In a darkened room a young man sits telling the macabre and eerie story of his life - the story of a vampire, gifted with eternal life, cursed with an exquisite craving for human blood. Anne Rice's compulsively readable novel is arguably the most celebrated work of vampire fiction since Bram Stoker's Dracula was published in 1897. As the Washington Post said on its first publication, it is a 'thrilling, strikingly original work of the imagination ...sometimes horrible, sometimes beautiful, always unforgettable'.
I was quite sad that I didn't like this one. Vampire fiction would probably not be the force it is today if not for Anne Rice and her influence can be seen in many stories that I've enjoyed. Not just books, either, but TV and movies, too. Interview with the Vampire is a bonafide phenomenon that's lasted 30-odd years and has millions of fans - I would have liked to join in and be part of that.
I'm sure a part of the problem for me is that I didn't read this thirty years ago (which would have been difficult, not being yet alive) or, more appropriately, I didn't read this before I read and saw dozens of other examples of the vampire genre. Many of the elements of Rice's novel that would have been unique and exciting to the original fans couldn't inspire the same reaction in me - I've met plenty of tortured vampires already. I found the main character, Louie, and his existential crisis just tiresome. Hundreds of years and about as many pages of his brooding was too much for me. As the plot follows he and Lestat as they party and kill humans in New Orleans, all I could think was that I'd seen it all before with Angel and Spike - it's not fair, Rice came first, but that's unfortunately how it is for me.
I was surprised at the character of Lestat. I was aware before reading that he was the main/most popular character in The Vampire Chronicles, so I thought he'd be a much bigger part of this book than he is. His role is important and sets most, if not all, of the plot points in motion but in terms of actual page count, he's not around much. I also didn't expect his character to be as he was - I thought that in Anne Rice's world he was a rock star, but Louie describes him as pathetic, stupid and boring. Still, I was intrigued by the snippets of Lestat that we got, and if I haven't sworn off all Rice's work after disliking this one, it's only because I wouldn't mind finding out more about Lestat.
However, the best character in Interview with the Vampire is Claudia, no contest (I'd read another Claudia book, but that's unlikely to happen) and the story becomes considerably more interesting once she is in it. A vampire child is still something I haven't seen much and the idea of a hundreds-year-old woman in the body of a small child is wonderfully creepy and unnerving. Claudia's the most fascinating character in the book: evil, violent, clever, manipulative...playing with her dolls in one moment and then viciously killing in the next.
The plot device of having Louie relate his tale to a young boy journalist is a good concept, but in practice those parts just slow the book down and are incredible repetitive. Louie pauses, the boy is freaked out, but wants to hear more, Louie continues...sometimes it felt like the same passage was being written over and over. The same sentence definitely was - I lost count of how many times "The vampire paused" or "The vampire stopped" appeared. I did like how things ended with the boy, though; that was interesting and kind of realistic. That is how I'd react if I found out vampires really existed.
To be honest, what really made me dislike this book and made it a chore to finish was the writing. It was just...GAH. Not for me. Really wordy, really convoluted sentences, seemed to take 5 pages to say what could be said in one. Sometimes there were so many pages of Louie's internal monologue that I was sure the scene had moved on, only to find out it hadn't and we were still in the vampire theatre or whatever. When I look back on the plot, I can see that technically stuff did happen, but while I was reading, it just felt so slow.
I am glad I read Interview with the Vampire because it is such an important book in vampire fiction. But I am also very glad that I am done with it now.
Rating: 2 stars