THE MUMMY or Ramses the Damned

Here, Rice varies the seasoning for her famous dish: the damnation of immortality. Her new tale, a kind of B-picture novel, is a cross between Karloff's The Mummy, a comic strip, and a gothic romance. Rather than the cloth-of-purple-velvet of the first Lestate novel (Interview with a Vampire), Rice herein spools out gauzy underwriting whose thinness just bastes her story to the page. The virgin heroine is Julie Stratford, the sought-after daughter of a retired shipping magnate who has taken up his hobby full-time: Egyptology. On page one her father discovers the cursed tomb of Ramses the Second—who somehow has been entombed in a site inscribed with Roman and Greek and Egyptian hieroglyphs from the period of Cleopatra—a thousand years after the death of Ramses! Indeed, Ramses, who mastered the elixir of immortality, would return to life from time to time to help out a bewildered Pharaoh when Egypt was in trouble. Unfortunately, he fell for Cleopatra, but she only wanted him to grant immortality to Antony. Now Julie's father is murdered by her besotted rotter of a cousin, who uses a poison from the tomb, and Julie becomes independently wealthy. She takes Ramses' casket (on its way to the British Museum) to her fancy London home—where Ramses springs back to health to save Julie from her murderous cousin. Ramses is superhumanly intelligent, strong, royal, and indestructible, and Rice dangles Julie's virginity under his nose for better than half the book. Ramses' adventures in 1930's London are fairly amusing, as is his return to Cairo. When Ramses recovers the body of Cleopatra from Nile mud and gives her corpse the elixir, he awakens a monster who is nonetheless Julie's chief rival (Julie and Cleo meet in the powder room at the opera). Should Julie drink the awful elixir and join Ramses in the damnation of immortality? There is no question about Rice losing any fans with this lightsome, almost chirpily horrorless horror romance: she won't. Meanwhile, more adventures of Ramses are planned.

Pub Date: June 1, 1989

ISBN: 0345369947

Page Count: -

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1989

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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Coelho's placebo has racked up impressive sales in Brazil and Europe. Americans should flock to it like gulls.

THE ALCHEMIST

Coelho is a Brazilian writer with four books to his credit. Following Diary of a Magus (1992—not reviewed) came this book, published in Brazil in 1988: it's an interdenominational, transcendental, inspirational fable—in other words, a bag of wind. 

 The story is about a youth empowered to follow his dream. Santiago is an Andalusian shepherd boy who learns through a dream of a treasure in the Egyptian pyramids. An old man, the king of Salem, the first of various spiritual guides, tells the boy that he has discovered his destiny: "to realize one's destiny is a person's only real obligation." So Santiago sells his sheep, sails to Tangier, is tricked out of his money, regains it through hard work, crosses the desert with a caravan, stops at an oasis long enough to fall in love, escapes from warring tribesmen by performing a miracle, reaches the pyramids, and eventually gets both the gold and the girl. Along the way he meets an Englishman who describes the Soul of the World; the desert woman Fatima, who teaches him the Language of the World; and an alchemist who says, "Listen to your heart" A message clings like ivy to every encounter; everyone, but everyone, has to put in their two cents' worth, from the crystal merchant to the camel driver ("concentrate always on the present, you'll be a happy man"). The absence of characterization and overall blandness suggest authorship by a committee of self-improvement pundits—a far cry from Saint- Exupery's The Little Prince: that flagship of the genre was a genuine charmer because it clearly derived from a quirky, individual sensibility. 

 Coelho's placebo has racked up impressive sales in Brazil and Europe. Americans should flock to it like gulls.

Pub Date: July 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-06-250217-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1993

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