Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review, "Servant of the Bones", Anne Rice

It's very rare that I read a book and then want to review it, but Anne Rice is one of my favorite authors, and I would like to write not only about the book I just read, but about her in general. 

I first read Servant of the Bones a few years ago, having borrowed it from the library.  I had since forgotten what it was about, though, and have spent more time focused on Rice's Vampire Chronicles.  But a few months ago I purchased Servant at a used bookstore and just now re-read it.  In the first chapter or so, I was disappointed.  It seemed like the same old theme she had done before:  Supernatural Creature meets up with Human Writer who records his life story on tape.  However, by the next couple of chapters Rice hit her stride, and I became transported.  And, I would like to add, Rice's goal in most if not all of her books is to sort of suck the reader in and take them on a  spiritual journey.   She says it herself on her web site:  "I would like to submit that my vampire novels and other novels I’ve written, such as the Mayfair family trilogy, and the novels, Servant of the Bones, Violin, Cry to Heaven and Feast of all Saints are attempting to be transformative stories . . ."  (  This is an essay Rice wrote after she starting the stories about Jesus, and she attempts to explain to her Christian readers what her prior books were really about.)

The characters in Anne Rice's novels attract me in a way that few other characters ever do, and this book is no different.  In The Vampire Chronicles, the main characters have been transformed, usually unwillingly, into immortal beings who have no choice but to survive off human blood.  The angst in the books is what many readers can relate to, especially those who have also had a religious upbringing that they now doubt.  Many people who read these surely relate to the vampires on some level of their own, and have the same questions:  "Why am I and the world this way?  Is there nothing I can do to change things?  Is there a God?  I feel like it's in my nature to be a certain way, yet the world views this as wrong . . . should I continue to be this way, ignoring those who say I am immoral, or should I destroy myself since there is no way to change it?" 

To a young lesbian who grew up in the church, for me the turmoil of the characters made me relate to them in my own way, and I think the allure to any other group of people who feel like "freaks" or "damned" are attracted to these books for the same reason.  These days, however, I sometimes grow impatient with some of the hand-wringing in the Vampire books.  I'm more accepting of myself, not as worried about my past religion, and if I read a Vampire book now, I find myself skimming through some of the more lengthy questions over good and evil very quickly, when before I would soak up every word, hoping to find an answer to my own despair.

For this reason, Servant of the Bones ended up being a very enjoyable read.  This book was written after the Chronicles, and Rice's views on religion, or at least this main supernatural character, are more logical and in tune with what I feel.  Again, the supernatural creature is a former human who was turned into something he doesn't understand, and he does wonder if he will ever make it to whatever form of Heaven there is, but he decides to let go of his anger and hatred and live a life of love, and that makes all the difference.  The main character is named Azriel, a Jew who was human during the time his people were exiled in Babylon.   As always, Rice's research and presentation of the past is so rich and complete that I could completely believe I was reading about the actual place.  I think this book is great and I highly recommend it!

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