Alfred A. Knopf, $19.95
March 23, 1998
Web posted at: 2:13 p.m. EDT (1413 GMT)
(CNN) -- Anne Rice's vampires have served her well, bringing to (undead) life a fully-realized world of the supernatural. Unfortunately, to appreciate her newest offering, "Pandora," the reader had best be well acquainted with that world, and have an insatiable appetite for more.
The book opens with yet another Rice vampire preparing to recount her history of a few thousand years on Earth. Haven't we been here before? To clear away any doubt, within the first few pages we're given references to "The Tale of the Body Thief," "Queen of the Damned" and "Memnoch the Devil"; wading through the introductory chapter with me were Lestat, Armand, Maharet, and David Talbot of the Talamasca, among others.
The sense that Rice is coasting on the coattails of her previous stories grows stronger as the story proceeds. Her tale falls flat in part because Pandora, the 2,000-year-old vampire from Imperial Rome, annoys rather than interests the reader. She repeatedly cheers her own cleverness, resourcefulness and high social status,leaving the reader little room to empathize with her. The limited supporting cast remains in the background, leaving the self-aggrandizing Pandora to dominate the story.
Overall, this is a journeymanlike effort. It meets the basic requirements of a novel; there are characters and a plot, though it is a slim one. But in this case, the framework of the novel was printed before it was fleshed out into a compelling story.
Pandora remains fixed in the ancient cities of Rome and Antioch, with only the briefest of flashes into other times and places. That's a far cry from the broad sweep of time and place we've come to expect in Rice's work. Although there are little details about Roman daily life sprinkled into the story, they have the feel of trivia gleaned from a term paper on ancient history and inserted for atmosphere. On finishing the book, I had one overriding impression: Anne Rice must have signed a contract to write a given number of vampire-theme novels. This one has all the spark and magnetism of a contractually obligated product.
-- by Karen Austin
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