The fifth volume of Rice's Vampire Chronicles, Memnoch the Devil is one of her most controversial books. The tale begins in New York, where Lestat, the coolest of Rice's vampire heroes, is stalking a big-time cocaine dealer and religious-art smuggler--this guy should get it in the neck. Lestat is also growing fascinated with the dealer's lovely daughter, a TV evangelist who's not a fraud.
Lestat is also being stalked himself, by some shadowy guy who turns out to be Memnoch, the devil, who spirits him away. From here on, the book might have been called Interview with the Devil (by a Vampire). It's a rousing story interrupted by a long debate with the devil. Memnoch isn't the devil as ordinarily conceived: he got the boot from God because he objected to God's heartless indifference to human misery. Memnoch takes Lestat to heaven, hell, and throughout history.
Some readers are appalled by the scene in which Lestat sinks his fangs into the throat of Christ on the cross, but the scene is not a mere shock tactic: Jesus is giving Lestat a bloody taste in order to win him over to God's side, and Rice is dead serious about the battle for his soul. Rice is really doing what she did as a devout young Catholic girl asked to imagine in detail what Christ's suffering felt like--it's just that her imagination ran away with her.
Memnoch the Devil is one of my favorites; it is compelling, fiendish, startling and sensual.