The Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I am not really a horror reader — I once got scared in a haunted house during the day, when it was empty and deactivated — but I wanted to get into the All Hallows Read spirit.
Because I’m not really experienced with the genre, I can’t tell if this shouldn’t be a horror book or if the things that were supposed to be scary didn’t age well in the CSI TV era, but never was a shiver to be found.
(I also didn’t realize until I had bought it from the bookstore that it was the third book in a series. Luckily, Rice put in enough ‘reminders’ of things from previous books that I don’t think I missed anything, but that also may have impaired my reading.)
Instead, The Queen of the Damned was an intellectual musing on vampires, immortality, the failings of humanity and our reliance on religion. Most of the things that may have been supposed to be chilling were really just philosophical questions — Are there supernatural beings? Is there a God? Would the world be better off without men in it? Could and should an immortal creature deceive humans into believing she was god? — that the characters end up literally sitting around a table to muse about in the big climax.
It all adds up to a bunch of questions that would have been interesting to talk to Anne Rice about, but weren’t exactly heart-pounding to read.
That’s not to say Rice isn’t an incredible writer. She has definitely earned her place as a top novelist. Her characters are distinctive, human but also otherworldly as they take on the vampire change, possessing logic but still ultimately flawed. Her descriptions of place are vivid on more than a detail scale, imbuing everything with emotion. Her storytelling is effortless, pulling the reader gently along.
Because it was written in 1988, it was fun to imagine how this book would be different if it were written today. So much would be the same, but the things that were different — the internet, cell phones — could have dramatically changed the course of the story. Then again, it is tragic to see those things that are the same — war in Afghanistan, deprivation in Haiti, starvation in India. In fact, that ended up being the most profound part of the book for me, that it has been 25 years and these problems remain.
Ultimately, this was a book that would be a pleasure to dissect and to learn from, but the menace was gone. It’s not my usual fare, and I wouldn’t recommend it as a scary read either.