An­other por­tion of Rice

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The eleventh Vam­pire Chron­i­cles novel in­tro­duces a new species.

re­leased 29 Novem­ber 496 pages | Hard­back/ebook Au­thor anne rice Pub­lisher Chatto & Win­dus

If you had to pin­point a mo­ment when our con­tem­po­rary ob­ses­sion with vam­pires started, the 1976 pub­li­ca­tion of Anne Rice’s In­ter­view With The Vam­pire is as good a place as any to be­gin. Here was a novel that, even 40 years on, seems strik­ingly mod­ern with its premise of a world-weary, hy­per-self-aware and oc­ca­sion­ally self-loathing blood­sucker telling his story.

It may be over­stat­ing mat­ters to ar­gue that without Rice, we wouldn’t have got Buffy, Twilight and True Blood, but In­ter­view is cer­tainly key for the way it showed vam­pire tropes were adapt­able. But, the thought oc­curs read­ing Rice’s lat­est Vam­pire Chron­i­cles book, per­haps only so adapt­able…

Rice has con­tin­ued to set her blood­sucker sto­ries in the con­tem­po­rary world, and we’re now 14 nov­els in (so the odd spoiler may fol­low for new­bies, in­ci­den­tally). To keep a se­quence go­ing so long, she’s of­ten ex­plored and re-ex­plored the back­sto­ries of her re­cur­ring char­ac­ters, no­tably brat­tish an­ti­hero Le­s­tat de Lion­court who’s now, as the ti­tle sug­gests, vam­piric roy­alty – and shar­ing his body with an an­cient spirit, Amel, who cre­ated the first blood­sucker.

The prob­lem is that just as gar­lic, crosses and a ten­dency to com­bust when faced with day­light once weighed down at­tempts to rein­vent vam­pire fic­tion, the heft of The Vam­pire Chron­i­cles has started to ex­ert a sim­i­lar ef­fect in Rice’s fic­tion. Against this back­drop, where could she pos­si­bly take her story next?

En­ter the un­promis­ingly named Derek, who for years has been im­pris­oned by a vam­pire, Roland. And feasted upon too – yet this drain­ing of Derek’s blood hasn’t turned him into a blood­sucker or even a gib­ber­ing acolyte, be­cause Derek isn’t hu­man. Rather, from the per­spec­tive of Le­s­tat and co, Derek is some­thing new: an im­mor­tal, al­beit one who spent mil­len­nia en­tombed in ice and thus not con­scious of the pass­ing of time. He and his kind, the “Replimoids”, may pose a threat to the con­tin­ued ex­is­tence of vam­pire kind. At which point, it’s tempt­ing to ask, as a hu­man reader, po­ten­tial prey in any world where vamps ex­ist: so what?

One an­swer is that one of the strengths of Rice’s best nov­els has been to show us vam­pires from the vam­pires’ per­spec­tive. Here are be­ings that worry about their mur­der­ous be­hav­iour – that are ex­otic, yet re­main crea­tures we can iden­tify with be­cause they share many of our foibles. The trou­ble is that At­lantis, for all it con­tains some bravura pas­sages, isn’t one of Rice’s best nov­els. In­stead, it’s a book full of talky-talky vam­pires mus­ing on meta­physics and aes­thet­ics – par­tic­u­larly when Le­s­tat takes cen­tre stage.

An at­tempt to link vam­pire mythol­ogy to tales of At­lantis is prob­lem­atic too: it seems an in­her­ently back­ward-look­ing and con­ser­va­tive move when ap­plied to a se­quence that be­gan by drag­ging vam­pire fic­tion into moder­nity. The At­lantis pas­sages may, more­over, give older read­ers the sink­ing feel­ing they’re read­ing a book that re­calls Erich von Däniken’s cheesy, 1970s-naff Char­i­ots Of The Gods? Hav­ing helped res­cue vam­pire fic­tion from Tran­syl­va­nian cas­tles, Rice may have cre­ated a mythol­ogy just as suf­fo­cat­ing as the idea of yet an­other Drac­ula story. Jonathan Wright

Josh Boone (New Mu­tants) has co-writ­ten the script for a re­make of In­ter­view; it’ll also draw on se­quel The Vam­pire Le­s­tat.

At­lantis isn’t one of Rice’s best nov­els

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