One might expect A Density of Souls to plough new furrows in vampire territory, given its author is the son of famed horror writer Anne Rice. But Christopher Rice's bold and startling debut is as far removed from his mother's supernatural fiction as could be. That's not to say there aren't similarities in this coming of age novel set in New Orleans and focusing on four friends, weighed down by the baggage of their parents and the aspirations and expectations of the city's affluent society.
At the forefront is Stephen, a young gay man who even now is haunted by the death of his father years before. Stephen is just beginning to realise who he is, his place in both his own world and that of his friends, when childhood allegiances are shattered and old painful memories come bubbling to the surface with shocking and violent repercussions.
Rice's debut is a dark, gloomy and, for the most part, humourless story, but one layered with so much truth and feeling that its hard not to care as the four friends are plunged into a world that forces them to grow up quickly. Stephen's sexuality is the driving force of the novel but he grows stronger as the novel progresses, much more able to accept and deal with it than his childhood companions. The sex scenes are sparse and stark but very rarely graphic. Rice has plenty to say on homophobia in both American high schools and the wider world, but it is about more than that. It's a fable on the power of lies, the corrupting power of secrets and inevitable yet painfully seductive hold that the people, places and events of our childhood have over the rest of our lives. The denouement twists and turns and culminates is an apocalyptic climax but it is a nerve shredding ending to a powerful, brutal, dark and seriously sexy thriller. --Jonathan Weir [via]