Day 30 – You favorite book of all time.
I wrote a long review of this one, so I’ll just copy and paste. Before I do, though, let me say, I’ve had a blast these last thirty days. To everyone who joined me, day in and day out, thanks for playing. We’ll do this again soon. Not the same challenge, of course, but something fresh. Love yo faces!
Night Film: The Review
I first stumbled across Night Film, by Marisha Pessl, by way of a review written by one of my favorite authors, Joe Hill. I read the Look Inside on Amazon, skimmed through the negative reviews, then ran out to buy the hardcover. I’ll explain why I purchased the physical version instead of the ebook in a moment. On with the review!
First and foremost, Night Film is a literary novel. It is more about the journey than the destination. You will drink your fill of adverbs, but, in my opinion, every word present is required if you are to be fully immersed in this startlingly vibrant work of art.
At first, Night Film read like a novelization of the movie 8MM. For two hundred pages, I went along, seemingly trudging through superfluous detail and meandering characters. And then the interviews started; page after page of fringe players droning on and on about their dealings with the reclusive director, Stanislas Cordova, and his recently deceased daughter, Ashley. Normally I’d be bored to tears, but the characters in this novel are interesting enough without being over the top (unless of course they’re supposed to be over the top, but, even then, Pessl manages to make them only subtly eccentric) to keep the reader’s interest. But then we come to the final two hundred pages and things become all kinds of interesting. Puzzle pieces slowly drift together, and you realize that, all along, important information has been masquerading as superfluous detail. Tiny things, such as a mysterious hexagon-shaped box mentioned way back in the first hundred pages, come back to play a large role toward the end. You will question everything after that, as you should.
Night Film is the only novel I’ve ever read that explains things with logical can-happen scenarios mixed with supernatural possibilities while still leaving the entire story open for interpretation. Was Ashley just a normal girl? Was she magical? Every time you think you know what’s going on, you’re wrong. And, when the book finally ends, you’re left considering every answer you were given because Pessl answers all questions with more questions cloaked as answers. Confused? Just read the book. To say anymore would be to step over the “edge of the end” and spoil everything.
Pessl’s descriptions catapult this haunting novel into the stratosphere, surpassing Hill’s NOS4A2 as my favorite novel of all time. Which is saying quite a bit, considering Night Film isn’t horror, which remains my go-to genre of choice. Which brings me to how disturbing this book is. We’re not talking blood and gore and spooks and beasties, but nuanced scenes of dark imagination that infect you. One scene in particular, where our narrator finally stumbles across The Devil’s Bridge to find what/who changed Ashley Cordova’s life forevermore, made me put the book down. Shivering, I powered up my Kindle, and found a comedy to watch on Netflix. This scene may not affect you in the same way, but I’ve never read such a terrifying description. So well done, yet so succinct… so stark.
For a mystery/thriller, this novel is deep. I almost wished I’d read the Kindle edition so I could have highlighted certain sections and shared them as I paged through, but I didn’t buy that version based on the Amazon reviews. Seems the Kindle edition is rife with problems concerning italics and links.
The images scattered throughout the book did seem unneeded, as, before every one of them, Pessl would describe said photograph or article, making the pictures redundant page filler. I didn’t feel they added anything to the story/narrative, but they certainly didn’t take anything away.
Night Film is the reason book reviewers give good books four stars while reserving fives for only the best of the best. I see that now. From here on out, unless a future novel surpasses Night Film, it will only garner four stars from me. That doesn’t mean there was anything wrong with it. It simply wasn’t better than Pessl’s masterpiece.
Finally, this is solely my opinion, but you might struggle through the first four hundred pages of this book, but when you reach the final two hundred, you’ll be glad you did. Everything comes together. Everything. And nothing at all…