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Ramses The Damned, The Passion of Cleopatra: Great for fans, other buyers.. maybe not as much

In the mid-1990's, I was an adolescent mess. I wore a studded dog collar and wallowed (happily) in angst. I listened to a lot of Joy Division and Nine Inch Nails; I had eyeliner tattooed on and wrote shitty poetry I believed was groundbreaking. I was young and frequently drunk off cheap liquor; pumped full of testosterone and teenage idiocy.

The stereotype you are surely forming of me is probably spot on, so it is no surprise I also read a lot of Anne Rice and Poppy Z Brite books. I distinctly remember picking up a copy of 'Interview with a Vampire' and was blown away by its existence, never realizing it was close to twenty-five years old at that point.

More relevant to today’s topic, During this same window I picked up a copy of 'The Mummy, or Ramses the Damned'. Unlike other Anne Rice novels, as I aged and my eyeliner faded, The Mummy stayed fresh in my mind. While still a fan, I grew out of my Anne Rice phase. Over the years, The Mummy showed staying power, sticking out in my longterm memory. It seemed to be underappreciated and infrequently read in my circles. This was a shameful fact as my opinion held it in high regard even as the vampire chronicles became passe and ignored.
  • Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra (Anne Rice, Christopher Rice)
  • 416 pages
  • Anchor publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1101970324
  • ISBN-13: 978-1101970324

Buying a copy through this link supports this site but cost you no extra money.
Put it in the closet for an awesome x-mas gift.

This book was pretty good, but I have to recognize that my brain is applying some of the enjoyment thanks to nostalgia. This novel is categorized as "Good not great". I am not sure as to the details regarding the co-authorship via Anne and her son Christopher. Were they equal partners in the writing? Was he writing and only simply using her as a data source/sounding board? Was she dictating the entire thing and he was simply a keyboard transcription monkey? Unfortunately, though enjoyed, this was probably one of the least successful Rice novels I have read. It had areas of clumsy prose and it was guided by repetition. Interesting regardless.

The Rice duo are still bound to make a killing on it from folks in my generation. Rice fans will find this to be on par with other novels and will find this to be readable/variations of worthwhile. It was deeply detailed and verbose. Per the norm, the novel spends a great deal of time talking about clothing, food, and backstory. I know this is how Anne writes and it was not a big deal, though this is one reason why I have stayed away from her works in general over time. I have never read Christopher and have no experience with him to judge against.

If you are not an Anne Rice fan, this book is probably not going to be a great choice for you. Reading the original novel should be a prerequisite for any new readers. The Passion of Cleopatra should not be considered standalone, you will probably be driven nuts if you have to work through the knowledge gap organically via the inline character conversations. These same conversations (included to help allow this to be standalone) added fuel to some contrived language and lead by the nose plotline. The combination left very little to the imagination and was instead a tourist guide to the Ramses world.

Some spoilers follow as there is context needed in reference to the original novel.

The Passion of Cleopatra picks up where the original leaves off. The difficult bit is that the original novel is 28 years old. The Passion of Cleopatra is intended to rebuild that world and take the reins dropped back in '89.

In the 1989 novel, Ramses the Great, immortal and in love, shares his secret elixir with Julie Stratford causing her to also become immortal. They both collect sunlight like plants and will live as long as the sun shines on our Earth.

An insane Cleopatra, raised from a corpse by Ramses during a moment of utter idiocy, has been immolated in a fireball caused when two trains heavy-handedly crush the car she is driving. Everything is wrapped in a semi-nicely wrapped package and we are all left annoyed by lack of continuation, but satisfied. None of us believed there would ever be a sequel to it, though we believed one would be awesome. A sequel was probably highly requested but not long-term in the planning.

This new book rekindles the universe, bringing a different tale and a potential for more books to follow. For better or worse, I will likely read them. I won’t be able to help it.
Several months after the train accident, Ramsey and friends find that Cleopatra has survived the train crash and continues to lose her mind. Her homicidal tendencies appear to be mellowing as she begins to more firmly root in the new century. She is a creature without a home, out of time, and failing to gain or retain a sense of identity.

Introduced in this novel are a couple new faces:
  1. Bektaten is an immortal queen of 6000 years and the elixir originator. She is what the Vampire novels "Queen of the damned" wishes she could have been. She is an imposing and regal character. -side note- Rice has named too many "damned" characters, this is not one of them, but there are tangential correlations and templatization that can be felt.
  2. Anne Rice herself seems to be making an appearance as a key character named Sybil Parker. She has several chapters dedicated to her. Sybil is an American author known for writing complex and deeply detailed stories about ancient Egypt. It is a bit Meta, but this seems to be a thing for authors these days, so climb aboard.
  3. Best characters, Bektaten's 6k-year-old servant/lovers. They are badasses, neither gets the page time they deserve.
Other characters in this novel are asinine at best. They could be deleted. In any follow-up novels, either Rice author may easily abstain from even mentioning them:
  1. Ramses spends the entire book chatting in circles and over explaining things. He fails to do anything of importance.
  2. Similarly, Julie Stratford is just scenery to help drive other story elements. The most fascinating thing about her is that she has fully adopted menswear against the turn of the century norms.
This book was provided for review purposes by the publisher. Similar to when the dentist asks what you do for a living while they are wrist deep in your mouth, the review process requires some drool and blood to communicate successfully. I am well brushed and cavity free, gently pushing the tools aside with my tongue to tell you that more nitrous is needed. If it hurts or feels good, I will advise. Remember to floss, kids.


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