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The Servant of the Bones


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Departing from tales of witches and vampires, Rice (Memnoch the Devil, LJ 4/15/95) tells of Azriel, a young Jewish man in ancient Babylonia who must mystically take on the form of the god Marduk. He is instead transformed into a spirit, destined to travel through time, summoned forth periodically by a Master, for whom he brings wealth and power. At the end of the 20th century, however, Azriel finds that he has developed the power to summon himself and work for good and the love of others. Ancient Babylonia is fascinating, but when Rice cuts to the present and Azriel's battle with a modern madman's attempt to rule the world, she falls into the mundane. Rice is also too fond of her descriptions of Azriel's fullness of life. This becomes tedious, slowing the pace, as does the use of two first-person narrators. Rice readers will demand it, but will they like it? [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/96.]‘M.J. Simmons, Duluth P.L., Minn.

Neither a vampire nor a witch nor a mummy, but a genie provides the focus of Rice's latest (after Memnoch the Devil). The queen of high-decadent gothic deviates from her formula of interlacing spirituality and carnality here: only in the novel's latter pages do lusty sensuousness and brisk pacing leaven a series of cerebral metaphysical struggles. This unusual approach arises from the central dilemma of the story. "Servant of the Bones" Azriel is a "genii" who, until his emergence in 1995 New York, is only a shell filled with spirit, not a corporeal presence ripe for Rice's usual dark eroticism. In the novel's first half, Azriel tells his tale: born a Hebrew in Babylon at the time of Cyrus, he is sacrificed in order to free his people, his body boiled down to golden bones. He then is cursed by a necromancer to be bound to the bones. Over the millennia, he is a spirit at the beck and call of a series of "Masters" who possess his casket. When Azriel calls himself into human form in the present day, he encounters plastic, airplanes‘and the Temple of the Mind, a cult of computer-created creed that threatens to kill two-thirds of the earth's population. Azriel's emergence as a sensual being and the suspense generated by the Temple's Last Days project will help readers to forget the book's initial 300 pages, in which they must track Azriel from swirling particles to thickening flesh. Yet Rice's impeccable research into science, history and Jewish scholarship will probably leave readers impressed and entertained. 1,000,000 first printing; BOMC and QPB main selections. (Aug.)

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