-legged tortoise would probably beat it to the finish line. The thing about the Voice that I’ve described earlier is stretched out and almost forgotten for most of the story, and worse, I guessed correctly who the Voice is early on. For a long time, I have no idea where this story is heading, and even late in the story, new POVs from people I don’t know much or care about keep popping up. Everyone and everybody come together to meet Lestat to discuss the dire plot of the Voice… and all they do is talk, talk, talk to the point that I’m starting to wonder whether the plan is to bore the Voice so much that it would kill itself out of boredom.
I’m also bored of the constant deification of Lestat. I get it, the author loves that preening peacock and she thinks everyone else does. Here, however, everyone loves Lestat and everyone wants Lestat, and the whole thing is basically another excuse for the author to elevate Lestat’s standing and powers even more. Why? Is it because Lestat works for those things? No, it’s because Lestat is deemed lovable by the author. By the time I close this book, I’ve read enough of the word “love” to last me a while.
And then, there are issues with the story itself. Deaths and destruction are now meaningless, as the author tells me here that dead vampires can now come back as ghosts. Now, the only thing really dead in this setting is any sense of suspense. I’m told again and again that elder vampires are so alert that no one can sneak up to them… well, guess how elder vampires get bumped off here when it is convenient for the plot. There are some good ideas here, like vampires recruiting scientists and doctors to join their ranks to improve medical treatments for vampires and such, but many other aspects of new lore or new developments seem like things the author pulled out of her rear end, without giving much thought to previously established lore.
Still, there is some – intentional? – humor in how Lestat, once a rebel who almost destroyed the world because he’s too rock and roll for rules, is now basically a cranky old man lost in a world with new technology that is alien to him.
At the end of the day, Prince Lestat is mostly a miss for me. I do like seeing Louis, Pandora, Armand, and the rest again, but their appearances are superficial, like cameos in a movie rather than characters with pivotal roles in the plot. Reading this book also reminds me of how good the early books in the series were, because the author’s writing became bloated and self-indulgent, and that’s a bittersweet feeling. Perhaps because I was such a fan back in those days, a part of me doesn’t regret seeing this book – that same part gives a small jump of joy with how this book closes with Louis, a bookend of sorts to the first book in the series – because of small, little meta delights here and there. But on the whole, this one just goes on and on in a hopeless falling into the author’s navel of doom kind of way, and I can’t say I enjoy the whole experience much.