Oh Lestat, what have you done now? At the end of The Vampire Lestat, Anne Rice‘s beloved Brat Prince has incurred the wrath of vampires across the globe and somehow managed to awaken the vampire Akasha from a slumber of a few thousand years. And such is her fascination with the fanged Frenchman that she grants herself a quickie divorce from her 6,000 year old husband, Enkil. By bleeding him dry (in a vampiric sense – lawyers would have only slowed things down).
Anyhow, having read quite a number of Anne Rice’s vampire chronicles, I’m inclined to say that The Queen Of The Damned is one of the best. For a start, it’s not totally devoted to Lestat. We finally get a chance to look around at other vampires and see the colour and variation of their characters.
It’s a joy, for instance, to see Marius spurned by the ancient vampire he’s protected for a couple of thousand years. To see Marius’s assumptions shattered and the utter disdain of Akasha for him. And his resulting bitterness is something you never expect to see from one of the most self-assured immortals in Rice’s savage garden.
The First Vampires
Weaved into the fabric of The Queen Of The Damned is an elaborate origin story of Rice’s species of vampire. She goes into her usual lavish detail to describe the persecution ofthe witches Mekare and Maharet by the King and Queen of Kemet, Enkil and Akasha. Akasha’s obsession with their ability to commune with spirits leads Makare to curse them with a demon called Amel.
After a particularly unpleasant uprising, Akasha is stabbed and left for dead. Amel seizes his chance and enters her body. The resulting fusion creates a new entity – Akasha is a vampire. The first of her kind.
The progression of the vampire species is well documented at that point, but an interesting twist is Maharet’s decision to follow her descendants through the ages, charting the family tree through the maternal bloodline. Unlike the other vampires in Rice’s Chronicles, Maharet does not descend into madness, requiring a lie down in a darkened crypt for a century or so.
Kill All The Males
Akasha’s re-emergence is rather pointed. It’s not just a big crush on Lestat. She wants to reclaim the world and rule it with her new beau.
She claims to have been watching the world silently throughout the centuries and has come to the conclusion that peace on Earth can only be achieved by a wholesale slaughter of human males. They’re a warlike bunch, she argues, and they persecute women. Females on the other hand are naturally mothering and would bring about a more nurturing vibe if they ruled the planet.
Don’t get me wrong, she makes a compelling argument of this. Until you realise – as Lestat eventualy does – that she’s talking about genocide of the males. Reduce them to a minority, use them for reproduction and cast them aside.
Rice asks some interesting questions via this plot about the nature of humankind and also advances the cause of rational secular society over the mysticism of religion. Unfortunately she turned her back on this lucid and compelling argument when she returned to the Catholic Church some years ago!
After giving us two biography-style novels in Interview With The Vampire and The Vampire Lestat, Rice switches her approach to a more complex storytelling, giving us snatches of narrative from the protagonist, Lestat, and filling in the story with dialog and stories from the other characters present throughout the story. If you saw the movie version of this book, you missed out.
The book is so much more – better paced than the Hollywood version and with interesting ethical debates. And the fact that Hollywood ignored the origins of the vampires was totally unforgivable. If you like your fiction with fangs, you really need to check this one out.