The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice

The Vampire Lestat is the second book in Anne Rice’s vampire chronicles. Told as an autobiography penned by Lestat, it begins in 1984 just after Lestat has woken from a dirt nap of about 100 years. Vampires can do that — dig a hole or plop in a coffin and lay there without blood to pass time if they feel too disconnected from the world. What is it that wakes him? There is something about the music of the 1980s, that screaming hair metal scene that interests him, and he can hear it in his semi-consciousness. How brazen mortals are these days, how godless and fearless. He rises, goes to a garage band that plays a few houses down from where he was sleeping, and impresses them with his vocals. Becoming the new lead singer of their band, Lestat promises to have their faces and music plastered all over the world.

What are we but leeches now — loathsome, secretive, without justification. The old romance is gone. So let us take on a new meaning. I crave the bright lights as I crave blood. I crave the divine visibility. I crave war.

That’s a problem, though. Vampires are never supposed to tell mortals of their existence for all their safety, namely that they cannot defend themselves while the sun is up. But Lestat’s decision to become world famous is rooted in his life-long drive to challenge rules and please an audience. Plus, Louis already broke the rules when he gave an interview to a reporter, who typed out Louis’s story, creating the novel Interview with the Vampire.

Lestat takes readers back to 1780. He is twenty-one and the youngest living son of a marquis. Although his love of learning is encouraged by his mother, his father pulls him out of school at a monastery when Lestat says he wants to become a monk. He’s not religious, but monks can devote themselves to learning, which Lestat loves. Pulled from school and bitter, Lestat runs away with a traveling circus where he catches the performance bug. Again, he’s shamed his family. After reconnecting with a young man he knew in boyhood, Lestat falls in love with their conversations — about philosophy and arts — and the man, Nicholas.

Nicholas and Lestat run away to Paris to live together. Lestat will find a theatre and become an actor, and Nicholas will continue to study violin. But just when things are going swimmingly, Lestat notices a strange man in the audience while he’s on stage. Later, the man takes Lestat and turns him into a vampire — and then the vampire throws himself into a fire and is killed! With almost no guidance, Lestat has to make life as the undead work, and where does Nicholas and the family he left behind fit in? And Nicholas, clearly Lestat’s lover, is important to him. In fact, all male characters appear to be bisexual, making for a rather erotic, sensual read. I say nothing of female vampires as there are so few thus far; I hope that changes.

The Vampire Lestat is a riveting novel that gives readers a determined protagonist and a history of where vampires come from. Through sheer stubbornness, Lestat manages to to find an ancient vampire who protects the original vampires, who have been sleeping for 4,000 years. It is an ancient evil that connects all blood drinkers, and now that Lestat is a mega rock star in 1984 and published his tell-all autobiography, the middle-age vampires (typically 500-ish years old) are maaaaad. Born during times of early death from disease, they see themselves as servants of Satan, functioning like plagues to “cause man to doubt the mercy and intervention of God,” not vain little showboats. But they’re also curious. What happens when the entire balance is destroyed?

While Interview with the Vampire was about religion and morals, The Vampire Lestat looks at tradition vs. progress. Many of the ancient vampires were created pre-Christian times and worshiped as pagan gods. They understand spectacle and the wish to be loved, but don’t broadcast their existence beyond their worshipers. Lestat is having none of it as a new vampire, born during a renaissance of art and atheism. He accidentally destroys a dusty old coven led by Armand, whom readers met in the first book. It is Lestat who suggests they start The Theatre of Vampires in Paris so that they can connect with humans.

Later, Lestat learns that it is that connection to contemporary culture that keeps a vampire from wanting to throw himself in fire or walk in sunlight. In fact, most vampires don’t survive the first 200 years due to the struggle of wishing to interact with humans they knew while alive, watching those humans die, and complete loneliness. It’s an interesting quandary! It made me think more about the way we’re over-connected in 2019, and yet disconnected more than ever. Is this why we’re increasingly experiencing anxiety AND loneliness? Perhaps Anne Rice’s vampires have something to teach us.

Her characters also comment on possession of things vs. primitive living. Lestat likes things and always maintains a beautiful home and owns the latest fashions — totally weird to the vampires who are still wearing the same clothes they had in the decade they were made and sleeping in their own coffins in which their bodies were buried in the cemetery! Ack! I can’t wait to read more vampire chronicle novels in the hopes of getting to know these cemetery vampires better. Given that there are thirteen books total, I’m sure I will. I wonder if they are all metafiction, as The Vampire Lestat is. Though Louis knew he was telling his story, he didn’t predict a the reporter he told his story to would write a book. Lestat tells you he’s writing an autobiography and even comments on Louis’s book, making readers so very aware that they’re steeped in Rice’s world and feel part of something.

A totally enjoyable read that — WARNING! — ends on a cliffhanger! Thankfully, the follow-up book, Queen of the Damned, was published decades ago and is ready for you to read it.

22 comments

  1. I read these books in my teens and loved them I haven’t read the latest one. Lestat continues to be my favourite literary character although sometimes I feel the books could be edited a bit, just my preference

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    • How far into the vampire chronicles did you get? I’m currently reading Queen of the Damned, a book I had started at one point in high school but quit (which I will talk about more in my review). I saw just a couple of years ago that there was a new one about Lestat and the lost city of Atlantis. On the surface, I’m thinking “nopety nope,” but when I read the book descriptions in order (there are 13), it made more sense and now I’m tempted.

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  2. ‘… the struggle of wishing to interact with humans they knew while alive, watching those humans die, and complete loneliness.’ – That sounds like such an interesting angle! It reminds me of a great Mary Shelley short story, in which a man laments becoming immortal.

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  3. Ah what another trip down memory lane. I loved this book when I was in middle school! Lestat is quite a character. I loved that he got into theatre and music and was an attention hog. I also loved the juxtaposition of the tone of his story versus Louis. I adored when authors turn yer own understanding of the world sideways just by giviing a different point of view. I be interested in how ye feel about book three. That was the last one I finished. Do ye really plan on reading all 13?
    x The Captain

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    • I’m 50% through Queen of the Damned and love how Louis is always portrayed as gentle, peaceful, lovely. He doesn’t portray himself that way in Interview with the Vampire because, well, that would be weird, lol. I love reading about him from others’ perspectives. So far, I’m enjoying book 3, but I can vividly remember why I quit reading it. I can’t wait to talk about that in my review! I’m not sure I plan to read all 13 books, but holy jeepers, I’ve been taking on series in 2019 like water on a boat in a Jaws movie. I’m not sure what happened. Perhaps just the way series can be so comfortable. When I was younger (not yet in college) I read series constantly, never venturing outside of them. That may be why I was such a poor reader for so long: nothing new to learn about a world, no challenging sentences or vocabulary, never being uncomfortable.

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  4. I know nothing about this series beyond the titles and for some reason the idea of an immortal vampire waking up because he loves the sound of 80s hair metal is hilarious to me.

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    • It’s funny to me, too! To be fair, it could even be something more like Europe’s “The Final Countdown” — something 80s like that. But really, which bands were the ones that commanded arenas of people and lived like immortals? Hair metal bands. Motley Crue sticks out in my head as a likely candidate. Or maybe Guns N Roses. Anyway, when they made the movie Queen of the Damned, which squishes this book and the next one together, it was created in that unique time period when Korn was popular. I mean, that scene was gone so fast. It lasted, what, 1997-2003? So the movie feels terribly dated. I’ve heard it referred to as an “MTV movie,” meaning the style, not the producer.

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      • Hahaha, those are almost exactly my high school years. Not exactly the pinnacle of cultural achievement. MTV was definitely very cool but not widely available in Canada at the time (which probably made it seem even cooler!)

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  5. Are these books horror? I always pictured them as being very scary, and so therefore I had no interest in reading them or seeing the movie, but now after reading your review I’m intrigued by the series! Lestat sounds like a compelling character.

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      • Oh! Wow, I was way off in what genre these are. I’m intrigued by this series now, as the philosophical side sounds interesting. I’m not so much interested in the sensual/erotic, but the philosophical sounds interesting. I’ll try to keep my eye out for this series at used book sales, library sales, etc.

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        • They’re marketed as horror, but I VERY much disagree. By sensual and erotic I mean lots of people’s faces get really close, and sometimes they kiss, and oh, my, all the tension in that! 😀

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  6. I’m glad you’re rediscovering your adolescence. Mine was all French Foreign Legion and rock singers in suits and ties (on black and white television if I saw them at all). Still, I enjoy your reviews.

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  7. Great review! This one sounds a bit more appealing to me than Interview with the Vampire, which sound give me something to look forward to when I finally start the series! It does seem like the two must make for great companion pieces, as you mentioned. 🙂

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    • Just the other day I had a lady at the library ask me to recommend a book published in 1985 (our summer reading bingo program has a square that says “read a book published the year you were born”). Lo and behold, I was also born in 1985 and reading The Vampire Lestat for this very reason. I realized that it’s definitely a book you can enjoy without reading Interview with the Vampire first, though I hadn’t realized that until she asked.

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  8. After reading this review, I may have to get hold of this series! It sounds so interesting. Though I must admit, the idea of a vampire joining an 80s rock band strikes me as slightly odd!

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    • It’s funny odd, and it made way more sense when the movie version bumped the timeline up to the present. It made loads more sense for Lestat to be part of the 1998-2003 era of dark rock, or whatever it’s called. Like, back when Korn, Tool, and Disturbed were all the noise.

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