75. SERVANT OF THE BONES, BY ANNE RICE
Another recommendation from Michelle. She just said “Anne Rice”, I chose this one because it was a standalone and it had been in my to-read pile for ages. Once I started reading, I got the distinct impression that I had already read it… I didn’t remember anything of the story, but there were some particular phrases that I’m sure I had read before. I really don’t think this book was at all forgettable, but I’m probably lying, since apparently I did forget about it once already.
Synopsis: Azriel was a Jew living in the Babylonian empire until, after a double betrayal, he is sacrificed and incompetently transformed into a spirit who can be called forth by someone who has the knowledge necessary and the possession of his bones. He exists like that for many years, unable to remember his own history, until finally he is called and witnesses the murder of a woman. This involves him in the plans of Gregory Belkin, leader of a strange worldwide cult with a dangerous thirst for power.
Overall enjoyment: Like I said, I quite liked it. It was very imaginative, if not particularly well-written. (It wasn’t badly written either, just not especially developed)
Plot: This book is told as an interview, very similar to Interview with the Vampire. It has two distinct parts: in the beginning Azriel relates his own history, how he came to be and a resume of the masters he’s had since he became a spirit. In the second part, he tells the story of Gregory Belkin, how he became involved with him and his plans and what happened afterwards. There is a very clear conflict of tone between those two parts. They’re very different, and I’ve noticed that there is a tendency for people to like either one or the other. The transition between them could have been better done, and she could have linked them better. As it is, the second part, which has much more action and suspense, feels unnecessary and contrite.
Characters: Competently made, if not particularly worthy of note. Azriel is fascinating, all the others are very much secondary. As in all of the books by Rice that I’ve read, she puts way too much stock on physical appearance. Everyone has to be gorgeous. Now that I’m not a teenager anymore, I have to say that those endless and highly lyrical descriptions can get boring after a while.
World/setting: She does a very good job on transporting us to different periods of time as Azriel tells his story. By comparison, the second part, which is set on the (somewhat) present age, feels pale and uninteresting.
Writing style: Straightforward and easy to read.
Representation: This book has the homoerotic undertones that I’ve always loved in her writing. It is only an undertone, though, nothing explicit. Also, the last book by her I’ve read was quite a while ago (more than 10 years, I think), before I discovered feminism, and now I was shocked to see how few female characters she has. Plus, since I mentioned all her characters being gorgeous, I distinctly remember being 11 or so, reading one of her vampire novels, and concluding I would never get to become a vampire because I wasn’t pretty enough…
Political correctness: …which would lead me to conclude, now, that she does put way too much value on physical appearance. And her female characters are so secondary as to barely exist. They both die, one of them immediately, which fuels Azriel to find out who were her killers and why she was killed (refrigerator, anyone?) and the other one right after having sex with Azriel (for the first time without a master) and teaching him how to feel (ugh). Now that I think of it, this book (and probably her other books too, but I couldn’t say for sure since it’s been so long since I’ve read them) feels a lot like 90s fanfiction: lots of gay romance and attraction, but you’re not supposed to put women on the stories at all.
Up next: When Will There Be Good News?, by Kate Atkinson