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Wednesday October 18, 2000

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Anne Rice sucking her own blood

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By Vanessa Francis

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Unoriginal "Merrick" a boring vampire tale

Grade: E

Vampires never die. They live for centuries and feast on the blood of mortals for nourishment.

Anne Rice's books never die either. Her stories drag on for decades and feast on the dollars of devoted fans.

In her latest novel, "Merrick," Rice combines the immortal characters of the "Mayfair Witches" and the "Vampire Chronicles" to tell the story of Merrick, a practicing witch and raging alcoholic, and her trials and tribulations, including her semi-deceased family.

Rice continues her love affair with flashbacks and the re-telling of past events. By page 120 of 307, there is an entire chapter devoted to the family biography of Merrick and her conversion to witchcraft. Despite Merrick's role as a witch, she does little to know spell-casting. She has only the capability to allow spirits to enter her body, as her deceased mother Cold Sandra and recently deceased grandmother Great Nananne do often throughout the novel.

The original vampire trio of Lestat, Louis and Claudia (even through death) plays a dominant role in the tale. The novel is narrated by reporter David Talbot, the vampire who was converted by Lestat in the original "Vampire Chronicles."

Talbot, the only well-developed character of any of the players, is the understanding vampire, who wishes to help Merrick through her mourning - mostly by staring at her "heaving breasts."

The story is set, as all of Rice's books are, in her native home of New Orleans. However, there is little to no history, feeling or even setting descriptions of the city. Rice, in only a handful of times, even begins to describe the ancient mansions in which the characters romp. Rice seems to think that after several novels about the Big Easy, no further description is necessary to create her literary world - or maybe she has nothing left to say.

The book is promoted as the first time Rice combines her signature witches and vampires. That statement, however, is anti-climactic, as the vampire portions are merely old stories re-told, with the exception of one incident where Louis and Talbot venture to town in search of blood.

Like the original, Rice works with the "good vampire, bad vampire" scenario. This time, Louis is the bad vampire, always fulfilling his hunger and stringing women along, and Talbot is as devoted and kind as any human leech can be.

The book reads like any badly-written series ("Sweet Valley High," "Clan of the Cave Bear") with the exception that those books are not jam-packed with stories from previous works. At least most authors make attempts at creating a new story-line, or - God forbid - new characters.

Nothing new happens in "Merrick." Rice compiled a 307 page book with 200 pages of her own recycled material.

If the only way to destroy a vampire is to expose them to direct sunlight, then the only surefire way to destroy Rice's tradition of writing about the same story is to shed some light onto her dark, one-track mind.