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The Vines Paperback – October 21, 2014
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“The violence the vines and their insect minions leave in their path is brutal and vivid, and the characters are richly drawn, proving that just a few well-chosen words can convey volumes...The Vines is the first of Christopher Rice’s books that I’ve read, but it certainly won’t be the last. He may have only just begun to dip his toes into the supernatural waters his mother, Anne Rice, has mined so richly over the years, but here’s hoping he continues on that path with his entire foot, leg, etc.” —Debi Moore, Dread Central
“His best book yet.” —Geeks OUT
"Does not disappoint and grabs you from the opening chapter straight to the end with plot twists that are dark and thrilling...The transitions between modern day and French colonial slavery are exquisite and leave the reader intrigued throughout the narrative. Rice also creates a beautiful mythology infused with a thriller that gives you many shocks and oh-my-God moments in every chapter.” —Buzzfeed
“As gothic as one could expect from the author (The Heavens Rise) and son of Anne Rice, this tale of evil vegetation that feeds on the blood of those seeking revenge for past wrongs is gruesome (and somewhat overwrought). While the racial tensions underlying the story could have been more nuanced, there are dark thrills for horror fans.” —Library Journal
About the Author
Christopher Rice published his bestselling debut novel, A Density of Souls, when he was twenty-two. By thirty, Rice had published four New York Times bestsellers, received a Lambda Literary Award, and been declared one of People magazine’s “Sexiest Men Alive.” His noir thriller Light Before Day was hailed as a “book of the year” by mega-bestselling author Lee Child. His most recent book, The Heavens Rise, was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award.
The son of legendary author Anne Rice, he has published short fiction in the anthologies Thriller and Los Angeles Noir. His writing has been featured in the Advocate, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and on Salon.com. With his friend and cohost Eric Shaw Quinn, Rice recently launched his own internet radio broadcast, The Dinner Party Show (TheDinnerPartyShow.com). He also recently served on the board of directors of the West Hollywood Library Fund, which helped to secure funds for a new state-of-the-art library in the heart of the city he now calls home.
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Top Customer Reviews
This is the top layer of The Vines. But, as one of the characters says early in the book, we are "So busy looking for ghosts in the attic, we never think to look in the ground."
The ground, the earth, the soil, the dirt, and the grit of what lies hidden beneath the immediacy of the distracting surface is very much the core of this story. Like the menace that lies beneath the beauty and glamor of Spring House, the real meat of this story lies beneath what you might get on a casual reading. Christopher, despite the amusing snarkiness of his social media presence (for a good time, visit his Facebook page) clearly takes his work and his art very seriously, and lets his fiction speak for itself. Beneath the chaos and fun of killer plants and bugs, Rice is actually saying some very interesting things here about the nature of life, love, class, family, privilege, friendship, sexuality, and race.
In my review of Rice's last novel, The Heavens Rise (http://geeksout.org/blogs/ranerdin/book-review-heavens-rise-christopher-...) I cited the friendship between the two main characters -- a black woman and a white gay man -- as the high point. In The Vines, the two central characters -- Nova, the daughter of Spring House's groundskeeper, and Blake, the best friend of the current owner of the house, share these same external traits with last year's characters but little else. This is a much more unlikely pair, an example of two people with little in common being circumstantially thrown together and I think the tensions and awkwardness between them create a very interesting dynamic throughout the story.
Earlier this year, a series of nasty open letter arguments were posted back and forth on the internet highlighting some of the tensions between black women and white gay men. Of course, as these things tend to play out, a great chance for an interesting dialogue turned into an oppression pissing contest and a chance for gay men to unleash their latent sexism and racism. In this novel, there are a couple of very tense conversations between these two characters, and these were done in a way that was very uncomfortable and very real. It never feels like we're witnessing "a very special episode" where we're taught a valuable lesson, but rather like we're intruding on the private and complex thoughts of two real people trying to live through their own painful and personal experiences. These little details in the context of a horror novel are really what help sell some of the crazier supernatural elements of the story, and I commend Rice for how he balanced these moments. Horror fiction is still pretty starved for well rounded characters that aren't straight white men, and I appreciate that Rice brings diversity to the front and center of his stories in a very honest and human way. On a personal level, when I was first struggling to write stories of my own as a teenager, I really appreciated that I could go to Christopher's novels for examples of gay men doing things besides pining after football players in the high school locker room. In the same way that Carrie is not a horror story about a straight woman, and is about a woman who happens to be straight, Rice's novels aren't about gay people, but about people who happen to be gay, and this might not seem like an important distinction to make, but for a young gay writer without many role models or examples to look for outside of erotic fiction, this was and remains very important to me.
But let's not forget that this is a horror novel, and we need something to scare the crap out of these people I've been discussing. It's hard to create "new" monsters in horror. There's a school of thought that basically narrows all monsters down to variations of the same handful of tropes (ghost, vampire, creature). Rice has done something very original and, frankly, pretty damn cool here. The most obvious comparison to make, at first, is to John Wyndham's carnivorous triffids. But remember, this is the south. Compare Wyndham's wonderful but somewhat technical British prose to the way they do creepy plants in Louisiana:
"Not snakes, not the fingers of some subterranean beast. Vines. That's all. But once she's whispered these words aloud -- flowers and leaves -- the words only deepen her paralysis, because by then she can see that the blossoms, each one about the size of her hand, are opening in unison. They look like the flowers of a calla lily, but inside of their four, evenly sized white petals is an insect-like amalgam of stamens and filaments, and all of it glows with an interior radiance so powerful it looks like it might drift away, spirit-like, from the temporary prison of the petals.
And each blossom, each impossibly animated, pulsing blossom, is pointed directly at her.
They're looking at me."
"Caitlin brings the flower to her nose and inhales. Its scent is something akin to charred sugar, sweet and smoky and a little cloying. Then comes a loamy undertone, an intoxicating compromise between turned dirt and the taste she'd often discover just below her husband's armpit during sex."
So no, these vines have very little in common with their no-nonsense British cousins. This probably doesn't come as a surprise, but Rice writes about the south, and specifically Louisiana, very well. I can feel the cloying stickiness of the vegetation and the dirt, the magnificent over the top flowering of vegetation that makes its home under the opulence of an old southern mansion. Spring House and its grounds become characters in their own right, occasionally reminding me of some of the best parts of Anne Rivers Siddons's excellent southern horror novel The House Next Door.
Without giving anything away, as Rice develops the nature of the vines further, the story takes some interesting turns as we learn the true nature of what animates and drives their vengeful blood-thirst. For anyone that's ever read Robert McCammon's wonderful novel Swan Song, there's a particularly interesting "what-if?" here, if you've ever wondered about what would happen if Swan decided to use her gift for making plants grow for...nastier purposes.
For the grittier horror fan in me, there's also some really cool killer bug imagery at one point. Like I said, this book has everything.
By this point, Christopher Rice has written novels that span all different genres, but I really feel that The Heavens Rise was a breakthrough moment and that The Vines is his best book yet. As a lifelong and somewhat jaded horror fan, this short novel hit every single one of my sweet spots in the one wild night I spent with it and left me sore, exhausted, and incredibly satisfied as I watched the sun come up -- with the added bonus of not having to make awkward post-coital small talk. Like all the best horror books, I went to bed slightly jumpy, as the wind outside caused me to give a nervous side-eye to the branches of the trees as they flung their leaves into the brisk October morning. Rating: A
This must have been a required book to meet a quota as I have read other books by Mr. Rice and enjoyed them.
When the vines ( animated, pulsing blossoms) come across Caitlin Chaissons breast I nearly fell off my bed! I could not make it past page 12. NOT to mention it is real close to porn! Sweet mother of GOD!
DO not let him take your money and laugh at you!