While I have been a fan of Anne Rice for years, I had never before read any of the novels by her son Christopher Rice. When I got an advanced reading copy of Christopher Rice’s upcoming novel, “The Heavens Rise,” and heard that it was Rice’s first supernatural novel, I was immediately intrigued and eager to see if he would write a tale that was as interesting as his mother’s works.
Niquette, Ben, and Anthem had been friends for a long time. Niquette’s father had undertaken to give his wife her dream of transforming the Louisiana swamp outside of New Orleans into a modern day fairy tale and built the palatial estate that came to be called Elysium. Disaster then struck the Delongpre family and they mysteriously disappeared except for Niquette who chose to flee from her friends and disappeared much as her family had. Niquette had received strange gifts from a parasite that lived on the estate and had fled to protect her friends from the evil that had befallen her parents. Unfortunately, though, Niquette was not the only person to have received, or more correctly cursed, with these powers.
When the Delongpre’s had filled their pool from a well on the property, they had unleashed a parasite that gives anyone exposed to it supernatural powers. This is where Niquette had acquired hers by another teenager, Mitchell, had also been exposed to the parasite. When he is trapped within his body in a vegetative state, he learns to expand his mind and use his powers to manipulate others. Now Mitchell is out to expose the truth as well as get revenge on the three friends and is willing to do anything necessary to get what he wants.
It was clear early on in the book that Christopher Rice definitely has plenty of writing talent. From the beginning, “The Heavens Rise” is a very descriptive and atmospheric novel. In fact, the setting of the story was at least as important to the story as the characters and maybe even more important. Rice painstakingly describes the various Louisiana settings so that they come alive and the reader can vividly see them as the story progresses. It is easy to get drawn into the story and feel almost as if you are a part of the story or at least watching the events from within the pages.
This descriptive writing turns out to be a detriment to the story in the end, however, as Rice sometimes seems to be giving more attention to describing the story rather than telling it. Much like some of Peter Straub’s novels, “The Heavens Rise” is a very well written story but the story tends to get lost in the writing at times and is much weaker than it could have been for this. While this is by no means a bad novel, I feel that the storytelling was not up to par with the writing and that keeps “The Heavens Rise” from reaching its full potential as a story. The concept is good and the passages are well written but the story as a whole does not hold up over the course of the novel and keep the reader moving forward in a compelling manner. While I enjoyed the novel, it just never got me to give a full investment of my interest in the story. I just did not care about what happened to the characters and that is what is needed in a great story. I have never read any of Christopher Rice’s works before so I do not know if this is the norm for him, but I would hope not for a writer of his obvious talent. This is an overall good book but just does not live up to its potential.
I would like to give a special thank you to NetGalley and Gallery Books for this advanced reading copy. “The Heavens Rise” will be released by Gallery Books on October 15.