MemnochTheDevilAnne Rice
Ballantine Publishing
1995

Lestat here.  You know who I am?  Then skip the next few paragraphs.  For those whom I have not met before, I want this to be love at first sight.

The Vampire Lestat – outsider, canny monster, hero-wanderer – is snatched from the world itself by the most dangerous adversary he has ever known: Memnoch, a mysterious being who claims to be the Devil.  He is invited to be a witness at the Creation.  He is taken like the ancient prophets into the heavenly realm and is ushered into Purgatory.  Lestat must decide if he can believe in the Devil or in God.  And finally, he must decide which, if either, he will serve…

There.  I just read the fifth in the much-ballyhooed Vampire Chronicles series by Anne Rice.  Well, maybe “ballyhooed” isn’t quite the right word to use.  Not many so-called “vampire fiction readers” know too much about the Vampire Chronicles beyond Interview With The Vampire and Queen Of The Damned, and mostly because of those movie adaptations.  Which would include The Vampire Lestat by default, I guess.  But anyway, what I’m trying to point out here is, there’s not much that just casual readers of modern vampire fiction know about the books that follow those three, including this one that I just finished reading: Memnoch The Devil.

For those of you who only know their fictional vampire characters to be of the sparkly variety,  Anne Rice pretty much revitalized the whole vampire fiction genre with Interview With The Vampire, which featured the character Lestat.  And while he wasn’t the star of the novel per se, he was featured prominently, and thus the following four novels in what became the Vampire Chronicles were written in Lestat’s point of view, essentially in the unreliable first-person narrative (go look it up).

In Memnoch The Devil, we find our favorite undead French ponce stalking some prey in the form of a crime boss when he’s suddenly overcome with the distinct feeling that he’s being followed and watched.  Again.  This seems to happen to him a lot.  But anyway, after he finally drains the crime boss, and has the ghost of the crime boss make him promise to look after his televangelist daughter, he is confronted by Satan himself!  Only, he doesn’t want to be called Satan…or Lucifer or whatever other nickname he’s been saddled with since creation fell.  No, he prefers Memnoch, because…I don’t know.  He offers Lestat a proposal: Become his lieutenant in Hell, so that he can win the battle against God.  Lestat, being something of an open-minded atheist (go figure), demands to hear both sides of the story, not really wanting to get tangled up in anything like this.  None of his concern, and all.  So, Memnoch agrees, takes him first into Heaven, where they meet God briefly enough for God to say, “Hey, what’s up?” to Lestat before Memnoch decides that’s enough from God’s side of things, then proceeds to take Lestat on a guided trip through time, from the Creation, through the evolution of man, to what led up to Memnoch’s fall to…well, present day.  And he takes over half of the novel to do this.  Whereas God Himself was allowed only a couple of seconds or so.  Whatever.

So, yeah, essentially Memnoch The Devil is a dissertation on theology and cosmology, wrapped up in a nifty Vampire Chronicles tortilla.  A good portion of the book – over half of it, as a matter of fact – is spent with Memnoch telling his side of the tale, while Lestat pipes in once in a while to remind us that he’s still in the story.  Kind of a Greek Chorus of one.  You get the sense that more questions are being raised than are being answered, and by the end you come away a bit more confused than when you started.  I know I did.

It took me a bit longer than usual to read Memnoch The Devil straight through.  And it really had nothing to do about the theology presented within; I get that it’s fiction.  No, while I enjoy Anne Rice’s style of writing immensely, the characters she writes always seem to love the sound of their own voices.  Several times I caught myself thinking, “move it along, please”, even doing that particular motion with my hands.  In other words, I now know what it’s like for someone listening to me tell them a story.

Anyway, Memnoch The Devil wasn’t bad, but not the best entry in The Vampire Chronicles.  Still, heads and tails better than that other popular vampire fiction series that shall remain nameless.

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