–Anne Rice, Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis[*No Spoilers*]
Aptly timed for the arrival of cold nights suited for huddling with a good book, Anne Rice has delivered to her fans another installment in her Vampire Chronicles series. There are some who might claim the series and characters are getting a bit (*painful pun alert*) long in the tooth. But many of us, especially those who have been with the series from the late 70’s-early 80’s, understand that a new book in this series is the literary equivalent of meeting with an old friend or lover. As Faulkner said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” and a rich history can lend a depth to the present that is outside the realm of the new.
So in this saga, we last left Lestat a little over two years ago reigning over a newly formed vampire kingdom. Carrying the core of the world of the undead is a struggle for Lestat that continues into Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis. But even as he and our other favorites – Marius, Louis, Armand – have begun to carve out a place in the world for the vampire community, they encounter a threat in the form of a new immortal entity. There is little more that I would summarize here without siphoning away from your joy of discovery. This story is yours to discover and not mine to reveal. But for long-term fans of the series especially, the tale told is an alluring one.
However, I can reveal this much: there are some core messages Anne Rice is trying to convey in this book that are well worth pondering. The central narrative of Realms of Atlantis rings in with voice that sounds like the opposition corner to John Galt in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Rice invites us to look carefully at our society and consider what we are carrying along with us simply by virtue of the path on which we arrived. Like a hiker that has emerged from a struggle through a bramble patch, there might be some burrs and thorns that we ought to consider removing. To do so, Rice is conducting a thought experiment in imagining the Realms of Atlantis:
“This earlier world was an innocent world that had never known centuries of military developments or the agricultural or industrial revolutions that all today on Earth take for granted as inevitable precursors to technological affluence; and therefore these people did not labor under the immense weight of cultural or political or moral traditions from such revolutions.”
The people of Rice’s Atlantis take full advantage of superior technology granted to them from an outside source. As such, the people live surrounded by beauty and pleasure and are driven by curiosity more than a need for achievement. But there are those in Atlantis that feel the people are weak and unworthy, never having to struggle and strive. And there is the question of those outside of Atlantis: should they be excluded from this paradise or is it meant for all?
One can see parallels to real world issues. There are technological and political stability imbalances in the world. Consequently, there are flows of immigration into countries perceived as offering potentially better lives. We are witnessing a rise in fear and concern that that these flows are overwhelming the resources of the “better” places and diminishing life for everyone. And many of us who are already there in those “better” places have been asking why it is fair to be made to pay the way for others. After all, we worked hard and earned our way, didn’t we?
We are a culture that largely values fairness, often intent upon discussions and plans of exacting level payment from all for what is received. We remember our struggles and sacrifices, appropriately grateful for how they have strengthened us. But when we witness others reaching similar places, by different and perhaps easier paths, we feel a diminishment of the meaning and significance of our own, more difficult journeys. But aren’t we all taking advantage of some kinds of shortcuts or other in different areas of life? And as Rice asks, doesn’t progress imply an easier, more well-trodden path for the next traveler? If our explorations are driven by a curiosity and passion, then the striving can beget its own pleasure without placing a toll on the next traveler. What Rice imagines is:
“a world of justice and affluence in which innovation was driven by vision and imagination rather than brutal competition, or want, or aggression”
In Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis, Rice is warning us of the dangers inherent in elevating struggle to the level of a sacrament and worshiping it. It is a powerful book and once again, as with the previous volume in the series, I and the other Anne Rice fans here at Pop Mythology recommend it unreservedly.