A love letter to Anne Rice’s The Mummy, or, Ramses the Damned
Length: 398 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, kind of a mish/mash of Horror (although it’s not particularly scary), Fantasy, and Romance.
Started: Late March, probably.
Re-read Finished: 14 April 2011
Where did it come from? Absolutely no idea; my copy’s so old and so well-worn that it’s impossible to tell.
Why do I have it? I went through a HUGE Anne Rice phase in my early and mid-teens… and really, my late teens and early twenties as well. While I love the Vampire Chronicles and the Mayfair Witches (at least the first one, I was less crazy about Lasher and Taltos), I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for The Mummy in all of its stand-alone glory.
has to be less fun when you’re
alone all the time.
Summary: Lawrence Stratford, wealthy London business man and prominent Egyptologist, has made the find of a lifetime: the tomb of a mummy, filled with Greek and Roman artifacts, but filled with scrolls that proclaim him to be Ramses II, the Pharaoh who had ruled 1000 years earlier. Ramses claims in these scrolls to be immortal – an eternal wanderer, teacher, and lover of Cleopatra – and that he is not dead, but merely sleeping beneath his mummy wrappings. However, Lawrence is murdered before he is able to truly investigate his discovery, and the mummy travels to London, to Lawrence’s daughter, Julie. She’s charmed by the story, but doesn’t really believe it – until she sees the mummy come to life to save her from the same fate as her father. She’s overwhelmed by Ramses – immortal as he claimed, intelligent, gorgeous, charming, and every inch a king – and is soon swept up in showing him the wonders of the early 20th century, even while trying to protect his secret from those who desire immortality for themselves. Unsurprisingly, she falls hopelessly in love with him, a love that can only be fully returned once Ramses has put his past behind him. But as they travel through modern-day Egypt, his memories of the past, and of his lost love threaten to engulf Ramses… and then a chance discovery at the Cairo Museum will lead him to commit an unspeakable act, one whose horrific consequences will resonate through the rest of eternity.
Review: I read this book so many times as a teen that it’s impossible for me to give it a clear-headed evaluation now. (That’s why this is a love letter, not a review proper.) While I can’t tell how I would have reacted to it if this had been my first read-through (or even my tenth read-through), I was still able to pick out the things that kept me coming back time and time again. Anne Rice is a whiz at evoking historical periods, and her portrayal of colonial Egypt is no exception. The romance is epic and sweeping – hard to get any more epic when a literal eternity hangs in the balance. The characters are recognizable and multi-layered, and intensely sympathetic; it also doesn’t hurt that Ramses is a hugely attractive leading man. Finally, Rice effectively plays on the horror conventions of her story on multiple levels – both in the straightforward horror-movie “the mummy walks!” way, but also in a more subtle way, when the characters and the reader are forced to contemplate the horrors of true immortality.
There were also a few things that I picked up on that probably would have annoyed me if this had been my first time reading the book. Rice is a fan of switching her POV character every few paragraphs, which is admittedly effective at moving the story along, but which I think is overused here, making the narrative seem a little jumpy. The main conflict also doesn’t really show up until halfway through the book; the first part doesn’t ever feel like it’s dragging, but there is a somewhat abrupt shift. Finally, I wasn’t quite as caught up in the romance this time around as I was half a lifetime ago; although Ramses was definitely still crush-worthy, I found him a wee bit whinier than I remembered.
But honestly, none of these things really mattered; I still enjoyed the heck out of this book – maybe not quite as much as I did when I was fourteen, but definitely enough to let it keep its place on my “favorites” shelf. 5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Is this one of Anne Rice’s best books? No. Is it a thoroughly entertaining story? Yes. Is my current love for it based primarily on my fondness for it as a teen? Probably. Do I still think that anyone who likes books set in Egypt or fans of historical romance Gothic horror novels should give it a try? Absolutely!
First Line: The camera flashes blinded him for a moment.
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