Monday, December 20, 2010
Posted by lea at 3:35 PM
Interview with the Vampire begins with an intriguing and gripping premise: Louis, a 200 year old vampire from New Orleans, permits an interview with a young journalist, retelling the story of his life. The nerves and fascination of the reporter fuel our own, as we hear Louis's story of his 'making' by Lestat, the vampire who created him in order to share his wealth and plantation.
Despite his newfound vampire status and appetite, Louis never quite lets go of his human nature, which makes for a fascination and haunting tale of internal struggle and external strife. Louis and Lestat, locked in an unsatisfying relationship of co-dependency, mutually create Claudia (against Louis's desire to inflict vampirism on anyone), a young girl who grows into a deadly and intelligent young woman trapped in a little girl's body, and eventually incites Louis's betrayal of Lestat.
Claudia and Louis travel the world to find others of their kind, discovering them finally in Paris at the Theatre des Vampire. Louis finds his soul mate in Armand, and from this point, the novel becomes extremely homo-erotic despite the absence of actual physical sex (except when he feels the 'hard sex' of Armand's slave boy press against his body as he offers himself to Louis. For bloodsucking, not for sex - get your mind out of the gutter).
Partway through the book, the story starts to lose steam and Louis's philosophical who-am-I becomes quite tedious, as I'm sure it must have been for him after 200 years. Rice poses a lot of big questions (Is there a God? Who created vampires? Are they inherently evil?) that are never really answered (except the last question, where Rice tends toward no - they've just grown bored and detached through the years and lose the human ability to empathise or love), and in the end we become even more confused about the whys and wheres and hows of vampirism.
The website annerice.com explains that Interview with the Vampire started as a short story which Rice turned later into a full novel. That explains a bit for me, because the pace of the novel is certainly not as good as it could have or should have been, considering the calibre of the writing. Well, most of it anyway. At times it becomes all too flowery and dramatic, but for the most part, it's quite beautifully penned.
Back to the pacing issues: Rice spends way too long dwelling on the early years in New Orleans with Lestat, which in the scheme of things was not as important a chapter in Louis's life as the latter years, when he meets Armand and goes through what appears to be the vampire equivalent of a nervous breakdown. Also, she never answers the obvious question of whether his family has noticed his vampirism (pale skin, aversion to sunlight, sleeping in a coffin... any of it ring a bell?) and the sudden addition of another pale-skinned, sunlight-averse, coffin-sleeping male in the household.
The revelation of what sets Louis apart from other vampires comes late in the book, and Lestat's degeneration leads only to more questions. Why did he set himself apart from the other vampires, when he obviously knew of their existence? Why does he follow them to Paris and desperately ask to talk to Louis and then say nothing of significance to him? And why do I keep imagining him as a badly made-up Tom Cruise?
Overall, I found the book a very intriguing read, but certainly flawed. I'm told the second and third books (The Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned are better, but I'm not sure whether I'll read them yet. I only planned my Vampire Fiction series to be a three-part thing, but I'm of two minds whether to read Dracula as well... anyone out there read it yet? Is it better than Interview?