The Mummy, or Ramses the Damned

Courtesy of bookfever.comSo I mentioned in my last post that I enjoyed the writings of Anne Rice, so I thought I’d review one of my favorites of hers. And as I sit here typing, I realize that its been quite a long time since I’ve actually read an Anne Rice book. Shame on me. 🙂 At any rate, one of my personal favorites of hers is The Mummy, or Ramses the Damned. I confess myself to being a total geek of any and all things Ancient Egyptian. I even have an eye of Horus tattoo.

This book takes place in Victorian era London and Cairo, at the height of the mummy craze that caused so much of Egypt’s cultural treasures to go walkabout and not return. Heiress Julie Stratford’s father Lawrence has so much money that he can run off to Egypt on archaeological digs for funsies (I wish I had that problem). For some reason I fail to grasp, he brings his money-grubbing nephew Henry along for the ride. This proves fatal as Henry murders Lawrence inside a freshly opened tomb in Egypt (I don’t wish I had that problem). Its a foolish ploy to try and get himself some more inheritance.

Unbeknownst to Henry, someone witnessed the murder, the mummy of Ramses II. Millenia ago, Ramses ingested something called the Elixir of Life. It was the closely guarded secret of a Nubian priestess, who warned Ramses of the consequences of using the elixir. He ignored her (as people do when it comes to immortality, at least in books) and drank the elixir. It gave him everlasting life and youth, the sun giving him the ability to heal any found (kinda Superman-y, but okay). It increased his appetite (food wise and sex wise, though he was unable to sire any more children. That’s okay, he’d had quite a few by then anyway).

Unfortunately, he out lived his wife, his lovers, his children and grandchildren. He wandered, learning new languages and cultures, but still was unable to rest. He is unable to sleep, which I think would be the worst part of the whole thing because I love to sleep. Eventually, after losing Cleopatra (whom he loved very much), he tried to bring about an end to his eternity. The closest thing he could come to was basically hibernation. Since the sun gave him life, he took himself out of the sun. He had himself mummified alive, locked in a sarcophagus and then buried.

When Henry killed Lawrence in the burial chamber, there’s just enough light for Ramses to waken somewhat but not enough for him to do anything about it. Not long after, Ramses is taken back to London, to the home of Julie Stratford where he would be displayed and unwrapped at a party. Yes, this was absolutely a thing. Thanks Britain!

Julie opens the sarcophagus to see what her father gave his life for. Still in mourning, she doesn’t notice anything unusual about the mummy or her cousin Henry’s odd behavior. When Henry tries to poison her, Ramses, still lethargic from his millenia long hibernation, goes after him. After that, shenanigans about culminating in a trip back to Egypt with the now fully living Ramses and the heiress Julie Stratford, as well as the requisite escorts as Julie is an unmarried young woman and Ramses is an uber-hot sex machine (almost literally in this book).

I wouldn’t call this steampunk as it doesn’t have the love of bronze and gadgetry that typifies steampunk novels. I think I’d probably call this more of a Victorian horror novel. Anne Rice is amongst my favorite authors because she can describe something so well that you can almost feel yourself immersed in it. This book was great for an Egyptophile like me (don’t know if that’s word, but it is now if not). I’m honestly not a fan of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (blasphemous I know) but if you liked that book and/or Bram Stoker’s Dracula, you couldn’t go wrong with giving this a shot. Rating: A+

Interview with the Vampire

Well why don’t we start with the classics eh? When I was in junior high, Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice was made into a movie. I had not read the book at this point but I wanted to see the movie so bad that my folks ended up renting it for me. On VHS. Man I’m old. 🙂 At any rate, I loved it so much that as soon as I finished it, I watched it again. And then I went out and found the book.

Oh man. What a book. This is probably the quintessential modern vampire book. This book has been the jumping off point for so many fans and writers and I’m just one of them. I always thought that the mark of a truly great writer is someone who, when you read their work, can make you picture what’s going on with such clarity that you feel like you are right there alongside their characters. Anne Rice has this gift as well as some of my other favorite authors like Simon R. Green, Jim Butcher and J.K. Rowling.

The first book in a series, Interview with the Vampire focuses on Louis, a Louisiana plantation owner who lost a wife and baby in birth. It starts in modern San Francisco where Louis finders himself followed by a reporter and decides to speak with the boy. Instead of killing him since the boy seemed to notice something unusual about Louis, he decides to give the reporter his rather long life’s story.

We switch from modern era to colonial times. Depressed from the deaths of his wife and child, Louis tries his damnedest to get his himself killed either with drink or another vice that would lead to violence (gambling, prostitution etc). Lestat is the vampire who sees this and decides that he wants this man, this highly emotional man, as a companion through the centuries. Lestat changes him into a vampire. Louis does not deal well with this.

He tries to live his life as he had before but being unable to go out in the sun really puts a damper on things. The slaves become suspicious of the pair of them. Louis does noting to allay their fears and essentially ends up throwing away his life because of what I can only put as survivors’ guilt. He is still alive, will be for centuries, and his beloved wife and child will never have that chance. Seeing that his companion’s self destructive streak is far from over , Lestat essentially tries to bully him into killing humans. Louis has been feeding on animals up to this point. This plan backfires and makes Louis feel even guiltier, especially when he happens upon young Claudia.

Claudia’s mother dies in a plague that sweeps New Orleans. Louis finds Claudia with the body. Lestat comes upon them and fearing that Louis is set to leave him, turns Claudia into a vampire. Into their daughter. Louis is horrified but simply can’t leave Claudia in the hands of Lestat, despite the fact that she is almost a miniature version of him. She takes to killing appallingly easy.

After many years together however, Claudia comes to the realization that she will never be anything physically other than a six year old girl no matter how much she changes mentally. She figures out that Lestat changed her and it makes her mad. Mad enough to kill him. Well, attempt to at any rate. Lestat survives the initial attempt and comes back for revenge. Louis sets light to their apartments and escapes with Claudia. At this point, they believe Lestat to be truly dead. (spoiler: he isn’t)

The twosome travel to Europe looking for more of their kind as they never found them in America. Initially, they are disappointed because they find vampires that are little more than blood drinking zombies. Its in Paris that they find others much more like them, the Theatre de Vampires. These vampires are actors. They pretend to be humans who are pretending to be vampires and feed on humans in live plays. The humans who attend the plays to be frightened and entertained appear to be none the wiser as there are no pitchforks or torches.

The leader of the Theatre des Vampires is a quietly charming, auburn haired vampire named Armand. Armand is also looking for a companion with a bit more depth of character than his coven of actors. He is immediately attracted to Louis (not sexually really but intellectually). Armand is 400 years old and at this point in the series, he is the oldest vampire that Louis and Claudia have ever met.

Claudia, of course, sees that Louis and Armand get along like a house on fire (no pun intended). She believes, like Lestat once did, that Louis will leave her. She wants a companion of her own, someone to care for her, but she is unable to change someone. She’s either too young or too small to do so. So she forces Louis to change a woman she met, Madeleine, who lost a daughter some time ago, which he does under protest.

Here is where the book differs quite a bit from the movie. In the movie, Lestat does not come back at the end of the movie but here, with the Theatre des Vampires. He survived the fire and went to Armand, making accusations against Louis and Claudia. Armand himself doesn’t do anything but the other vampires abduct the newly minted threesome of vampires. They seal Louis in a coffin to starve for centuries and they set Madeleine and Claudia where they cannot escape the sun. Armand releases Louis the day after Claudia and Madeleine die and he is broken.

Louis takes his revenge by killing the Theatre des Vampires. Armand escapes with Louis and they travel for a while but Louis clearly resents him. They drift apart. From then until sometime in the 20th century, Louis survives on his own until he runs into the boy. Even after all this time, Louis is still hurting and wants to share with someone, anyone, that immortality is not what its cracked up to be. The boy, of course, doesn’t get this and begs to be made a vampire. Louis refuses, going to far as to try and scare the notion out of him with a show of how utterly inhuman vampires are. It doesn’t work and the boy (later we find out that his name is Daniel) tries to find Lestat. He eventually ends up with Armand but that is another story.

Wow, probably my longest review so far. I loved this book. It was the book that got me into fantasy books. If you haven’t, for some reason, read this book you really should. Like right now. Later books in the Vampire Diaries series kind of jump the shark but the first few are well worth the read. Rating: A+

Back to My Beginnings

I am really into vampires.  No, they aren’t real. No, I don’t pretend to be one.  And again, they do not sparkle! But I very much like to read books where the main characters are vamps.  It all started for me with the movie Interview with the Vampire.  Yes, the movie.  Before that, I always thought of fantasy creatures such as vampires and werewolves were scary.  This is probably because my dad liked the original Dracula with Bela Lugosi and other classic horror movies and impressed upon me that vampires = scary.

The movie Interview with the Vampire changed that perspective for me. I wasn’t really scared of anything in that movie. I was, however, very intrigued.  Vampires weren’t entirely monstrous.  Indeed, the main character of the movie, Louis, tries very much to be human.  He attempts not to live off human blood for the longest time and he treats Claudia as a daughter.

I watched that movie twice in a row the day I rented it.  The rest of my family thought I was nuts. They didn’t like the movie and I couldn’t really explain my infatuation with it. But when I watched it the second time (with the lights off, to increase the ambiance), I noticed that it was based on a novel by author Anne Rice.

I think I was in junior high school at this time, and I was mostly into reading Star Trek book s (Yes, I am a Trekkie-I was born one) and Three Investigators novels (which I recommend for younger readers).  I was a little wary about starting Interview with the Vampire.  Oh. My. God.  It was an amazing book.

To this day, I still own the first copy of it I ever read.  This is an A+ book.  Anne Rice has a beautiful way with words. You can almost see and feel what the characters are seeing and feeling.  Lestat could have been an entirely unlikable character what with how much he thinks only of himself, but there are layers to him that you can’t help but fall in love with.

Interview with the Vampire was the first in a series of novels by Anne Rice revolving around an core group of vampires (Lestat, Louis, Armand et al) and humans (the ‘boy’ reporter Daniel and a secretive group called the Talamasca).  The Vampire Chronicles arc spans eons, from Ancient Egypt to present, and does it well.  I suppose it isn’t quite ‘urban’ fantasy in its entirety, but still well worth the read. To this day, one of my favorite authors is Anne Rice.