The Vampire Chronicles: The Queen of the Damned

Make sure to see what I thought about The Vampire Chronicles:  Interview with a Vampire, and The Vampire Lestat.

In 1976, a uniquely seductive world of vampires was unveiled in the now-classic Interview with the Vampire . . . in 1985, a wild and voluptous voice spoke to us, telling the story of The Vampire Lestat.  In The Queen of the Damned, Anne Rice continues her extraordinary “Vampire Chronicles” in a feat of mesmeric storytelling, a chillingly hypnotic entertainment in which the oldest and most powerful forces of the night are unleashed on an unsuspecting world.

Three brilliantly colored narrative threads intertwine as the story unfolds:

– The rock star known as Vampire Lestat, worshipped by millions of spellbound fans, prepares for a concert in San Francisco.  Among the audience–pilgrims in a blind swoon of adoration–are hundreds of vampires, creatures who see Lestat as a “greedy fiend risking the secret prosperity of all his kind just to be loved and seen by mortals,” fiends themselves who hate Lestat’s power and who are determined to destroy him . . .

– The sleep of certain men and women–vampires and mortals scattered around the world–is haunted by a vivid, mysterious dream: of twins with fiery red hair and piercing green eyes who suffer an unspeakable tragedy.  It is a dream that slowly, tauntingly reveals its meaning to the dreamers as they make their way toward each other–some to be destroyed on the journey, some to face an even more terrifying fate at journey’s end . . .

– Akasha–Queen of the Damned, mother of all vampires, rises after a 6,000 year sleep and puts into motion a heinous plan to “save” mankind from itself and make “all myths of the world real” by elevating herself and her chosen son/lover to the level of the gods: “I am the fulfillment and I shall from this moment be the cause” . . .

These narrative threads wind sinuously across a vast, richly detailed tapestry of the violent, sensual world of vampirism, taking us back 6,000 years to its beginnings.  As the stories of the “first brood” of blood drinkers are revealed, we are swept across the ages, from Egypt to South America to the Himalayas to all the shrouded corners of the globe where vampires have left their mark. Vampires are created–mortals succumbing to the sensation of “being emptied, of being devoured, of being nothing.” Vampires are destroyed.  Dark rituals are performed–the rituals of ancient creatures prowling the modern world.  And, finally, we are brought to a moment in the twentieth century when, in an astonishing climax, the fate of the living dead–and perhaps of the living, all the living–will be decided.

When I decided to set out on this Series…urm…Series. I wondered what would happen if I decided not to finish one. I did not anticipate getting to that point in my first go round. I loved the first two books in The Vampire ChroniclesInterview was fantastic, and Lestat blew that one away!

Maybe because the first two were so brilliant, the third book just couldn’t keep up the pace. I had pretty high expectations. From the title, I expected it to be either about Akasha–written in the same first person narrative style, with age and period-appropriate voice, that Rice had used for Louis and Lestat.

However, she flipped writing styles completely. Lestat gives an introduction, and forewarns us that he is handing over the book to all the other vampires. Right away, my inner reader went “OH NO.” This book is SO disjointed compared to the first two. It must also be leading to the concert at the end of The Vampire Lestat–running sort of parallel. Unfortunately, it’s just so hard to follow. There’s barely any direction, and aside from the weird dreams about “red-headed twins” and out of context mentions of Lestat, there are hardly any connections between the narrators.

I feel like most of these vampires have nothing to do with Lestat, and that the thought of him is just thrust in randomly. They will be having conversations or streams of consciousness and suddenly “la de da blah blah VAMPIRE LESTAT blah blah la de da.” Every single time I was so confused about where he came from. Lestat swears in his introduction that he DID NOT write these narratives, that this is how they were given to him but it sure seems like either his vanity is shining through with abundance, or I am missing something completely.

Either way, I hit page 150 and just could not make one more. I could not stand the idea of 433 pages of this disjointed nonsense. Have you read The Queen of the DamnedCare to shed some light on this confusing book?

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The Vampire Chronicles: Interview With the Vampire

Series. The bain of my existence. Don’t get me wrong, I love a great series…but they are SUCH a commitment. And as a blogger, they are so hard to review, because do I a) read them as the books come out individually or b) wait until the full series is out? 

I almost never read a series when it is first out…but then I procrastinate reading the full thing in one go because then I have to forgo everything else I am reading. 

It’s such a challenge to fit everything in. TOO MANY BOOKS.

So, we are going to try something new here on ILR. I’m going to read full series, and review them, all in a row. I’ll post these on Mondays, and you can follow along with me as I read each book!

Up first:  The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice. I have the big silver Omnibus from Barnes & Noble, so it’s a great place to start. I read Interview with the Vampire in 2015, so the below is an updated version of that review.

Here are the confessions of a vampire. Hypnotic, shocking, and chillingly erotic, this is a novel of mesmerizing beauty and astonishing force—a story of danger and flight, of love and loss, of suspense and resolution, and of the extraordinary power of the senses. It is a novel only Anne Rice could write.

Vampires have never held much interest for me in the supernatural world. I’ve always been much more interested in magic–witches and dragons and elves. The whole blood-sucking thing…not for me. It could be regional, I’m much more interested in old British lore than Germanic and Eastern European, which is where vampires reign supreme, so the ancient legends never made it into my repertoire. And the modern retellings…well…I’ll pass on Edward and Bella, thanks.

However, one can hardly be up to par on their literature lists without at least reading Anne Rice. Besides DraculaInterview with the Vampire is probably the most famous work on the subject. Rice’s lead character Louis gives an elaborate narrative to a young boy, detailing his life as an 18th century vampire in New Orleans and Paris. He tells how Lestat turned him in order to try and gain access to his property, and how they then took a child as their daughter. Lestat’s motives are always sinister, and Louis determines to get Claudia away as soon as possible. Thus begins a constant struggle for their eternal lives.

On my second readthrough, I picked up a lot more on the pedophilic undertones of the book. When I read Interview the first time, I thought Claudia’s age and relationship with Louis was weird–but it made sense in vampire-land, that she’d stay young. However, Lestat’s obsession with boys really creeps me out. I mean, Lestat is creepy all around, but why must he always “take” young boys? It would be one thing if it were just sucking their blood as food–but Rice clearly draws a relationship between the vampire lust for blood and human lust for sex–and so an older vampire taking children really messed with me.

By writing about these doomful creatures, Rice not only weaves an entertaining and dramatic novel. Louis has been written with quite they philosopher’s mind, and so the narrative thread weaves a tapestry rich with conversations about God versus Satan, morals and motives, and even a little creation theory. There’s no ignoring the depth in this one, and perhaps because you are encased in the world of vampires, it’s very hard to find the light.

I had originally given this 4 Book Dragons, but I’m going to drop it down to 3. I liked it, but not as much on the second read. Perhaps I went a little too far down into the dark. The next book is all about Lestat so…I have a feeling it’s about to get darker.

 

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William Faulkner: As I Lay Dying

As I Lay Dying is Faulkner’s harrowing account of the Bundren family’s odyssey across the Mississippi countryside to bury Addie, their wife and mother. Told in turns by each of the family members—including Addie herself—the novel ranges in mood from dark comedy to the deepest pathos.

Can you believe that when I named my blog, I had actually never read Faulkner? I’ve since cut the “As” but really I just thought it was a clever play on words. I wonder what ILR would be called if I HAD read Faulkner first because it definitely would not be the same.

I looked up some Goodreads reviews to help me with this because holy cow I don’t even know how to explain this to you. Someone named Ademption explains it best. “THIS BOOK IS ABOUT HICKS THEY GO TO TOWN.” Thank you Ademption, that really about covers it.

Also, there is a fish.

Mostly, the first half of the book is every person saying “This woman is dying.” “Have you heard she’s dying?” “Do you think Addie might die?”

The second half, yup, you guessed it, Addie died. They trek through mud to get her to her hometown for burial.

GUYS WHY IS THIS BOOK FAMOUS?

The underlying theme, at least from what I can discern is how emotionally abusive their father is. He’s a complete jackass, a cheap bastard, and absolutely hates and ignores the needs of his children.

Annnnd that about covers it. Worst review ever? Maybe. Can we never talk about where I got my blog name again? Faaaaaaaaantastic.

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Frank Herbert: Dune

Here is the novel that will be forever considered a triumph of the imagination. Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Maud’dib. He would avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family;and would bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.

I thought I would read so many books on the cruise–I took five! Unfortunately, I started with Dune, and got stuck on it for the entirety of the trip. We voted this into April’s AdultBooklr readathon unanimously–but I’m terribly disappointed.

I was immediately struck by how terrible the writing is. It’s such a famous book–I was expecting something spectacular. Instead, the writing is lazy in the basics with way over complicated structure. And I bet Frank Herbert’s Thesaurus is well-thumbed. There’s nothing wrong with using unique or creative vocabulary–but he was reaching all over the place.

It’s obvious that Herbert drew inspiration from many sources all over the world for his characters and settings. If done properly, that could have been really cool. Instead, it was just a mess of cultural appropriation and awful tropes. And I do mean MESS–I don’t even know where to start with explaining them because everything was so entwined and the plot so complicated. (This was absolutely the wrong book to read when I couldn’t take detailed notes.)

I finished because of the readathon, but it was hard to keep my attention on Dune. I had intended to spend much more time reading on the ship, but never wanted to pick up in this tattered brown catastrophe.

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Aldous Huxley: Brave New World

Far in the future, the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs, all its members are happy consumers. Bernard Marx seems alone harbouring an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations, where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his distress…

Huxley’s ingenious fantasy of the future sheds a blazing light on the present and is considered to be his most enduring masterpiece.

A friend of mine tweeted recently that we were living Brave New World. I hadn’t read it yet, but coincidentally (or not), I’d just ordered it from ThriftBooks. Well, I suppose I better move it up the list, then.

Aldous Huxley certainly wastes no time in horrifying the reader. From the very first chapter, I read slack-jawed in terror about the “utopia” he had created for us. There are definite similarities to what we are seeing today. I don’t know that we are there yet, but we should certainly be wary. It is alarming, for sure.

As far as the book goes–this is going to have to be a twofer. I will need to reread it again. I understood the overall themes and concepts, but I didn’t connect with any of the characters. Maybe it was just too abstract for me.

I have two observations to make:

The first, is just about utopias in general. In every other utopia I’ve read–The Giver, for example–the drug use is hidden. The leaders don’t want society to know they must have drugs to suppress their natural urges, go on with the utopian lifestyle, etc. The drug is always hidden in vitamins, or the water, or something. Here, it is relished, open, necessary. Not taking high doses of soma is frowned upon. You SHOULD be an addict. But don’t take TOO much. Don’t take 20, or you will die. Take a lot, but just enough. Have fun, all of the time. Be high, all of the time.

Second, the caste system–bred into the new embryos, then taught while the children sleep. HOW CREEPY IS THAT?! This is the part that really resonates to today’s world, because while we don’t have a utopian system built for this yet…we have a societal structure that is already this way. Parents teaching children without realizing some of the toxic things that are getting in. I don’t want to get full on conspiratorial but…I think you could see how it could go downhill fast.

Brave New World is a book that would be burnt first if ever such a thing were to happen. If literature starts disappearing, hide your copies. Read it now, while you still can. It should be read, by everyone. And read it more than once, so you know you truly understand what is happening.

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Ralph Ellison: Invisible Man

First published in 1952 and immediately hailed as a masterpiece, Invisible Man is one of those rare novels that have changed the shape of American literature. For not only does Ralph Ellison’s nightmare journey across the racial divide tell unparalleled truths about the nature of bigotry and its effects on the minds of both victims and perpetrators, it gives us an entirely new model of what a novel can be.

As he journeys from the Deep South to the streets and basements of Harlem, from a horrifying “battle royal” where black men are reduced to fighting animals, to a Communist rally where they are elevated to the status of trophies, Ralph Ellison’s nameless protagonist ushers readers into a parallel universe that throws our own into harsh and even hilarious relief. Suspenseful and sardonic, narrated in a voice that takes in the symphonic range of the American language, black and white, Invisible Man is one of the most audacious and dazzling novels of our century.

I found this book, on one hand, extremely boring. I kept putting it down every few paragraphs. The Prologue was lovely, and I copied much of it into my reading journal, but after that I really struggled to hold my attention to the story.

However, on the other hand, Invisible Man was eerily familiar. Even though it was published in the 40s, all of this could have happened today. Switch The Brotherhood with the Black Lives Matter movement and it all becomes recognizable, especially the second half of the book. I realize there are some big differences, since The Brotherhood was based on a communist organization, but there are also some parallels too–a factional group fighting for their beliefs, recruiting members, training people to serve their cause. Some of the things that happened just gave me so many chills. This is a big part of why it’s such a hard, heavy book–these are hard, heavy times and we are seeing all of these hard, heavy themes in our own current events every day.

It’s a hard book to review and rate. I didn’t really “like” it, but I definitely see the importance of the literature. I’m adding it to on my ongoing list of books that should be read in schools, because I think kids would benefit from teacher-led group conversation on such a heavy theme.

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DiversityBingo2017:  OwnVoices

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Harriet Jacobs: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

The true story of an individual’s struggle for self-identity, self-preservation, and freedom, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl remains among the few extant slave narratives written by a woman. This autobiographical account chronicles the remarkable odyssey of Harriet Jacobs (1813–1897) whose dauntless spirit and faith carried her from a life of servitude and degradation in North Carolina to liberty and reunion with her children in the North.
Written and published in 1861 after Jacobs’ harrowing escape from a vile and predatory master, the memoir delivers a powerful and unflinching portrayal of the abuses and hypocrisy of the master-slave relationship. Jacobs writes frankly of the horrors she suffered as a slave, her eventual escape after several unsuccessful attempts, and her seven years in self-imposed exile, hiding in a coffin-like “garret” attached to her grandmother’s porch.
A rare firsthand account of a courageous woman’s determination and endurance, this inspirational story also represents a valuable historical record of the continuing battle for freedom and the preservation of family.

I could not participate in an event such as #OwnVoicesOctober without reading a personal slave narrative. This country was founded on the backs of women and men such as Harriet Jacobs, and it’s so important to hear their stories. Harriet’s has been in my Kindle for a long time now, and so this was a good week to finally read about her journey.

It’s amazing what you will learn when you open your heart to listen. In my head I know that slavery was awful, all of it was awful, but still sometimes it gets so romanticized that I lose track. The Mammy trope, the stoic, loyal butler. That is a weakness–the ingrained prejudices that come to haunt me. But then I read Harriet’s story, and it slams that door shut so hard. Sometimes I just need a slap across the face, you know? This is that kind of book.

There’s a section of the book where she is talking about her own story, versus that of other slaves. Her master, Dr. Flint, has written a letter to her to convince her to come home while she is in hiding. The slimey bastard talks about how she is family and how if she comes back she’ll be treated like one of their own, she isn’t a slave, not really. It’s pretty gross. And Harriet’s response to us the reader is that yes, she knows that to many people, the perception could be that her life is pretty good at Dr. Flint’s. She doesn’t get beaten, she isn’t working the fields. She eats well, she dresses well, and she has most of her family around her. But she is still a slave. She is still at the mercy of Dr. Flint, who sexually abuses her and thinks it is ok because he owns her. She still has to worry about her children being sold away from her–and used as leverage.

A slave was a slave was a slave. Yes, some masters cared about their slaves and not every one was beaten horribly, but they were still slaves. And we owe it to them to remember that. This is why I read these books every so often. I need the reminder, I need the help. It’s the way I’m going to get that ingrained prejudice out of my system. Constant vigilance.

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Voltaire: Candide

Brought up in the household of a powerful Baron, Candide is an open-minded young man, whose tutor, Pangloss, has instilled in him the belief that ‘all is for the best’. But when his love for the Baron’s rosy-cheeked daughter is discovered, Candide is cast out to make his own way in the world.

And so he and his various companions begin a breathless tour of Europe, South America and Asia, as an outrageous series of disasters befall them – earthquakes, syphilis, a brush with the Inquisition, murder – sorely testing the young hero’s optimism.

WHY THIS BOOK WAS BANNED:

As expected by Voltaire, Candide has enjoyed both great success and great scandal. Immediately after its secretive publication, the book was widely banned because it contained religious blasphemy, political sedition and intellectual hostility hidden under a thin veil of naïveté. (Wiki)

Let me start by saying that I have had this on my list of “study books” since the beginning of my list of “study books” because I thought this was a serious book of philosophy in line with Plato and Aristotle. I was so very very wrong.

From the very first line, this book is ridiculous.

In a castle of Westphalia, belonging to the Baron of Thunder-ten-Tronckh, lived a youth, whom nature had endowed with the most gentle manners.

Who do you picture the moment you read that? Do you rap it, because I rapped it.

 

When you start a book thinking about The Fresh Prince…all thoughts of serious literature pretty much go out the window. From then on, it was all about the satire. Which is what Voltaire intended. He intended to “bring amusement to a small number of men of wit.” Not a man, sorry Voltaire, but I think he would still be pleased by the rapping.

While I did make quite a few FP connections while reading Candidethe satire REALLY reminded me of Monty Python style humor. People dying, but not really. Cutting off butts to feed people. Satire about existential crises. I haven’t watched enough Monty Python to really get into it, but what I have seen, struck me as familiar.

Did I like this? It’s an I don’t know. Parts of it were very amusing, but there was almost TOO much satire. Sort of like Monty Python really. I lose the plot in those kinds of things, because every single joke that possibly can be shoved in does, and I prefer a little more actual development. Does that make me less witty? I don’t think so, I get the wit just fine. I just need substance to go with it.

BY THE WAY–If you aren’t following me on my new Instagram account, you are missing out on things like me rapping along to Voltaire to the tune of Fresh Prince, so you should probably get on that.

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Mark Twain: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Desperate to escape his abusive father and the constraints of the civilized life, young Huck Finn fakes his death and, with the help of his slave friend Jim, embarks on a vagabond life rafting down the Mississippi River. Yet life is anything but carefree for Huck and Jim. Their travels bring them into contact with scores of rogues, rascals, ruffians, hucksters, and law-abiding citizens who would as soon seen Jim returned to his owners and Huck to his Pa. Looking out for each other, Huck and Jim forge a bond that protects them from the prejudices and bigotry of their time and place, and a society whose rules and regulations seem as perplexing as they are inflexible.

By turns hilarious and heartwarming, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, first published in 1884, is considered Mark Twain’s masterpiece and one of the greatest novels written on the nineteenth-century American experience.

WHY THIS BOOK WAS BANNED:

The first ban of Mark Twain’s American classic in Concord, MA in 1885 called it “trash and suitable only for the slums.” Objections to the book have evolved, but only marginally. Twain’s book is one of the most-challenged of all time and is frequently challenged even today because of its frequent use of the word “nigger.” Otherwise it is alleged the book is “racially insensitive,” “oppressive,” and “perpetuates racism.” (bannedbooksweek.org)

I listened to Huck Finn on audiobook several years ago when I had a job that was primarily filing. I remember being terribly confused by the plot because it simultaneously didn’t seem to go anywhere and everywhere at the same time. I figured it was just my inattention to audiobooks and decided I’d try again later to actually read it.

Flash forward to present day, when my handsome leatherbound copy has been sitting unread on my shelf for 3 years now. I have been dreading the reread of this famous novel, but I knew it must be done eventually. Since this week is Banned Book Week, I decided now is as good a time as ever. Grumble Grumble.

Unfortunately, I am apparently still one of the very few people in the world of literature who dislike The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The plot still simultaneously goes nowhere and everywhere at the same time, and the dialects are near impossible to read in visual format (that WAS easier to listen to via audiobook). I mean, even Twain himself says by way of dedication:

Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.

I still haven’t read Tom Sawyer. I know some day I must, but I will drag my feet even harder now. Can you see the ruts?

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James Ellroy: The Black Dahlia

On January 15, 1947, the torture-ravished body of a beautiful young woman is found in a Los Angeles vacant lot. The victim makes headlines as the Black Dahlia-and so begins the greatest manhunt in California history.Caught up in the investigation are Bucky Bleichert and Lee Blanchard: Warrants Squad cops, friends, and rivals in love with the same woman. But both are obsessed with the Dahlia-driven by dark needs to know everything about her past, to capture her killer, to possess the woman even in death. Their quest will take them on a hellish journey through the underbelly of postwar Hollywood, to the core of the dead girl’s twisted life, past the extremes of their own psyches-into a region of total madness.

Next week is Banned Books Week, and then we have #OwnVoicesOctober. I’m telling you this because I’ve been so disappointed in my reviews this week and hopefully I can get some decent reads after this. Besides Toni Morrison things have been a little rough around here lately.

I’ve been trying to read The Black Dahlia on my phone a chapter at a time and I have just not been having it. I finally gave up. Noir just isn’t my genre, generally. It’s dark and gritty and incredibly sexist. And it’s always got this horrific voice to it. You know what I mean–it’s always the SAME voice. Cocky-ass detective in a floppy fedora talking about some bird with the legs, trying to solve some murder on poor innocent females.

BD is the same exact voice, same exact theme, except it’s true crime, not something made up. Two boxers-turned-cops in the 40s worked a horrific murder. I didn’t get much further than that, mostly because of the voice. I just couldn’t stand it.

So, nope for this one. At least I can mark it off on the Boxall’s list. Making some progress with that!

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