The Series Series: The Vampire Chronicles, The New Vampires & The Lives Of The Mayfair Witches By Anne Rice

Hello! Happy New Year and welcome to the 2020 reading project! (And beyond probably!)The Series Series, where I read book series, at the moment of the speculative fiction variety, and talk about plots, themes, author details, whatever it is about the series that gripped me. We’re starting a little idiosyncratically, with a finishing of a series I’ve been reading in bits and pieces over the past year or so. Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles (And related The New Vampires and The Lives Of The Mayfair Witches.) Hooray!

The Books (Books That I’ve Reviewed Individually Are Linked):

Interview With The Vampire

The Vampire Lestat

The Queen Of The Damned

The Witching Hour

The Tale of The Body Thief

Lasher

Taltos

Memnoch The Devil

Pandora

The Vampire Armand

Vittorio The Vampire

Merrick

Blood And Gold

Blackwood Farm

Blood Canticle

Prince Lestat

Prince Lestat And The Realms Of Atlantis

Blood Communion: A Tale of Prince Lestat

Author

Anne Rice wrote these books. My opinion of Mrs. Rice as a person is that she is a mixed bag. She was raised in New Orleans, and lived there for years with her husband, the poet Stan Rice. After his death in 2002 she moved to California. In the late 90’s she found Jesus, then lost him again. There’s kind of a lot going on with her there. In her older age now she seems to have mellowed on a few things. (Criticism, fan fiction, people talking about how her characters are super gay) But I also know she used to dox fans? Which is among the worst things that you can do. Alas, she’s a fine writer and I gave her $0 in this project as I took each book out of the library. I think I’d be comfortable buying her books though. Also, I want to go to New Orleans and do one of the tours based around her work REAL BAD.

Series Structure

This is three ongoing series. Kind of. It’s really one series, and two spin offs, that all get braided together. But when thinking about it, it can be broken down into a few different series

The Original:

Interview With A Vampire

The Vampire Lestat

The Queen of the Damned

Lestat Does Adventures And Other People Get To Talk

Tale Of The Body Thief

Memnoch The Devil

The Vampire Armand

Blood And Gold

The Lives Of The Mayfair Witches

The Witching Hour

Lasher

Taltos

The New Vampires

Pandora

Vittorio The Vampire

Witches And Vampires

Merrick

Blackwood Farm

Blood Canticle

Prince Lestat

Prince Lestat

Prince Lestat And The Realms Of Atlantis

Blood Communion

Rice continues to insists she’s done and then ten years later, out pops a vampire book. We shall see moving forward if we get more. (I kind of hope so, because Blood Communion is quite good.)

Themes

The Vampire Chronicles might be unique in the way a book series operates in that it encompasses most of it’s writer’s life and shift in perspective. Because of it’s subject matter it’s grouped with Sci-Fi and Fantasy, but in reality and structure it’s closer to the pulp “dad fiction” of guys like James Patterson and Tom Clancy. Lestat, much like Jack Ryan or Alex Cross is whatever Rice needs him to be book to book. He’s a villain in Interview, an incorrigible anti hero in Lestat and Queen Of The Damned, a pulp searcher in Body Theif, a prophet in Memnoch, Merrick and Blackwood, a great uniter in the Prince Lestat trilogy and always a doomed Byronic Lover mixed with that.

Which means I think metamorphosis is the word of the day. Lestat changes from book to book, he grows and evolves and becomes something different. Which isn’t to ignore some of the other major themes at work here. Queerness and Catholicism being paramount. Rice doubles down on her vampires as doomed guilty Catholic kids who make blood consumption a literal part of their practice. It’s a natural fit for the way vampires work, but I’ve never seen any writer adopt fiction to explore their pet obsessions the way Rice does, or to such stunning effect.

But the main thing here is change, no one, not even the ancient vampires are unchanging, the morph to the times around them, to the people around them. It’s a stunning message for twenty or so books.

Favorite Book

From purely literary standpoints, Interview With A Vampire and The Witching Hour are head and shoulders above the others. They’re original and creepy and well developed and their stories are solid, individual and their prose is top notch. It’s hard to argue with either of them. The Witching Hour is also probably my favorite of the books.

From a fun standpoint, any of the books where Lestat is the narrator is the way to go. Lestat is a delight of a protagonist. I’m particularly fond of The Vampire Lestat and The Tale Of The Body Thief. I also liked Merrick quite a bit, but mostly because it scared me and I’m hard to scare in print. The stuff in between gets a little rough but Blood Communion is an excellent return to form, so I really hope that Rice decides to continue. We shall see.

Least Favorite Book

Mother fucking Lasher you guys, I mean, Taltos too, they’re both pretty bad. Memnoch The Devil is a good book made ridiculous by it’s context, and I was disappointed by Blood And Gold because I’d enjoyed Marius’s appearances in both Lestat and Armand and even Pandora but his own story was pretty dull.

But it doesn’t get worse than Lasher, which is such a terrific letdown form how wonderful The Witching Hour is.

Of course I wrote that before I got to Prince Lestat And The Realms Of Atlantis where we learned that Amel, the evil spirit who inhabited Queen Akasha and created vampire kind, is an alien ghost. So that sucks. It sucks even more than the explanation of the Taltos. (Who come back in Blood Canticle in a much more effective fashion)

Favorite Character

I love Armand. I’ve always loved Armand and I think I always will. I’m fond of Michael Curry as well, and I love my little fledglings. David Talbot and Quinn Blackwood are the best examples of that, but it’s always going to be Armand. I love his paintings and his clear decision to be the bad guy. He hates himself so much (and so much of that is Marius and Santino’s fault, but a lot of it is just who he is) and he’s so damn dramatic. (Even more so than Lestat) He can’t help himself. (Also, I’m looking forward to the upcoming TV show, because the ship wars are going to be epic. Personally I am deeply Lestat/David and Louis/Armand. Think of the ADVENTURES, and the ENNUI!)

But it’s impossible to like this series at all and come away anything but totally in love with Lestat. Rice is enamored of him, and so we have to be too. He is wonderful, the “other people talk” books are great, but when Lestat takes things over again in Blood Canticle I audibly whooped. And, last week, when discussing fandom with friends, I mentioned that when/if the rumored TV series ever hits, the Loki/Snape girls are going to be nigh unbearable. Lestat will consume them completely. It’s going to be glorious.

Reread Possibilities

I think I’d revisit my favorites, Interview, Body Thief, Witching Hour, Armand, Blood Communion, but I’d never touch the lows  of the series again and don’t feel particularly compelled to even revisit it’s more middling chapters. This was a big commitment and I’m glad I broke it up as I did, but also, oh boy, this series has some serious lows.

My other reading project is non fiction, so the next thing I’m reading is The Race  To Save The Romanovs by Helen Rappaport but the next series is going to be The Chronicles Of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

All creators have preoccupations, certain themes that most of their work circles back to. In reading reviews and thoughts on The Rise Of Skywalker people kept talking about nostalgia as JJ Abrams’s particular niche.

As I watched it for a third time on Saturday, I tried to see that, and I understand why people think of that for Abrams, if you look only at his film work.

But that would be ignoring a pretty big and important piece of his creative output, and frankly one that I think informs what he was going for with The Rise of Skywalker and Rey’s story in particular much more than anything he’s done on the big screen.

It’s ignoring Alias.

Sidney Bristow’s story, as convoluted as it got, was always thematically about having to untangle herself from the web of lies and violence left as a legacy from her parents and mentors, and standing on her own two feet as her own person at the end of that.

I don’t like the decision to make Rey a Palpatine. I think it’s hugely unnecessary, and creates more questions than it answers. But I get it, as a story decision, especially, when I had the realization about Abrams, Alias and the theme of building your own identity both within and without a legacy.

Rey’s moment of triumph comes when she embraces the Jedi way, the “thousand generations” that live in her, and the voices of the Jedi come to her. It is my favorite moment in the film, not just because it’s movie acknowledgement of Ahsoka, but because it’s the moment that to me provides the most context for Rey’s journey. She’s already rejected her Grandfather’s path for her, she’s already provided Ben Solo his path to redemption, she is choosing in that moment which legacy she wants to continue, the path of the light.

There are plenty of things wrong with The Rise Of Skywalker. I mentioned not loving Rey’s heritage reveal, the retcon of Poe Dameron’s past to make him a smuggler, no real role for Rose Tico and no confirmation of Finn’s force sensitivity (Plus, all those ships in the Hidden Regions and no Ezra riding in on a Space Whale? What gives?) are all writing choices I’m not crazy about.

But Rey’s story is good at the core, the fight against a destiny chosen for her by others to carve her own way is great and fits with a pattern of JJ Abrams’s work. Felicity though a very different genre is also about young people figuring out who they are, rather than who everyone expects them to be. It’s even a little bit there in Star Trek, where he basically says, “this is not the story you know, these characters are making their own way,” Lost was always more Lindeloff’s than his, but it still has themes of identity over destiny deeply embedded in it.

And I think this is the part that got to me. I like stories about family and legacy and finding your place in the world, so I liked this story for Rey and for Kylo Ren, they both carved out a place on a path that had been trod before, but it wasn’t the place prepared for them. I think that’s good.

Next week is the finale of The Mandolorian, and as I said a few weeks ago, Fangirl Loves Star Wars isn’t going anywhere. Next year we’ll have season 2 of Resistance the return of Clone Wars and I’m going to do some EU reading. I love our Galaxy Far Far Away, and I don’t ever want to leave it.

 

60 Books In 2019 #57: The Book Of Dust: La Belle Sauvage By Phillip Pullman

Last week, we discussed how my reread of His Dark Materials inspired by the HBO/BBC adaptations resparked my interest in this world, and how I was looking forward to The Book Of Dust.

La Belle Sauvage takes place during the first year of Lyra Belaqua’s life, and while she’s important, (chosen one) the people who become important on her journey later only flit around the edges here. (I squealed when Farder Coram showed up!)  The story is mainly about a boy from Oxford named Malcolm who spends time at the convent where she was first surrendered by her parents, and develops a brotherly protective feeling for the baby girl.

Of course, as he gets caught up with Lyra, Malcolm finds himself in danger of The Magesterium, who are even scarier here than they are is His Dark Materials. The sinister child army of The Order Of St. Alexander really freaked me out. But Malcolm and his friend Alice also battle a terrifying Magistereum opperative with a hyena daemon, who has lost a front leg.

Which leads to my favorite part of this book, which is the use of daemons. You really see them as a manifestation of the character’s souls here, and the way we grow and the mystery of them. Malcolm fascination with how baby Lyra and Pantalaimon interact was shared by me! What a fun detail that babies in this world chatter to their daemon who chatters back! That daemons can’t talk until their humans can. That baby daemons are even more flighty and changing than child daemons!

The book was delightful, a bit thicker and deeper than it’s predecessors, so I’m going to hold off on The Secret Commonwealth for a bit, because there’s a lot digest here.

Up next is Soy Sauce For Beginners by Kirsten Chen.

60 Books in 2019 #56: Underworld: An Abandon Novel By Meg Cabot

I blame this one on the completely brilliant Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe. If you’re not reading Lore Olympus get on it, it’s completely brilliant and lovely, retelling the story of Persephone and Hades in a hilarious romantic and beautifully illustrated way. (Psyche and Eros are also there.) Anyway, while I was searching for books to finish out the year, I remembered that hey! Didn’t Meg Cabot take on Persephone and Hades too? I love Meg Cabot!

I’d read the first book a while back, and I think it’s important to note that while I really like Abandon, I was disappointed in Cabot and her publisher’s choice to extend the story and the similarly timed Airhead over Jinx. All three books came out within around a year and were clearly cashing in on the new pop culture environment where genre stories about teen girls were a hot commodity. Of the three Jinx (about the most powerful witch born to a line in 100 years) was my favorite, I didn’t care for Airhead at all and while I like Abandon, I just never picked up the sequels.

I mention the moment it came out because it’s very hard to remove Abandon and thus Underworld from the behemoth shadow it came out under. I’m talking of course about Twilight. Like Twilight, the Abandon series features a teenage girl clearly destined to a great love in a supernatural context. The male half is vaguely stalkery but totally sexy in a broody Byronian mode. Cabot, of course, can write circles around Stephanie Meyer, and Pierce Oliviera is way more active than Bella Swann, but the paralells are hard to ignore.

At the end of Abandon Pierce finds herself transported by sexy underworld demi-god John Hayden (who she is very in love with and who has been watching over her since she was a child. See, kinda weird.) Pierce is none too thrilled about this, but John insists it’s for her own good. They have breakfast and they realize that means Pierce has repeated Persophone’s mistake. She can never leave the Underworld now. Of course they leave anyway, when they need to save Pierce’s cousin Alex from himself.

Underworld is a middle chapter and so I guess I’m just going to have pick up Awaken soon and see how this all shakes out. It’s a fun take on the myth and I’ve always loved Cabot’s voice. Up next is The Book Of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Phillip Pullman. I’m excited to return to Lyra’s world and see her grown up. (Which I think is the deal here?? Dunno, we’ll see.)

60 Books in 2019 #55: Doctor Sleep By Stephen King

Like just about every Stephen King book I’ve read. (I think we’re up to 11 now? 5 Dark Towers plus The Wind In The Keyhole, The Stand, Different Seasons, On Writing, The Shining, It, Needful Things, and Doctor Sleep, so yes, 11!) Doctor Sleep has a lot going on.

In addition to being a sequel to The Shining (Danny Torrance is all grown up!) it’s a love letter to Alcoholics Anonymous, and about psychic kids and the things in this world and others. (GUYS! REMEMBER THAT TIME THAT I READ THE SHINING  AND I COMPARED DANNY TO JAKE CHAMBERS? IN DOCTOR SLEEP HE TURNS TO SOMEONE AND SAYS “THERE ARE OTHER WORLDS THAN THESE” AND I LITERALLY BURST INTO TEARS BECAUSE I LOVE JAKE SO MUCH. Danny, or Dan as he’s known as a grownup is cool too.)

Dan Torrance inherited a lot of things from his Dad, his temper and alcoholism paramount, but also the ghosts. The metaphorical ghosts of that most traumatic winter at The Overlook, but also the literal ghosts of The Overlook which followed Danny and Wendy around for a few years until Dick Halloran taught Danny to lock them away in a Shining constructed lock box.

The True Knot are a nomadic band of energy vampires who drive around the US in RV’s hunting kids who shine, though they call it “the steam.” They’re immortal and nasty and great. I’m sure on a different level of the Tower they’d have found good work with The Sombra Corporation. Their leader, Rose The Hat is ancient, powerful and terrible.

Abra Stone is the most powerful Shining kid ever, and The True want her. When Dan crosses her path by coincidence (or is it?) they become entwined on an adventure. Danny and Abra’s parallells are obvious. Her father is also a writer attempting to finish a book. (He’s not a violent drunk, however…so that’s different) They’re both gifted, affable, kind and empathetic.

In his adulthood, Danny finds a talent for helping people cross over from life to death, which is where the name Doctor Sleep comes from.

Anyway, Dan and Abra fight Rose and The True Knot, and also, Dan goes to a lot of AA meetings. Also Danny releases all his ghosts. Both the metaphorical trauma of his past, and also you know the literal ghosts that tried to kill him when he was five.

Like I said, there’s a lot going on. There’s stuff about 9/11 (which again, in The Song Of Susannah I think? There are advertisements letting the Tahine know that they should be in New York that day. I’m sure The True are related, like It and The Dandelo.) (LOOK, I JUST WANT TO TALK ABOUT THE DARK TOWER ALL THE TIME OK?)

Book’s good. Looking forward to the movie.

Up next is Sorcerer To The Crown by Zen Cho, which was actually recommended to be way back last year when I was asking friends for non white, non male writers who’s work I might like.

 

60 Books In 2019 #45: It By Stephen King

Bill Denbrough is a gunslinger. I thought quietly as the Loser’s Club came together in two timelines throughout the first 500 pages of the epic It. Maybe Beverly Marsh and Mike Hanlon too. Maybe all of them, but definitely, definitely Bill. 

It is a funny book. Even for King, it rambles and fails to cohere in places. It’s brilliant and beautiful and odd and unfathomably strange. It’s  both obsessed with sex and chaste as a nun. It’s about memory and childhood and forgetting and magic and fear, and somehow, not very scary at all?

I can tell you one thing, as all things serve the beam (which gets a shout out as King describes one of the Losers Club’s better summer afternoons), I hate that fucking Turtle a whole lot.

What a godamned useless cosmic entity it is. Spitting up universes with terrible monsters, that infect small Maine towns and eat children my manifesting evil murder clowns and giant birds and what not.

But I love Bill Denbrough. I’ve fallen in love with one character in each of King’s stories that I’ve hit, that I never wanted to let go of, and for It, it’s Bill. (One would think Richie, given my allegiance to second Bananas, but no.) What a great kid! And grownup. And leader. Seriously. I love this character.

The book’s playing with memory is outstanding writing and It, and Pennywise The Dancing Clown are scary monsters. (Though, having read it practically back to back with The Shining, I find the Overlook’s ghosts much creepier.) The Losers Club are a tight band of heroes, a ka-tet worthy of the name.

But man, fuck that fucking Turtle.

Up next is Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett.

60 Books In 2019 #43: The Shining By Stephen King

If you’ve hung around this blog for the past two years, you know how deeply I regret not letting myself be scared and falling into the work of Stephen King years ago. But as I read The Shining last weekend,and stunned a beach house full of graduated Georgia Tech Sorority girls by explaining I’d never read it before. (Well, the ones that had known me for years were stunned. The ones I’d never met before barely cared, which is fair.) I realized even with my pediatrician mandated, mother sleep needing rules against horror in my adolescence, I probably wouldn’t have been reading King anyway.

If there was one thing in the world that I craved as a teenager it was acceptance. I’ve often described myself as feeling like a guest star with my various groups of friends. (This caused one therapist, one of my favorites, who I had to part ways with because of changing insurance, to remind me that “life is not narrative.” Mr. King would probably disagree, Ma’am!) I hid my nerdy obsessions from my friends, where they didn’t fit. With my theater friends, I was all about Sondheim and Schwartz, with my hometown friends I loved indie rock and sitcoms and old movies, with my school friends (who had some theatrical crossover) it was punk rock and YA novels and blockbuster movies. (This allowed the X-Men and Batman to creep in occasionally.)

If I’d gotten into Stephen King then, and started talking about Danny Torrance’s Shine in relation to Jake Chamber’s Touch I don’t know that I could have survived the baffled looks.

This preamble is all to say that talking about The Shining, Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant but very different from this book much to the chagrin of it’s author, film would have been acceptable conversation among all my friends, the book was anathema to them.

Anyway, The Shining, which rules. Just definitively, it’s amazing, and I’m glad I didn’t read it while I was still high on the tower but saved it for when I knew I was going to need a kick start back into his style, with several big deal adaptions on their way.

The book itself is a masterful haunted house story, with The Overlook Hotel taking on a monstrous personality, and it’s mysterious “manager.” (I believe I said outloud as Grady, the long dead caretaker discussed management with Jack Torrance, “The Crimson King?”) Because I began my constant reading journey with The Dark Tower I know I am doomed to feel the pull of the beam whenever I pick up a King book, ya dig? But I was eventually able to see past my own tower induced blinders to the horror and scares at The Shining’s heart, the horrors of addiction and rage and toxic masculinity. The things that consume Jack Torrance as his wife Wendy tries to shelter Danny from them.

And let’s talk about Wendy, shall we? Man, if I’d read this book when it came out and then watched that movie I’d have been PISSED AS HELL about Wendy, who is nothing but a tower of strength and patience balancing on a frayed nerve from her first moments. Granted, King has a tendency to do this with his women, he writes soft hearted survivor ladies, who come out of the crucible of male cruelty saintly and strong. It’s a problem on it’s own but it’s a hell of a sight better than the screaming, whining, snivelling performance given by Shelly Duvall in the movie.

Danny Torrance is a great character, maybe a little young for his role, King hadn’t yet hit his sweet spot of tween hero boys yet, so five year old Danny feels over precocious. (If Danny were 10 he’d be perfect. Then again, if Danny were 10 he’d be Jake Chambers…so there’s that.) (Look, we all know this is ending with me reading The Dark Tower again, I mean, not yet, but it’s going to happen.)

Anyway, I really enjoyed this book. Up next is With The Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo. Let’s get our YA on y’all!