Everyone knows about Anne Rice. Dubbed the "vampire queen", she is the author of so many popular vampire books, including Interview with the Vampire (which, in turn, was made into a splendid film starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise). Everybody knows this. What not too many people know is that Anne Rice has a son, Christopher, and that he is also an author, and a fine one at that. I've seen him praised all around the internet and couldn't wait to get my hands on one of his novels for the longest time. Now that I have, I am pleased to report that the results are beyond amazing.
Rice's debut novel, A Density of Souls (one of the most poetic titles I've come across lately), is a competent, mind-blowing novel that makes me want to read his other stuff as soon as possible. The complex, multi-layered story follows four childhood friends/enemies through their adolescence and young adulthood. Stephen is the shy, gay boy, the book's protagonist, whose life is threatened more than once in the book. Brandon is the popular bully, Greg is the enigmatic weak link and Meredith is the auto-destructive, sensitive girl. The story takes the form of a thriller, with a mystery at its center. The mystery is slowly revealed and it masterfully includes all of the book's many characters.
There is a strong sense of community in the book. The lush setting of New Orleans comes to life with some of the best atmosphere I've ever read in a book. Rice grew up there and he borrows from his life throughout the book. The story has a real, grounded feel to it. There are many people who play a role in the book's plot and sometimes it seems overwhelming. The only thing I disliked about A Density of Souls was that it sometimes got too dense. The character of Stephen mother, for example, works completely when it comes to Stephen's story, but Rice doesn't back away from telling her back story as well, which I found a little irrelevant. Luckily, the book is snappish and doesn't dwell on unimportant plot lines too much.
All in all, A Density of Souls is a splendid debut novel, one which truly makes me lust for more. Christopher Rice is definitely an author to look out for!