Title: Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis
Author: Anne Rice
Publisher: Chatto & Windus
Location of publisher: London
Year of Publication: 2016
Number of pages: 451 (including appendices)
Date I finished reading it: 11 January 2017
Fiction or nonfiction: Fiction
Genres*: Vampires, supernatural, Atlantean legends, fantasy, extra-terrestrials, sci fi horror, spirituality
Personal reflections upon reading this book:
As I mentioned in a previous post, tales of the uncanny, the supernatural, and mysterious legends have long captured my imagination. I’ve loved Anne Rice novels from the first time I read Violin and then Interview with the Vampire, circa 1996, as a teenager grappling with a whole lot of difficult stuff in my life. Books like hers were a life raft to me, in the tumultuous sea of teenage angst and isolation being the resident “weirdo” and “goth” in my class. So you can probably imagine my excitement when I heard she was writing an Atlantis novel as part of her Vampire Chronicles. And then imagine my excitement when, having expressed how happy I was to hear this news, she actually replied to me (on 20 August, 2016, to be precise)!
If you ever hear of her talking about her “People of the Page,” I’m one of them: one of the many Anne Rice fans who’ve followed her facebook journey over the years. I was following her when it was still just her personal facebook profile page, before facebook made her create an official ‘like’ page. (Elderly lady voice:) Back in those days we didn’t have a newsfeed, and had to go and actively look at our friends’ profiles to see what they’d been up to. And most people’s profiles were awash with third party applications like that one where you could have a virtual pet and race it against other friends’ virtual pets. My kids just won’t know how hard it was back in the old days of social media…
But I digress.
I couldn’t possibly boil down everything I love about Anne Rice’s writings into one post. Admittedly, I haven’t read all of her novels (shock, horror) though I have read most of them. I particularly love her Vampire Chronicles, Angel Time, Christ the Lord, and Wolf Gift series. I’ve tried some of her other novels but in the end it’s the Vampires that keep me coming back, and I’m so happy she decided to start writing them again.
The most recent two books have been magnificent. Prince Lestat is genius – somehow Rice tied together all these complex, seemingly disparate threads from earlier novels to describe the origins of the Vampires. We discover that they are given their immortality, thirst for blood and ability to reproduce their kind through the ethereally embodied presence of the great spirit Amel, whose ghostly tentacles link all the vampires on the planet. However, Amel, being stretched to the limits of his being, can no longer handle any more vampires being attached to him, and so a frenzy of vampire deaths ensues as the spirit who secretly controls them starts to turn them against each other.
In Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis, the story is picked up where Prince Lestat left off and explores the origins of Amel himself. It is a fascinating story, and a unique interpretation of the Atlantis legends. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, lest anyone here hasn’t read it yet. It offers an alternate history for planet Earth and human evolution (much like Memnoch the Devil did, another Anne Rice novel and one that ties into Realms of Atlantis).
The part of the story that explores Atlantis also offers a powerful critique of the punitive, violent variants of Christianity, too – the sort that glorify suffering, that characterise God as a cruel monster who demands barbaric sacrifice and calls it ‘love’ (God as the abusive narcissistic parent figure). Which, as a quiet follower of the teachings of Jesus Christ, I must admit I found it initially found to be a little jarring – I was thinking to myself, “But I don’t believe in that God,” – but her criticisms are important and valid and important food for thought. Though I am not particularly well-versed on them, there are other historically accepted theological traditions that are outside the culturally and socio-politically powerful penal substitutionary atonement variants of Christianity, but until more people of faith start to question it, it will remain – for better or worse – a dominant paradigm of faith, and the paradigm that is taken for granted as being core Christian doctrine. (To clarify, most Christians in my life, knowingly or unknowingly, accept this paradigm as essential to their faith and I am not taking it away from them – I’m just one of these people that likes to ask a lot of questions.) Likewise, in Prince Lestat, Rice rightfully and scathingly critiques the industry of religious homes for “troubled” women, as experienced by the character Rose. [As a side note, a useful nonfiction book on that topic is one that I have mostly finished reading, John Weaver’s 2014 The Failure of Evangelical Mental Health Care, which explores and discusses the history of Christian counselling and exorcism as a popular alternative to science-based mental health care.] Anne Rice’s journey into, and out of, organised religion is well-documented in other spaces, and while last I heard she still identified as a believer in Jesus, I appreciate that she asks a lot of the same questions of faith that I have.
Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis explores further how the spirit Amel links and unifies – but ultimately imprisons – the vampires, as they come to understand that their lives depend upon him and seek a way to disengage from his ethereal tentacles. It’s such a fascinating mythos and I really like the way the different characters engage with that question. Apart from being an interesting, complex kind of plot, one thing I particularly love about this novel is how each character has their own unique personality and motivations. As someone who loves to write stories, I find great inspiration in the way Anne Rice develops her stories, through deep reading and research, but also through giving individual characters distinct personalities.
*Please note, when I write “genres,” I am listing my personal, subjective interpretation of keywords I believe apply to the text, and not offering any kind of expert opinion on the publishers’ own categorisation of the text.