Just finished with this book- Memnoch, the Devil, by Anne Rice. Intrigued by the book blurb, I picked it up at a flea market. However, it was the most disappointing drag of a read I’ve put myself through recently and my resolution to finish every book I start kept me ploughing reluctantly through it. Not sure if I would have enjoyed it more if I’d read the previous books in Rice’s Vampire Chronicles.

The basic premise of this is the Devil’s Story told to Lestat, the damned Vampire; it is the story of Creation, Revelations, how Memnoch went from guardian angel to the Accuser- Satan. Linking the chronology of the tale is the idea of Heaven, purgatory, human suffering and what entails redemption & the controversial questioning of God’s wisdom. Is it fair that he creates creatures and humans to roam this planet and then forsakes them? In his plan, everything will be made right in the end, but does that justify the stories of those who are living finite lives and will never see the true wholeness of it all? Is he always right?

There are some nuggets that made me go- Wooaaaahhhh! in a good way,like a surprising ray of hope in an achingly dull book. Here is an insightful confession of a wandering soul in Sheol (purgatory):

‘We have forgiven Him. And all of us have done it for various reasons, but forgiveness of God, that we have attained. We accept that our lives have been wondrous experiences, and worth the pain and suffering, and we cherish now the joy we knew, and the moments of harmony, and we have forgiven Him for not ever explaining it all to us, for not justifying it, not punishing the bad or rewarding the good, or whatever else it is that all these souls, living and dead, expect of Him. We forgive Him. We don’t know, but we suspect that maybe He knows a great secret about how all this pain could come to pass and still be good. And if he doesn’t want to tell, He is God. But whatever, we forgive Him and we love him in our forgiveness, even though we know He may never care about any of us, any more than He cares for the pebbles on a beach below.”

A succinct consolation for perhaps the looming question that haunts most thinkers- Why God, why?

Contrary to the belief that Heaven is for good people and Hell for evil, it is this ‘idea’ that truly furthers one to heaven, the idea that forgiveness and acceptance of His every action despite their consequences on us. For even a person who has done nothing but good in their lives, can be found languishing with unfulfilled wishes and a crazed questioning of their destiny.

Let’s come to Memnoch. In his own words, this is his role:

“Hell is where I straighten our that He has made wrong. Hell is where I reintroduce a frame of mind that might have existed had suffering never destroyed it! Hell is where I teach men and women that they can be better than He is.”

For me, this statement is the seed of the entire book as it makes me question my beliefs, the ingrained sense of goodness and evil, and that maybe evil isn’t really evil, but a cleansing of God’s rampant work. It also freaks me out because even though I’m not the most religious person, there is a warm portion of my being which holds a permanent, unquestioning faith in His power; and now to imagine that in the end all I am is a pawn in a battle between God and Satan and the state of my soul rests on this outcome.

I applaud Rice’s bravado in shelling out such theological dilemmas and challenging them in her own way. It takes a lot to talk about these forces and she does it with deep and dark vividness. The book would have been enjoyable if there had been a more even pace of narration, less repetitive dialogues and more conclusive ending. After Lestat refuses to join Memnoch in his quest to educate transitive souls and send them to Heaven as God is unconcerned about them, he falls back to Earth with Veronica’s Veil and the rest of the story melts into an obscure flurry.