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Night Film: A Novel Hardcover – August 20, 2013

3.7 out of 5 stars 963 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, August 2013: As she proved with her first book (Special Topics in Calamity Physics), Pessl is a sly, smart, sophisticated writer. What’s surprising about her elaborately plotted and addictive new novel is how it gets better as it grows more convoluted. I can envision a massive white board busy with diagrams and arrows to track the spider-webbed storyline. Once Pessl works past a few slow spots and finds her momentum, the story churns into a dark, propulsive, and insatiable mystery. The daughter of a reclusive horror film director is found dead, and a disgraced journalist and two sidekicks become obsessed with uncovering the truth of her death and the true identity of her infamous father, whose terrifying films (banned from theaters and found only via underground methods) depict what is “graphic and dark and gorgeous about life, thereby conquering the monsters of your mind.” Complex, shadowy, and a bit sad, Pessl’s riveting tale keeps us guessing until the final pages, along the way raising questions about reality, magic, art, fear, and celebrity. Sprinkled throughout are clever page props--website screenshots, news clippings, smudged police reports, and coffee-stained transcripts. It all holds together impressively, with a satisfying payoff that’ll leave you spent and sorry the ride is over. Special note to impatient readers (like me): stick with it, and savor it. You’ll be glad you did. --Neal Thompson

From Publishers Weekly

Seven years after Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Pessl returns with a novel as twisted and intelligent as that lauded debut. Again, the story centers on a father-daughter relationship, but this time the sinister element is front and center, beginning with the daughter's death. The night films of Stanislas Cordova have a cult following: fans hold underground screenings and claim that to see his work is to leave your old self behind, walk through hell, and be reborn. Ashley Cordova is his enigmatic daughter; she appears in his final film at the age of eight, debuts as a pianist at Carnegie Hall at 12, and apparently commits suicide at 24. Scott McGrath is a reporter who lost his job investigating Stanislas and can't resist his need to uncover the real story of Ashley's death. Though the structure is classic noir, Pessl delivers lifelike horror with glimpses, in the form of faux Web sites, of the secretive Stanislas, his films, and his fans. Things slow down when Scott breaks into Stanislas's estate; sustained terror depends on what is withheld, not what is shown. But Pessl does wonderful work giving the hard-headed Scott reason to question the cause of Ashley's death, and readers will be torn between logic and magic. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (Aug.)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (August 20, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140006788X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400067886
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (963 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,466 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Book Dork VINE VOICE on May 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I'm usually a pretty patient person when it comes to authors' releases- I know that in order to write something of quality time is necessary. After reading Special Topics in Calamity Physics shortly after it came out in 2006 a follow up by Marisha Pessl was immediately on my wish list. So, I waited. And waited some more. And then for a few more years. Two or so years ago rumblings about Night Film started and I got excited- only to have to wait even more. And now, the moment has arrived and I completely understand the delay. This is not an ordinary book.

Ten Reasons to Read Night Film

1. The verb "crafted" is probably overused a bit when it comes to writing, but there is no better one to use in regards to Night Film. The world Pessl created was obviously labored over- given the genre, mystery, everything had to add up in the end. And when there's nearly 600 pages of people, places, and clues there's a lot of i dotting and t crossing to do.

2. The multimedia aspect of the book makes it more hands-on and, to put it simply, interesting. Pessl includes screen shots from websites, pictures, notes, and transcripts in order to provide the reader with a more authentic experience. Also, allowing us an actual model for Ashley Cordova, the daughter of a demented film director who kills herself, is necessary- we have to understand her appeal.

3. She manages to sneak in a little bit of literature, ala Special Topics, with her references to TS Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."

4. The setting drags you all over New York City from Park Avenue to China Town, out to the Adirondacks and even to Chile, eventually.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I must say, as I begin writing this, that I am not sure of my eventual rating. Five stars for the way the book grabbed me at the beginning? Two stars for the unnumbered sixty-page chapter interpolated between 93 and 94 that made me want to chuck the book in the trash? Four for the way she almost pulls it all together at the end? Back down to three for her inability to leave well enough alone even then? Those who have read SPECIAL TOPICS IN CALAMITY PHYSICS will know that Marisha Pessl has a beguiling way with words. They will also know that she takes her novels in directions you do not expect. That one started as a teenage search for personal identity (rather good at that, actually), morphed into a murder mystery, and morphed again into espionage, conspiracy theories, and goodness knows what. Her new one has more mutations than you can pin down, starting as a noir mystery and veering into cults, more conspiracies, and a heavy dose of the occult. Or apparently so; with Pessl, you can never know. It is like a roller-coaster enclosed in a haunted house; if you can accept novels as fairground rides, you will love this!

Stanislas Cordova is, or was, a notorious American director of horror films -- so horrible that the studios refused to release them half-way into his career, and the last half-dozen were screened only in clandestine showings in places like the Paris Catacombs. Near the beginning of the book, Cordova's 24-year-old daughter Ashley, a former musical genius, is found dead in a deserted New York warehouse, apparently from suicide. Investigative reporter Scott McGrath, who has already been slapped with a lawsuit by the Cordova family, decides to look deeper.
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53 Comments 232 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
AAAARRRGGGHHHHH!!!! I was so looking forward to this book because I loved Special Topics in Calamity Physics. I cannot believe that Night Film was written by the same author. The plot is grotesquely overwrought for no apparent good reason. It just goes on and on and on and on and on about some alleged horrors perpetrated by some mythically diabolical reclusive director, and then fizzles to nothing at the end. The indiscriminate overuse of italics made me want to pull my hair out. The grammar is atrocious in places. Where was the editor in all of this mess? It is a sophomoric effort on so many levels. I am very sad.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This starts out as an interesting mystery book and perhaps a love story. About 75% of the way through I realized I did not care about any of the characters any more. The book just goes on and on and on and on and on and on - an interminably long read. And ultimately not very well written. I never understood why the author felt so many words needed to be italicized - what's that all about? After reading 85% I started skimming, and at 90% I gave up. I no longer cared what the solution was.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
My one star rating applies only to the Kindle version. I am intending to reorder as a physical book.

Author Pessl chose to write this book by including "clippings" from magazines and newspapers as an important element in advancing the story. On my second generation Kindle, these are rendered as illustrations with text so tiny that they can only be read with a magnifying glass -- they cannot be enlarged with the text enlargement function. I was able to get a refund from Amazon by asking for it within seven days of my purchase.
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