When I first read Anne Rice’s The Mummy, or Ramses The Damned (1989) I liked it so much I went about tracking down a hardcover copy of the first print, first edition from the U.K. And this is coming from someone who didn’t much care for her vampire series of books.
So when I finally had time to sit down and read the recently released sequel, Ramses The Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra, co-written by Rice and her son Christopher, I did so with more anticipation I’ve felt for any book in a very long time. When I opened it up to its very first page I wanted to give it all of the 5-stars I gave the original. But when I had finished I found myself disappointed, almost cheated and trying to decide if the book rated closer to three stars rather than four.
The entire gang from the original is back – save the now mummified Henry Stratford of course – and new characters have been included into the mix. Without giving away too much, the inclusion of the origins of the elixir that grants immortality to those that consume it and who created it was a nice touch.
The way the original ended I had expected the sequel to focus on Lord Elliott’s wanderings as a revitalized immortal, tales of Julie and Ramses journeys as she introduced the former Pharoh and Mummy, to the wonders of the 20th Century and the plotting of Cleopatra against her enemies both new and old.
Yet what the sequel gives the reader are almost pale specters of the characters we’d met in the original. Gone was the detailed description of the emotions, the depth of feeling, each character felt as they grappled with the mysteries they were confronted with.
The characters themselves seemed lesser, not larger, than life as they had in the original. Some were barely present. Samir, the faithful servant of first Lawrence Stratford and then Ramses, barely registered. Lord Rutherford – instead of wandering and exploring the earth as he had set out to do at the end of the original – is now the European version of the Riverboat Gambler of the Old West. Moving from casino to casino before his never-ending winning streak makes him persona non grata.
The worst is the introduction of an American novelist who has some strange metaphysical connection to Cleopatra and appears to be siphoning away those memories of Cleopatra’s former life to the point of driving Cleopatra mad. This character and plot line could have been dropped entirely as a legitimate cause and cure for Cleopatra’s mental state is laid out within the story without the presence of this new and unneeded character.
One good plot line, in addition to the elixir origins, was how Alex Savarell failed to ever get over the loss of Cleopatra at the end of the original which worked nicely at the end of this sequel.
Had this been a standalone story without any connection to the original, it would have been an easier sell to give it four stars. But for its failure to live up to the promise of the ending to the original, I have to give it just three stars. It was good, just not good enough.
For the generation introduced to Rice’s The Mummy, we learned that this was not our father’s Mummy (Karloff). It was much better. Sadly, this generation will have to accept that this sequel was not The Mummy of their fathers’ generation either. Only this time, it was worse.
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