The Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
If Ayn Rand had written her capitalist manifesto, "Atlas Shrugged," half this well, we'd have several second-world countries STILL trying to prove that she was a visionary, and that her system could work -- because never doubt that "The Queen of the Damned" is a philosophical screed, and the best of its kind.
For me, this is still the ultimate vampire novel. Anne Rice doesn't just have creepy-crawlies in her stories. She doesn't just animate corpses. She doesn't just give them heartbroken souls and immortal, wealthy flair. She doesn't just have a huge cast of characters, and flip between points of view with seeming ease and grace. No, Anne Rice has a MESSAGE, and she means to tell it here.
Through the prism of vampire magic, we're given a view of the vastness of time and the evolving role of Man in the world. We see through the veil all the way to ancient times, and we meet the representative of all ancient rulers in the person of Akasha, the so-called "Queen of the Damned." Akasha is cruel and self-serving; she strives always to find meaning in the world and despairs that there is none, so she takes it upon herself to become that meaning. She did it in old Egypt (called Kemet in this tale) by constantly rationalizing herself as blessed among mortals, all the while doubting that anything supernatural existed that could bestow such a blessing. When, through a misadventure in manipulation of Earth spirits, she becomes the world's first vampire (and subsequently makes her husband one as well), she spins the tale of Osiris and Iris to justify her existence as a goddess.
Fast forward to nearly-modern day, and the awakening of Akasha from her centuries-long slumber. After draining her ancient mate, she slays nearly all of the vampires on the planet, then abducts Lestat, the charming vampire rake who woke her, and unleashes her plan for vampires to rescue mankind by death to 90% of all males. After all, she blames the male sex for all the wars and rapes and subjugation in the world, and she takes it upon herself and her overwhelming strength to fix it. Lestat is employed as her death angel, but eventually she is forced to confront the vampires she spared from the fury that began the book. They try to reason with her, but as they observed, every vampire bears the mark of the time that produced them; she is ancient, and she is bound to ancient instincts and her ancient megalomania. She won't be turned. Fortunately, an old curse rises and she is killed, but the book left its mark.
Does mankind deserve a chance to get it all right on its own, or would it indeed be better if a supernatural force of some kind (any kind) intervened to show us the way? Would the world be a paradise if governed solely by women? Does violence justify the results?
It is for the sake of this book's ability to make me think, and to give me the room to decide for myself, that I love it so much. Yes, Rice offers her own opinion, sprinkled through the tale and especially weighty in the outcome, but that doesn't lessen the underlying message that in the end, we are ALL masters of our own fate and sovereigns over our own reality. Even if you decide to forfeit your right to decide for yourself, you're the one who turned over the control to another.
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