Review of Prince Lestat, by Anne Rice
Review Written by: Justin Boyer
Prince Lestat: The Aeneid, of The Vampire Chronicles
“Turn your two eyes
This way and see this people, your own Romans.
Here is Caesar, and all the line of Iulus,
All who shall one day pass under the dome
Of the great sky: this is the man, this one,
Of whom so often you have heard the promise,
Caesar Augustus, son of the deified,
Who shall bring once again an Age of Gold
To Latium, to the land where Saturn reigned
In early times.”
(Travel into the Underworld; Aeneas’ father Anchises, who speaks in-depth about Aeneas’ heroic destiny to be the purveyor of the “Golden Era,” for Rome)
“The Cross is not a shadow of death, but a sign of progress.” (Teilhard de Chardin)
Prince Lestat accomplishes a feat very few novels, or progressive parts of a series, accomplishes with such surefire confidence. It literally paves the way for the future trajectory of literature into the unknown realms of what lies beyond the post-modern era. Marius wisely says, inThe Vampire Lestat, that the tangible mark of existence can be tactilely represented through the written records of human history. Throughout the Vampire Chronicles, there has been a progressive arc, pointing to some indefinable point beyond the boisterous cynicism representing the vanishing era of the post-modern era, and directing the evolution and progression of human intelligence towards the only mythic point that lies beyond, which exists only in the territory of mythology or myths, referred to by the noteworthy Jesuit priest Teilhard de Chardin, as “the omega point.”
Regardless of your own individual religious perspective, the main thrust behind Teilhard De Chardin’s omega theory, in purely secular terms, describes a much deeper idea of the reason for enlightenment. Teilhard De Chardin describes the purpose of history and writing, in much the same terms, that Marius describes it as implicitly showing the wondrous progressive arc of humanity’s evolving intellectual and ethical ideals, towards some consistently elusive “omega point,” which Teilhard de Chardin described as evolving to the level of (ineffably) being in communion with the divine or God. Those are Teilhard De Chardin’s more religious/spiritual description, though you might simply boil down all this philosophical persiflage to describe the underlying trajectory for Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles.
Anne Rice is undeniably a very sharp writer, who has managed to perceptively articulate the hypothetical ramifications of a forthcoming paradigmatic shift in consciousness, in her return to the Vampire Chronicles with the dense, intellectual tour-de-force of Prince Lestat. If we think of Interview with the Vampire being entrenched in the dark ages, before reaching psychological enlightenment, the more capricious sequelThe Vampire Lestat deals entirely with the concept of how to anachronistically exist as a progressive figure, at a time, where the world is embroiled in superstitious rebellions and wars. One thing Lestat learns early on is that the late eighteenth century was not the ideal moment to really shake things up in both the mortal and immortal worlds, by making people eschew all primeval and antiquated superstitions, in the face of embracing a more enlightened view of humanity, represented allegorically in Lestat’s mind as the savage garden.
Throughout the series, each of the subsequent volumes of the Vampire Chronicles has been Anne Rice’s own metaphoric savage garden, where she has the artistic wherewithal to experiment with different forms and directions with her Vampire Chronicles. Lestat believes that democratic ideals of free will, in terms of enlightened society, acts very much like a savage garden, where humanity progressively tests out different ethical or sociological ideals, till they purge themselves of more moribund ideas, and evolve to assimilate much different ones. Facilely, this takes the form of the “monster,” a composite figure that was first examined sharply by Mary Shelley in the early nineteenth century. And, the “monster” has become the embodiment of the estranged, or the social pariah, who again thinks in such revolutionary terms, that they almost psychologically exist “out of time.” This paradoxical “out-of-timeness” is what causes vampires to eventually bury themselves underneath the thin crust of the Earth, where they wait in unconscious slumber until the time is ripe for their progressive ideas to have more resonance and meaning with the new emergent generation of the “undead” before them. It is almost, as if the act of the way some of the elderly vampires retreat into the Earth, is often how more progressive sociological/ethical ideals are buried in the collective unconscious, until these things are almost fated to be exhumed, brought to new life.
After ten years, the Prince Lestat emerges from Anne Rice’s subconscious, because the time is indeed right, for the greater implications and ramifications of the paradigmatic shift of the events of Queen of the Damned to culminate in one of the most momentous events in the history of the undead. It is as if Anne Rice is eruditely widening the scope of vampire novels everywhere in this new century, allowing them to achieve new ethical, sociological, and aesthetical heights, which the older cultural ideas have long enslaved them to ideas that have become more vapid and irrelevant for readers of this era.
This novel demonstrates Anne Rice’s greatest heights reached, as a talented novelist, as she adeptly articulates the overall artistic and philosophic trajectory of the Vampire Chronicles. Impressively, she takes every disparate element of the series from the start, and ties it together in a new unified whole, finally breathing new blessed life into a series that we thought would rest undisturbed in Anne Rice’s subconscious for another score of years.
Allusively, Prince Lestat is the Aeneid of the Vampire Chronicles, because in many ways, the sharp progression and evolution of vampire civilization in this novel is analogous to the same types of transitions that have been commonplace in human evolution throughout the centuries. If the earlier Vampire Chronicles were like Greece of the BCE times, Prince Lestat is very much the founding of Rome, retold and modified to cohere with the mythic history of the undead.
If you are an attentive Anne Rice reader who has read these books to the point where the binding has deteriorated over the years, the newly-released Prince Lestat will be most rewarding to you, because even the smallest, nuanced details of either the surface or deeper philosophical story of Prince Lestat play an important thematic role with aiding Prince Lestat to help literature, as a whole, be given new trenchant analysis of where our literature, especially speculative fiction itself, is bound to venture into beyond the current literature period of post-modernism.
You will need to read and pore over every small detail of Anne Rice’s Prince Lestat many times over, to see that the story of a tragic comedy actor, emulating the exaggerated person of Lelio, in the Vampire Lestat, has always been fated to take the stage again, helping vampire kind alike to provide a new cosmology, a new mythos, a new set of ethical and sociological constructs, to really help vampires themselves remain as relevant as ever during the fading years of the post-modern era. As you close the book to a new chapter in the Vampire Chronicles, you will undoubtedly be thinking just where this courageous maverick of a vampire writer will dare to take her vampires next time, because Anne Rice, without a doubt, has completely redefined the vampire novel once again with Prince Lestat.”