Memnoch the Devil
by Anne Rice
The fifth book in the Vampire Chronicles was slow to start, but once it picked up, it was impossible to put down. To be honest, Lestat doesn’t even play the major role in this book, the title character of Memnoch does.
Lestat spends the first few chapters stalking a victim named Roger, and then spends a very long time listening to Roger’s life story, which somehow feels extraneous and doesn’t provide much payoff for the reader, as Roger is a ghost, and the side-plots about a series of books by a man named Wynken De Wilde and the story of Roger’s turbulent childhood and life of crime never develop into anything other than an introduction of his daughter.
Throughout the opening of the story, Lestat is being stalked by a creature that eventually reveals himself to be the devil, and is in fact the same devil that David Talbot saw in a vision, revealed back in Tale of the Body Thief. He asks Lestat to come and be his assistant and his partner, and it’s then that the story really begins.
This book is an explanation of the underlying mythology of the Vampire Chronicles, down to the very center: it explains the creation of the universe. Memnoch explains in fascinating detail the history of God and the angels, the creation and evolution of the universe, his personal story of being cast out of Heaven, his reaction to his beloved God becoming Christ, his revulsion at the tormented spirits of the Earth who cannot enter Heaven, and the ultimate truth that though he opposes God, he ultimately wishes to praise, serve and love God in a way different than God himself would choose, and allow all the spirits of the dead to experience the joy of Heaven and the warmth and light of God.
Memnoch’s adventure makes up the bulk of the story, and once it begins, the other details of the book are forgotten, and Lestat simply becomes an outsider listening to Memnoch’s fascinating tale. In the end, we’re left wondering how much of it was real or not, it’s implied that Memnoch may have genuinely been the devil or he may simply have been some other entity, and like in all spiritual matters, things are left open-ended and up to interpretation. The ending of the book sees Lestat finding himself at peace in his home, ready to fade away and end the Vampire Chronicles, though we all know that it was not at all the ending, but perhaps the ending of the first era.
Ultimately, I left Memnoch the Devil satisfied, but a little annoyed at how little Lestat’s story really had to do with the Memnoch’s, as much of Lestat’s narrative became inconsequential. As with all the other chronicles so far, Lestat had his meetup with Louis, with the normal observations about how beautiful he is and how much Lestat loves him, and David’s character is expanded to show that he now has some history with Armand, however Memnoch is the star here, and while Lestat’s story is interesting, there’s not really a lot of payoff for reading it.
Still, Rice’s extremely interesting take on Biblical history (from back in her atheist days, when he was looking at the Catholic spirituality as an outsider) is not to be missed, and I would recommend this book even to people who have never read any of the Vampire Chronicles, simply for Memnoch’s extremely interesting tale, weaving together the classic Christian narrative with new ideas, and actually showing the classic devil as a sympathetic character while questioning the motivations and stubborn childlike attitude of God.