Review - Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
Friday, April 22, 2016
So, remember about how eight years ago the Twilight series was at the peak of its popularity? Well, with that came quite a bit of criticism for the novels, the main point being that Meyer’s interpretation of vampires was unrealistic and, to put it bluntly, weak and not at all threatening. When I was online during those years, I saw post after post about how Anne Rice was the best writer of vampire fiction out there, about how her stories were so awesome and that her vampires were real vampires. Moreover, there was constant praise for a vampire called Lestat, that he was so cool and was an interesting and compelling character. People couldn’t praise the series enough back in those days.
Anne Rice in general is a pretty household name when it comes to famous authors, and her arguably most popular novel – Interview with the Vampire – had been on my radar for ages. It wasn’t until recently, when my father and I started to talk books, that I decided to really buckle down and read the book. We’re both a fan of horror and gothic movies, with his interest extending to the same in stories. I, however, have never read a properly spooky/gothic adult book and when he took up the Dresden Files series I’ve been pressuring him to read, he made me promise to pick up Interview with the Vampire.
I have to admit, I went into this book with preconceived and very high expectations. After all the praise it had gotten over the years, after all the copies that have sold, I was expecting an awe-inspiring, spooky, epic read. Further, seeing as how I wasn’t allowed to watch the movie as a child because it was inappropriate and that the synopsis itself said “chillingly erotic,” I was like, “Alright! Time for some gore and nice vampire sex!”
That’s… Not what I got.
Rather than the entire story being about this Lestat character I had heard so much about, the protagonist is actually a man called Louis, who was turned into a vampire by Lestat’s doing. The latter being a secondary, but still very important character. The first third of the book centers around Louis coming to terms that he is a “creature of the devil” and him adjusting and learning the ins and outs of being a vampire. The second part of the story starts when both men create another vampire (it’s a long story; basically it was a means for Lestat to get Louis to accept his vampire tendencies and feed on humans) this time a small child named Claudia. This, of course, results in Claudia forever being trapped in a child’s body, despite living for decades. Before long, all three form a strange, tentative family of sorts but it isn’t long before Lestat starts acting very possessive, if abusive to the others. Determined to be free, both Louis and Claudia escape from him, but it’s not without dire consequences that eventually come back to haunt them.
To be honest, my feelings for this book changed quite a bit while I made my way through it. At the beginning, things were quite stimulating, seeing as there was quite a bit of world and character development, not to mention that we have to digest Rice’s “rules” about vampirism. Since the story is told from Louis’ perspective, we get a great sense of the confusion and hurt he feels upon being turned into a vampire as well as the inner turmoil he feels concerning his faith and the fact that he’s “damned.” Too, we get to see his struggles first hand and that really helps to paint him in a sympathetic light. The reader feels like they’ve really made a connection and gotten to know him. This extends to the other characters as well – at least to a certain degree.
So, the book certainly doesn’t lack character development. But that is one of the main things that made the novel so frustrating to me. I’d think I have the characters’ motivations and personality pinned down, then they’d turn around and do something completely unexpected. Or something that I thought was “out of character.” It almost felt like they were constantly changing, almost too quickly for me to comprehend at any one point in time. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it was an overly bad thing. Such character development meant that they stayed not only interesting, but that we also got to see the best and the worst in all the characters - from their nicest gestures to their ugliest thoughts. Moreover, I felt that the praise Rice received for her characters was definitely laudable. They’re memorable, complex and unapologetically themselves. Meaning that they weren’t afraid to accept their darker nature.
Well, at least most characters. Like I said earlier, perhaps the main focus of the book is how Louis struggled to come to terms with what he had become. This was where the other big issue I had with the book came into play. Literally half of the book is spent on Louis bemoaning his fate and succumbing to the woe-is-me outlook on life. (Afterlife?) Anyway, I’m all about some angst in novels, but his negativity and self-pity made me come close to putting the book down.
Luckily, though, I’m not one to set aside a book after I’ve spent so much time reading through the first half. And the book certainly picked up in the final act of the story. Murder, drama, revenge… All of it coalesces into a perfect climax and, believe it or not, the ending is really what made the story satisfying for me. Given the point that Louis was trying to get across in his “interview,” the first parts of the story started to make quite a bit of sense, as well as Louis’ outlook concerning his fate. The fact that Rice can make her “monsters” so human is truly a testament to her ability as a writer. The relationships the characters form, whether borne out of love or hate, are intricate and meaningful. Her prose is beautiful, almost lyrical, and certainly has the ability to transport the reader right into the middle of her world. Lastly, the book – while satisfying – leaves the reader with much more questions than answers, meaning you’ll be wanting to pick up the sequel right away.
For me, it’s hard to give a certain rating or good review to this book. I loved it and I hated it. There were times I wanted to throw the book and other times, I was so enamored that I couldn’t look away. I could sympathize with some of the characters’ actions but could condemn others. I could love a character one moment and hate them the next (Lestat was a big issue in that I had heard so much about him and built him up as a great character in my head, only to be disappointed when he acted like a total douchebag the whole time.) There were aspects of the novel that annoyed me, sure, but the pros certainly outweighed the cons and – ultimately – I think this book certainly deserves all the praise, awards, and accolades it has received over the years and I certainly don’t regret picking it up. After all, if a book can cause you to feel so much, is the source of inspired discussion, and leaves you thinking about it hours after having turned the last page - then the author is certainly doing something right.
So, if you like darker tales, stories with great character development, or are a fan of the supernatural, then Rice is definitely an author to look into and Interview with the Vampire is an excellent place to start. (Just know that there is no hot, vampire sex and that Lestat is an ass. Ha!)
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