PRINCE LESTAT & THE REALMS OF ATLANTIS
Another portion of Rice
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