Critical Essay: Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice
Anne Rice's "Queen of the Damned" hit the shelves in 1988 as the highly anticipated third book of The Vampire Chronicles and it was the first of the books to become a mainstream best selling hit. The book is a part of the horror fiction genre that has been present in literature since Frankenstein and Dracula, and like these works it has a deeper run of social commentary. This book also contains characteristics of its post-modern literary time. Anne Rice retained her fame of her writing style amongst her fans and stoked the fire of the cultural cult that had began to develop surrounding her works, and would go on to continue the Chronicles after "The Queen of the Damned" was published. Also, this book went on to be developed into a film that was surrounded by controversy due to the actress Aaliyah's untimely death who played the queen herself. While the film received mixed reviews for this and other reasons, the book and the publicity for the film took the popularity of Anne Rice and her works to a new level of respect and notoriety.
Relationship to the Author, Prequels and Sequels
Although this is the third book dealing with generally the same characters, Anne Rice stated in an interview in 1988 that her intensity with them was still there and she would go on with them as long as it remained. This intensity is obvious to her readers as she weaves a more intricate plot and introduces and expands upon more characters than in the previous two Chronicles. "Interview With the Vampire", the first book, began the story in the middle with Lestat giving "the dark gift" to Louis and concentrates on Louis's experiences. "The Vampire Lestat", the second book, developed Lestat's character more, elaborated on the history of the vampires, and introduced characters that Rice fully expounds upon "The Queen of the Damned".
While the character's being vampires and the occasional bloody scenes of "The Queen of the Damned" leave it to be dubbed horror fiction, this description is a bit strong for the actual nature of the book. Bram Stoker's "Dracula" is far more haunting and the vampire character more definably evil than anything found in Rice's work. The vampires Anne Rice creates are very human in their desires, thoughts, and emotions. One can easily read of their adventures and go to bed without any fear of a ghoul appearing at their window seeking entry. Rather, Rice's characters are inviting with their kindness and the sensuality of blood drinking practices that seem a minor detail to their existence. Anne Rice is much more concerned with the development of characters' personalities, psyches, familial relationships, and the commentary on society that their lives and thoughts allow. Because of these characteristics it is arguable that "Queen of the Damned" could also qualify as a family drama.
Performance in Other Media
In 2000, after much controversy, the movie version of "Queen of the Damned" hit the silver screen only to receive mixed reviews. Aaliyah, who played the queen, had died shortly after the filming of her portion of the movie was complete, and her fans had mixed feelings about the use of the footage after her death ? especially since she was playing the queen of the undead. The film also was critiqued due to the quality of the screenplay and production. Another challenge the film and the actors had to meet was satisfying the fans not only of Brad Pitt and Tom Cruises' portrayals of Louis and Lestat, but also Anne Rice's literary fans of both "The Vampire Lestat" and "The Queen of the Damned" since the plot was a combination of both books. The film confronted all of these challenges and did tolerably well in the box office considering all of these factors. As of 2002, however, Rice has no plans to make a film of any of the five subsequent Vampire Chronicles.
Anne Rice began the Vampire Chronicles in 1976 with "Interview With the Vampire" and has continued to write tales of these vampires through the year 2002. However, book that was able to be the most successful in the mainstream of bestsellers was "The Queen of the Damned". By the time of its publication in 1988, Rice's fans were anticipating its arrival, and they anxiously awaited the movie by the same title until 2000 only to be disappointed. The ability that this horror fiction had to capture the attention of such a large gamut of the public is evidence of its deeper and arguably more prominent strain of social commentary that is obviously more important to Rice than the blood drinking practices of these characters. Through the Vampire Chronicles ? "The Queen of the Damned" in particular Anne Rice took the classic tale of the vampire, adapted it to the design of a post-modern writer, and has found a successful way to captivate millions ? including herself ? with an age-old tale of the supernatural and society's character in one.
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in the Balance" The New York Times. October 15, 1988. Section 1, pg. 20
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Summer, Bob. "PW Interviews" Publisher's Weekly October 28, 1988