Last week, I read Servant of the Bones by Anne Rice. This is one of those books I picked up several years ago, but has been sitting on my shelf. I finally decided it was time to dive in and, for the most part, I’m glad I did.
At the time Servant of the Bones was released in 1996, Anne Rice had published five novels in her famous Vampire Chronicles and Interview With the Vampire had been made into a film starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. Like Interview With the Vampire, Servant of the Bones involves a supernatural creature telling his story. In this case, the supernatural creature is named Azriel and he was a Jew living in Babylon at the time its conquered by Cyrus the Persian. If Azriel will allow himself to be made a living statue of the god Marduk and confer a blessing upon the conqueror, he promises to free the Jews. Azriel agrees, but things go horribly wrong when a witch named Aseneth attempts to work black magic to turn Azriel into a djin-like spirit attached to his own gold-plated skeleton. We follow Azriel’s journey to present-day New York, where he finds himself witnessing the murder of a cult-leader’s daughter.
Overall, I enjoyed the story. I did find the opening chapters a little difficult to follow, but was glad I stuck with it. I think some of the difficulty had to do with Anne Rice’s storytelling method. She sets up Azriel’s meeting with the man who interviews him, then Azriel tells long stretches of his story in dialogue. It’s not until Part III of the novel that Rice drops the dialogue format and just swaps to Azriel speaking in first person without quotation marks. It strikes me that most of the chapters could simply have been told from Azriel’s point of view with interlude chapters that described his interaction with the interviewer.
I also found some interesting synchronicity between this novel and my current journey into new horror territory. Anne Rice was well known for her vampire books and arguably didn’t need to write anything else. However, she apparently had a story she wanted to tell and didn’t feel this was suitably told from the perspective her well-known vampires or witches. There are similarities with her vampire novels—such as powerful, supernatural creatures having a moral compass—but there are notable differences as well. Because Azriel is somewhat more sympathetic and “human” than Anne Rice’s vampires, I found his journey more frightening. Anne Rice’s vampires cannot be killed easily. Azriel spends his spiritual existence uncertain whether he will wake to face another day.
That’s basically what’s happening with The Astronomer’s Crypt. There’s no reason this story couldn’t take place in the same world as the Scarlet Order vampire novels. The evil forces would certainly fit in both series, but in this case, I want to explore what happens when humans have to deal with those forces themselves. If I’m successful, it will be a wild and terrifying ride!