Random House LLC
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Night Film: A Novel Kindle Edition
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Pessl not only weaves an intricately delicate yet hardcore story, she also can imbue in you a sense of dread unlike any author I've found. This isn't the kind of dread you got when you read Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves. That was a more overt dread. It was obvious that the things happening were odd and out of this level of consciousness. Pessl, on the other hand, gives you a sense of dread from the mundane, the every day, the normal. The very first chapter will stay with you and haunt you throughout the book but when you go back and re-read it there isn't one thing you can put your finger on to say why.
I finished this book a couple months ago but haven't been able to to get it out of my mind. It is subtly disturbing, deliciously fulfilling, and hauntingly beautiful. It isn't my favorite book of all time, it doesn't rate in the top 10 or anything here, but it is a phenomenal book that is worth the read.
If you enjoyed Special Topics in Calamity Physics you are going to be welcomed with Pessl's unique and enveloping writing style but beware - this is a very different type of story.
In many ways this book is like the movie "Angel Heart". An event triggers a search, and as each new item is found, you go further down the rabbit hole.
This book does get overly wordy and bogged down. If you are deeply into the book, it just carries you through these thickets.
In "Calamity Physics," the reader was also asked to absorb a lot of details, but when the events of the first 250 pages began to be uncorked in the last 200, I felt like I was on a fast-paced thrill ride; the revelation of how seemingly innocuous details were turned into critical plot points was terrific and truly surprising. I felt really rewarded for having the patience to get through the book's first half. "Night Film" presents itself with the same sort of promise, but unfortunately fails to deliver. Now for some SPOLIERS. Pessl spends hundreds of pages building the atmosphere of mystery and darkness surrounding Cordova and his daughter Ashley...only to completely dismiss them in the last 50 pages. We are told again and again how depraved Cordova is, how enveloped in darkness his life is and how those around him fall into madness having been exposed to realms of the human psyche which most ordinary people cannot withstand! I mean, she really, really lays it on thick. And then, at the end...poof, she wipes it all away with a few simple explanations that make the mystery surrounding Cordova and Ashley seem laughable. Not only was I disappointed, I felt cheated.
Another gripe: many of the characters in the book served no purpose other than to be "Basil Exposition." Too many times, characters who had almost no motivation to share intimate details of their knowledge of Cordova would ramble on for pages at a time, providing dense background information that allowed the protagonists to advance their investigative efforts. Too easy. I found myself wondering out loud "why would this person give a complete run down of the private details of their lives with complete strangers, one of whom is an investigative journalist!?"
I like Pessl's work and there's much to admire in "Night Film" (I liked the inclusion of faux web pages and newspaper clippings that some others found annoying), but it was simply too long for the amount of payoff that it delivered. As others have suggested, this novel could have benefitted from an editor who wasn't afraid to occasionally say 'no' their star author.