Rice has made a career out of humanizing creatures of supernatural horror, and in this fifth book of her Vampire Chronicles she requests sympathy for the Devil. Having survived his near-fatal reacquaintance with human mortality in The Tale of the Body Thief (1992), the world-weary vampire Lestat is recruited by the biblical Devil, Memnoch, to help fight a cruel and negligent God. The bulk of the novel is a retelling of the Creation story from the point of view of the fallen angel, who blames his damnation on his refusal to accept human suffering as part of God's divine plan. Rice grapples valiantly with weighty questions regarding the justification of God's ways to man, but their vast scope overwhelms the novel's human dimensions. God and the Devil periodically put on the flesh of mortals, and too often end up sounding like arguing philosophy majors. Meanwhile, the ever-fascinating Lestat, whose poignant personal crisis of faith is mirrored in Memnoch's travails, becomes a passive observer, dragged along on trips to Heaven and Hell before being returned to Earth to relate what he has witnessed. Though Rice boldly probes the significance of death, belief in the afterlife and other spiritual matters, one wishes that she had found a way to address them through the experiences of human and near-human characters, as she has done so brilliantly in the past. One million first printing; BOMC and QPB main ions.