This is the third of my posts on Anne Rice and her Vampire Chronicles novels which she says, “transparently reflect a journey through atheism and back to God.” (Anne Rice, Called Out of Darkness, Chatto and Windu. London, 2008, p 147)
When we last left Lestat, the atheist vampire Anne identifies with, here, he had awakened in 1985 after spending 56 years in the ground and had written a book revealing the origins of the vampires.
Lestat turns his story into song lyrics and music videos are made, provoking the wrath of other vampires who plan to kill him for exposing their secrets. Lestat is a heretic and an apostate who has broken with tradition and what is expected of him, which is perhaps reminiscent of the way Anne has abandoned her Catholic roots.
Lestat and his band Satan’s Night Out plan to put on a concert in San Francisco, hoping it will bring out the other vampires, but the doesn’t know if Marius will kill him for revealing their secrets.
Before the concert, Louis returns and they are reconciled. All is forgiven.
The concert is disrupted when other vampires show up wanting to kill him, but they explode in flames. Then his mother Gabrielle re-appears after 200 years and they escape.
Lestat is reunited with his other half Gabrielle and reconciled with Louis. But before he can enjoy being whole again, the vampire queen Akasha appears and abducts Lestat and the novel The Vampire Lestat ends on a cliffhanger.
The third novel The Queen of the Damned (1988) begins where The Vampire Lestat left off. This time the narrative is more complicated, told from multiple points of view, not just Lestat’s, covering the events leading up to the concert.
This includes the story of the red-haired twin sisters, Maharet and Mekare, who were witches in ancient Israel, contemporaries of Enkil and Akasha, and had a “familiar spirit”, a demon called Amel. In brief, they are kidnapped by Akasha’s soldiers and taken to Egypt. Maharet is raped by the king’s steward, Khayman, and gives birth to a daughter Miriam. The demon Amel enters Enkil and Akasha when they are wounded, creating the first vampires. Mekare is blinded and swears she will destroy Akasha. The twins and Khayman are made into vampires. The sisters are separated. Mekare vanishes while Maharet keeps track of her descendants through Miriam over thousands of years.
It looks like the origins of the vampires were more complicated than Lestat realised. He did not have all the answers.
Maharet is emotionally connected to her children, making her a more positive mother figure than the emotionally disconnected Gabrielle and the genocidal Akasha. She arguably reflects Anne’s hopes for a more ideal mother, in contrast to her own alcoholic mother. (Katherine Ramsland, Prism of the Night, Penguin, New York, 1994, p 306)
The Queen of the Damned is a Battle of the Mothers between Akasha and Maharet over the fate of vampires and humans. The father figures, Enkil and Khayman, are sidelined.
Marius had been playing Lestat’s music videos to Enkil and Akasha who awakens, kills Enkil and escapes, leaving Marius trapped. Like Lestat and Gabrielle, Maharet and Mekare, there us a sense of dualism, they are two parts of one being. When Akasha kills her male half, she is incomplete and out of balance.
Marius is rescued by his long lost love Pandora and Santino who attacked him in Venice and abducted Armand 600 years earlier. They join Louis and Gabrielle and the other vampires at Maharet’s home. Marius is reunited with Armand after 600 years. Lestat’s actions have resulted in reunions and reconciliation. Louis, who one believed Armand was the oldest vampire, is brought into a wider community of older, ancient vampires.
Meanwhile, Lestat has been abducted by Akasha. She has been destroying the other vampires, while sparing Lestat’s “friends”, reminiscent of the original Passover in Exodus. Mael, the vampire who created Marius, comments, “She spares those whom Lestat loves,” (Anne Rice, The Queen of the Damned, Warner, London, 1994, p 250). Just as Christians are saved from the wrath of God through their relationship with Jesus, the vampires, who have a relationship with Lestat, including “friends of friends”, are spared from Akasha’s wrath.
They are reluctant to kill Akasha because they believe all vampires are connected to her, and they will also die if she does.
Akasha has decided to take over the world and set herself up as the Goddess and Queen of Heaven. Paraphrasing Jesus, she says, “I am the way now, the way to the only hope of life without strife that there may ever be.” (The Queen of the Damned, p 459) She plans to kill 99% of the men in the world because they are responsible for all the violence and suffering. She asks, “Tell me, my prince, what is the primary purpose of men now, if it is not to protect women from other men?” (The Queen of the Damned, p 431)
Akasha’s arguments are logical, but you know she is still wrong.
She plans to keep Lestat alive because, “I love you because you are so perfectly what is wrong with all things male. Aggressive, full of hate and recklessness, and eloquent excuses for violence – you are the essence of masculinity” (The Queen of the Damned, p 432).
This sounds odd since Anne said Lestat is the character she identified with (Michael Riley, Interview with Anne Rice, Random, Sydney, 1996, p 22-23). She also described herself as growing up with no sense of gender identity (Called Out of Darkness, p 78, 114) and as feeling like a gay man in a woman’s body (Prism of the Night, p 105). Anne has her male side, perhaps similar to the way the male Lestat and the female Gabrielle make one complete person (Prism of the Night, p 253). Is there any inner conflict in the words which Anne puts into Akasha’s mouth against men?
In Prism of the Night, Katherine Ramsland suggested that to Anne, “Akasha represented the destructive power of religion on a massive scale. Anne believed that humanity should keep moving toward enlightenment free of religious tranny, and her sympathies were with Maharet and Marius. ” (Prism of the Night, p 307)
Akasha seems to represent more than that. She represents all those, religious or secular, who want to fix a legitimate problem but their solution is worse than the problem. Marxism started out with legitimate concerns about poverty, exploitation and injustice, and ended up killing over 90 million people.
Akasha may want to save humanity (by killing half of it), but she is also the vampire who is most detached from humanity. Why would she want to save it? Unlike Akasha, Lestat and his friends have a foot in both worlds, human and vampire. Akasha has been isolated and unmoving for thousands of years. She is clearly less than human.
As mentioned earlier, several characters became vampires as young adults, about the same time Anne became an atheist, suggesting becoming a vampire is symbolic of becoming an atheist. Yet, Lestat and the other vampires still cling to their humanity. Likewise, Anne may have become an atheist but she still clings to her Catholic heritage and never completely abandons it the way many atheists do. Not many atheists write novels with religious themes like Anne does. Akasha, the pure vampire, detached from humanity, is something undesirable, the enemy, which perhaps reflects the way deep down Anne found the implications of atheism, a world without God, undesirable.
Under Akasha’s influence, Lestat participates in the killing of men. He is both enthralled and horrified by Akasha’s plan.
Akasha takes Lestat to Maharet and the other vampires, They try to persuade her to relent and that humanity is worth saving, that the modern world and progress is a good thing, while Akasha argues it has just made more violence and suffering possible.
Reminiscent of Jesus, the vampires are prepared to sacrifice themselves to save humanity because they believe if they kill Akasha, they will also die.
Then Mekare shows up, kills Akasha, taking the demon Amel into herself so the other vampires can survive. Mekare had been blinded by Akasha thousands of years earlier. Like Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert and The Matrix Revolutions, there is the idea of a blind messiah. I am not sure what it is supposed to mean.
In spite of all the death and suffering, Lestat admits he has learned nothing,
“I’m the same devil I always was, the young man who would have center stage, where you can best see me, and maybe love me.” (The Queen of the Damned, p 7)
“Come on, say it again, I’m a perfect devil. Tell me how bad I am. It makes me feel so good!” (The Queen of the Damned, p 573)
The novel ends with the vampire s living together on the Night Island owned by Armand. It looks like they are going to live happily ever.
To be continued