by Anne Rice
AUGUST 7, 1995

Anne Rice. the vampire chronicler (at home in New Orleans) dabbles with Christian theology in her latest out-of-this-world outing.

In her fifth volume of the Vampire Chronicles, Anne Rice abandons her usual terrain‑smoothly sensual and erotic vampire stories ‑and instead substitutes huge chunks of dry theology.

She begins routinely enough with Lestat, the most charismatic member of her now familiar and delectable crew of vampires. Blond, beautiful and unaging since 1789, he sits in an elegant New York City hotel, talking with tall, dark, scholarly David. The vampire confesses his recent obsession with Roger, a ruthless drug dealer and fabulous art collector, and his daughter Dora, a TV evangelist.

Lestat also expresses a fear that he is being stalked. Soon after, he breaks the neck and sucks the blood of the evil Roger, discovers his cache of precious religious relics, falls in love with Dora and meets his stalker‑none other than Memnoch the Devil.

Here the novel takes a bizarre turn when Memnoch, the fallen angel, leads Lestat on a journey through all of angelic and earthly creation. Lestat witnesses Christ's passion and even tastes His blood. "I kissed His throat, and then my mouth opened without will or struggle, and my teeth pierced the flesh. I heard Him moan, a long echoing moan that seemed to rise up and fill the world with its sound, and the blood flooded into my mouth." Where can a Vampire go from here?

At great length, Memnoch defends his decision to reject the God who allows endless pain. He urges Lestat to join him. Lestat cannot accept Memnoch, nor can he accept God. He ends up hating both, remaining his own isolated and monstrous self. The story re­turns briefly to the real world: New Orleans, Dora and her good works.

Instead of a dramatic narrative, however, Rice gives us only a long‑winded debate over whom Lestat will serve, God or the Devil. In past novels, Rice has purposefully and passionately animated vampires, but she cannot make this saga fly. (Knopf, $25)