Wednesday, March 11, 2015

TBR Double Dog Dare: Pandora by Anne Rice

My fourth book in the TBR Double Dog Dare (hosted by James at James Reads Books) was Pandora, by Anne Rice - one of her Vampire Chronicles books. I am largely unfamiliar with Rice's vampire mythology, but all through this book it was clear that the events fit into the larger saga of Lestat the vampire and his colleagues.

So why this book? Well, true to the spirit of the TBR Double Dog Dare, this book has been sitting on my library shelves for quite some time, and needed to be read. This was a signed first edition of the book that I obtained many years ago (I suppose in 1998, when the novel was first published). I got it as part of a book club run by a local independent bookstore which is now sadly defunct. The deal was, you signed up for this club and then every month or so you would get a signed first edition of a novel that had just been published. I think they must have gotten the copies via some kind of deal with another bookstore, because none (or few) of these authors ever came to Hattiesburg for a booksigning, I'm pretty sure. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it got kind of pricey after a while so I stopped. However, I have this book, and a signed John Grisham (The Street Lawyer), and a few other choice library additions to show for my brief membership in the club.

Come to think of it, I have another signed copy of an Anne Rice book in my library -- Memnoch the Devil. The events of that book are also referenced in Pandora, as it turns out. I obtained this copy by an even more circuitous route. Soon after I started teaching in 1994, one day I discovered in casual conversation with one of my students that she was related to Anne Rice in some way-- I think she was married to one of Anne's cousins or something. The student suddenly asked me if I wanted a signed copy of her latest book, I said sure, why not? -- and so I have this copy of Memnoch with an inscription that is not personal (alas) but still very interesting:

So what is the point, beside a gratuitous photo of a book from my collection? All of this is to say that I am sure I did not get everything out of Pandora that a true vampire/Anne Rice aficionado would have gotten out of it, because these are the only two books in the series that I have read, and have read them completely out of context at that -- BUT Pandora was a pretty good read nonetheless.

The story opens as Pandora, one of the vampires living in modern-day Paris, sits down to write her life story. She was born Lydia in Rome in 15 B.C., and took the name "Pandora" after she was forced to flee to Antioch as a young woman. She was a member of a politically important family, with a father who was a Senator and well-connected relations and friends all around. She is brought up with every advantage, and as a young girl she meets a handsome young man named Marius. Their destinies are intertwined from the start; many years later, in Antioch, she encounters Marius again after he has become a vampire, and he turns out to be instrumental in making her into one as well.

What is in between their two pivotal encounters is the bulk of the story, as Pandora flees Rome after a coup upsets the government and all the allegiances (including her father's and family's position). She makes her way to Antioch, one of the great cities of the ancient world, and there becomes involved in the temple of Isis, which turns out to be Vampire Central. Undoubtedly this part of the story would be much more engrossing to a reader familiar with the many references that Rice inserts here, to characters and events from other books in the series.

However, this book surprisingly turns out to stand pretty well on its own. Rice is a good writer, and does an excellent job of immersing the reader in all the details of the time and setting, without ever coming across as pedantic or labored. She makes the story come alive, which pushes the reader along very nicely -- I know that she sucked me into the story and I was soon just reading to find out what happened next, the mark of every good story. It also doesn't hurt that I knew I was reading about a person who becomes a vampire, so at some point there was going to be a "payoff" where the person actually goes through that process -- and I kept wondering how it was going to happen.

This book is worth your while, but doubly or triply so if you are one of the legion of vampire fans.

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