Ramble-Review: Lasher by Anne Rice
Oh my Gawd, you all, Lasher is one of the most WTF books I have ever read, much less one of the WTF Best Selling Books I have ever read. The crazy, where do I begin describing it?
Lasher is the sequel to The Witching Hour (*coughcough* my ramble on that is here), it continues the epic, Gothic tale of the Mayfair family, a family of highly inbred witches who either control a strange demon-ish spirit, or are haunted by it. The first book is all about epic timeless story telling. Lasher is about clearing up any misconceptions readers might have had about the first book and also incestuous underage sex.
On one hand it’s points of view come from Michael, Rowan Mayfair’s husband (Rowan is the current head witch and is missing in this book); Mona, the next most inbred witch in the family, a 13-year-old girl who loves sex and frilly little girl dresses and hair bows; Julien, the only powerful male witch to come from the family, who by the way has been dead for almost 100 years; and occasionally Rowan and her daughter (by Lasher who is her and Michael’s mutant son). There’s a long bit at the end from Lasher’s point of view too.
So, on one hand I can say that by the end of the second chapter 13 year old Mona has broken into Michael’s house, snooped in his diary and uses magic to rape him (he’s in his late 40s). And while Michael seems appropriately upset about this in the end he gives in again (in loneliness? Because he figures WTF, it’s normal for this family and I’ve been there anyway?) Rice either has no concept of the actual effect of inbreeding, or just doesn’t care because how inbred a person is is what determines whether they are “head witch” or not. Rowan has 13 lines of inbreeding (but no negative side effects other than being super smart, having witch powers, oh and double chromosomes so she can birth a Taltos.)
Mona’s rape of Michael is completely calculated, so readers are treated to long, passionate descriptions of how hot he is, and also, to the fact that Mona, who is the only Mayfair to keep tabs on the full history of the family, is using their family tree as a “Who to have sex with” checklist. (No, really, she repeatedly mentions having been with her 80 year old great uncle. Gag.)
Then we have Rowan, who gave birth to the Taltos that Lasher took over. (Taltos is apparently a giant/fae breed that used to live on a tropical island near Scotland and were wiped out by, um, Romans? They are born adult, are hyper fertile-which I’ll get to later-and are born intelligent. Ish.) So faced with the choice between running off with Lasher or letting him stay there and kill Michael, Rowan persuades Lasher to leave and thus saves Michael’s life. Only to leave him floating face down in their swimming pool to have a heart attack, then to go into a long depression because he thinks she chose Lasher over him. But no, she didn’t, because Rowan is valiant and true, and also fallen prey to Lasher’s mind-controlling pheromones. (By the way those pheromones are how Taltos know they are genetically compatible with someone.)
So, smart, strong, can-kill-with-her-mind Rowan is currently being kept duct taped to a bed in a room so Lasher can 1) drink the milk she keeps producing 2) continue to rape her over and over in attempts to create himself a mate. And it works. Rowan finally bashes him with the ceramic lid from the toilet and gets free. Too bad she’s very, very pregnant, ends up giving birth under a tree, and goes into a coma.
It’s a good thing for the family too, because it turns out Lasher has been tracking down members of the Mayfair family and raping them too in an effort to make himself a mate (so they can remake their breed and take over the world). Except because Taltos are hyper-fertile this has…side effect. As in, if a woman is NOT compatible with a male Taltos (who might be raping them) they will get pregnant, but then hemorrhage out in a miscarriage and die. Painfully. (On the flip side female Taltos–we find out–get pregnant every time they have sex too, but they can pass the fetus who always dies without a problem. Super vag?)
Anyway, the family panics because they know who is doing this (just not why). Furthermore, the Talamasca, who has been
stalking watching the family for about 300 years is doing some really weird stuff. Like killing people who know about Lasher’s existence and “specialness”. Like threatening the family. Like maybe trying to help Lasher make his mate and take over the world. (It’s okay. Lasher has a child-like intelligence, despite being able to learn almost instantly, he can’t reason his way out of a temper tantrum most times. To him taking over the world means getting to sing and dance and screw and drink all the breast milk he wants, as should be his right.)
So there’s almost this hunt for Lasher going on. And almost this will-Rowan-escape-survive thing going on. But then every time the tension builds, Rice kills it flat by running off on a tangent, or a richly detailed, but badly timed flash back. Case and point, Lasher finally comes back to the First Street house (under the protection of the Talamasca) and instead of the knock down-drag out fight readers have been primed for—there’s four or so chapters of Lasher’s first life, before he was the Mayfair demon and attempts and justifying why he deserves to cannibalize the soul of Rowan and Michael’s infant son, rape the Mayfair women and rule the world. And somehow he convinces pretty much everyone.
Except Michael, who “like the archangel” is filled with divine rage and bashes Lasher’s head in with a hammer. And after he buries Lasher in the yard Michael comes back to the house and discovers a woman breast feeding his comatose wife. Why it’s Lasher and Rowan’s daughter, whose milk conveniently revives Rowan, who in turn blows the girl’s brains out for being a monster. Yay, end of book!
Um, not quite. There is a whole hell of a lot of WTF here. I almost put the book down because of the creep factor after that second chapter. Really, I almost put it in the trash because I felt that strongly about it. (Unlike The Witching Hour which I’ve read a dozen times this is my first reread of Lasher.) And I should point out there is some actual gorgeous, omg poetic as fuck language in this book that makes me purple with envy as a writer.
So what got me through it? I figured out that this is not a story about a creepy old house, owned by a haunted witch family. This is a story about religion. I know, that’s sooooo surprising coming from Anne Rice, right? Hear me out.
Lasher is clearly the Christ figure. A miracle birth, he’s all powerful and all knowing. And he’s a monster. He can compel people just by being in their presence. Jumping from there all kinds of things open up.
The whole of the Mayfair history is that of the wise (but evil at heart), intelligent (but blindingly stupid) pagans being courted by Christianity. They recognize it has its uses. Some embrace it. Those who embrace it over tradition end up being some of the most evil characters (Carlotta much?) Those who embrace the pagan ways end up being cackling loonies that grave rob and steal babies and sacrifice people. Even those who keep a balance might be lovely, charming, intelligent, loved people, but in the end they enable the loonies and evils ones and rape their own relatives in the name of–who knows, tradition?
We have some strong archetypes that appear. There’s Gifford, a Mayfair witch in denial who tries to both help the family and do the right thing. What happens to her? She runs into Lasher, who despite knowing he’s evil, she cannot resist, is compelled to let him rape her. (It’s disturbingly pleasurable by the way. Literally the women, even though they are definitely being raped, don’t want to say no and enjoy the hell out of it.) In short, this cautious, otherwise intelligent and sweet person, who knows “Christ” has a dark side still cannot resist allowing him to have his way with her. And it kills her.
Then there’s Rowan. She’s the nonbeliever. Moreso she’s the scientist. She’s the strong woman who can kill or heal with her powers, and chooses to heal. She’s got the best head on her shoulders. Yet
Christ Lasher completely and totally seduces her with her own scientific, inquisitive nature. The result is the same, if not worse that with Gifford. Even logical minds who should know better are seduced by religion.
Then there’s Michael. The quintessential victim. He’s a true Catholic, born and raised, and throughout both books completely embraces the idea of Lasher being this evil curse on the Mayfairs. He believes in magic as soon as it comes up, believes in science when Rowan talks about it, believes in the goodness of people, in general. He doesn’t really question religion, he just accepts his place as being constantly tortured by it. And he totally accepts that he’s the one who is supposed to end it by bashing in Lasher’s brains. (I actually like Michael, a lot.)
Next is Mona, the new generation of person, witch, whatever. Se’s actually the key to Lasher getting his mate but he never notices. If he had just raped her…Mona is blisteringly intelligent, and probably could have been the one to defy the whole mind-controlling-pheromones thing…if she wasn’t completely and totally at the mercy of everyone because she’s a 13 year old girl.
We then have the Talamasca, a secret organization (bastardized from the Knights Templar) that chronicles paranormal happenings (the book refers to David Talbot a bunch, who in the vampire books gets turned by Lestat). Are they there to help the Mayfairs? Oh, wait, they’re killing the scientists trying to find out how to keep the family safe, offering Lasher a safe haven and might just be trying to breed more Taltos? Here we have the old witchfinder general trope, the character(s) who appear to be neutral when it comes to religion, politics (and rape?) but who is, in fact, facilitating the badness in the world. For their own gain.
Of particular interest is Aaron, who was of the Talamasca, but falls for a Mayfair. He knows Lasher is evil. Has become great friends with Michael. Completely distrusts his associates. But when faced with the Christ-thing he cannot raise a hand to punish/hurt it because it is so valuable, just in its existence that he can’t stop it (even if it is a killer rapist that’s been ruining lives for hundreds of years).
Finally we have Lasher himself. If anyone deserves to be a victim to Christianity it’s the Christ figure. We totally know that Lasher has no impulse control, no sense of compassion (just possession) no sense of decency (just ego-wish fulfillment). But in his past life Lasher was charmed, in love with and protected by the goodness of religion. He was also under threat, and in the end forced to rape people and create monsters by the pagans, and finally burnt for being a evil witch by Lutherans. So religion made him safe, happy and whole, but it also tore him apart and killed him.
If, somehow, this undertone had been…more composed and less rambly (it is so random that it’s like Rice herself would forget what story she was writing) it would have been a very interesting book. Between how great the metaphor worked in parts and the gorgeous language it was, in parts, an amazing, rich, vivid, dreamy-Gothic bit of deliciousness.
But it was also an aggravating, random, unintelligent driveling story that could not decide what point it was trying to make, or whose side the reader was supposed to be on, if it was a historical or modern tale, or even if it was a murder mystery or paranormal…thing made of words.
Whew. Yeah, I know this ramble is only slightly more coherent than the book (but at least you don’t have to read it now) and it’s not the best “recommendation” (I can’t even decide if anyone should read the book or not), but that’s my take on Lasher. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.