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Night Film: A Novel Paperback – Illustrated, July 1, 2014
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“Mysterious and even a little head-spinning, an amazing act of imagination.”—Dean Baquet, The New York Times Book Review
“Maniacally clever . . . Cordova is a monomaniacal genius who creeps into the darkest crevices of the human psyche. . . . As a study of a great mythmaker, Night Film is an absorbing act of myth-making itself. . . . Dastardly fun . . . The plot feels like an M. C. Escher nightmare about Edgar Allan Poe. . . . You’ll miss your subway stop, let dinner burn and start sleeping with the lights on.”—The Washington Post
“Haunting . . . a suspenseful, sprawling page-turner.”—USA Today
“Entrancing and delightful . . . [a] whipsmart humdinger of a thriller . . . It feels, above all things, new.”—The Boston Globe
“Gripping . . . a masterful puzzle . . . Pessl builds up real suspense.”—Entertainment Weekly
“A very deeply imagined book . . . sprints to an ending that’s equal parts nagging and haunting: What lingers, beyond all the page-turning, is a density of possible clues that leaves you leafing backward, scanning fictional blog comments and newspaper clippings, positive there’s some secret detail that will snap everything into focus.”—New York
“Hypnotic . . . The real and the imaginary, life and art, are dizzyingly distorted not only in a Cordova night film . . . but in Pessl’s own Night Film as well.”—Vanity Fair
“A literary mystery that’s also a page-turner . . . Night Film might be the most talked-about novel this summer.”—Time Out New York
“Noirish, impish and stylish, this literary thriller delivers twists, kinks and characters to care about. . . . Night Film gets two thumbs up.”—More
“You won’t put this book down.”—Marie Claire
“A shrewdly contemporary whodunit.”—W Magazine
“The sort of a top-shelf whodunit that thriller buffs dream of. Seriously, people, this is the Game of Thrones of murder mysteries.”—Out
“Night Film is an engrossing yarn, full of twists and cliffhangers. . . . Pessl handles Cordova’s menace superbly, keeping readers in thrall.”—The Economist
“It may be true, as the opening scene of the novel says, that everybody has a story about Cordova. But it’s hard to imagine any one that would be better than Night Film.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Screenshots of online news articles and the Cordovite fansite, as well as copies of mental hospital patient assessment forms and other official documents—all fictional—plus McGrath’s terror-filled imagination, pull the reader into Pessl’s masterfully played ruse. Pessl has matured into a cleverly entertaining writer who wields her strengths with greater precision than in Special Topics.”—The Kansas City Star
“A gothic thriller that’s among the best novels I’ve read this year.”—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Having finished Night Film, I now find myself a dedicated Cordovite.”—Rob Brunner, The New York Times Magazine
“A testament to Pessl’s tremendous gifts as a storyteller.”—Scott Smith, author of The Ruins
“A rare and wonderful thing—an ambitious novel that hits its target fair and square. Night Film is beautifully imagined, beautifully written, and hypnotically suspenseful.”—Lee Child, author of A Wanted Man
“This summer’s Gone Girl: a completely absorbing literary thriller.”—Library Journal
“Inventive . . . Think Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King meet Guillermo del Toro.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Seven years after Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Pessl returns with a novel as twisted and intelligent as that lauded debut.”—Publishers Weekly
“Expands from a seemingly straightforward mystery into a multifaceted, densely byzantine exploration of much larger issues.”—Booklist (starred review)
About the Author
- Publisher : Random House Trade Paperbacks; Illustrated edition (July 1, 2014)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 640 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0812979788
- ISBN-13 : 978-0812979787
- Item Weight : 1.4 pounds
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 1.04 x 8.17 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #124,878 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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The things that drove me *nuts*:
* Dialogue. I like Scott's voice, and he seems like a likable enough guy with a small sense of humor. But that should be *his* voice and it's not. Literally every character in this story, even if they're stoned or drunk or high, sounds like a slightly pretentious MFA student who hasn't learned not to infodump yet.
* The infodumps. Not just the fact that just about everyone just can't seem to wait to spill their guts, but that they will stop in very unnatural ways and explain things in these big, massive, dense paragraphs. There's no fear that you'll not catch onto an important clue, because it's pretty much given flashing neon lights when introduced, and the next time it comes up, Scott or someone will stop the forward movement of the story and literally repeat eeeeeverydangthing about that from when it first came up. Like one (nonspoilery) example. Hey, did you know that Larkin was Cordova's exclusive costume designer? Don't fear that you're going to forget it, because every time it comes up, the story will stop and remind us. Uh, as a seasoned reader of mysteries, I kind of resent this lack of trust in the reader. Yes, I can put pieces together. That's part of the fun of a mystery. This is like you getting a nice delicious plate of food and then having someone lean over and cut your meat for you like you're four years old. UGH.
* The fakeouts. I won't spoiler the movie but, yeah. Fakeouts. And I won't spoiler the end because I don't need to. You'll know how it ends if you've ever read a mystery before.
* For a female author I guess I expected more out of the female characters than the Bitchy Goddess Ex Wife, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and the Stand By Your Man.
The stuff I liked:
* There really are some lovely, lyrical passages in here. When she puts her mind to it, she comes up with some heartwringing phrasing.
* The 'wait what the heck is reality' parts.
* It really is a fun read, even though you know where it's going. There are a few surprises but it never really deviates from the road its on, just takes a few scenic detours.
* It does say some really interesting things about living life, horror, artistry, and age and all.
Though my negatives seem bigger, I actually really enjoyed the book. It was a really compelling read; I liked the interactive stuff, though in my day job I look at primary texts to suss out deeper meanings so my idea of 'fun' may not be yours; there's action and adventure and romance and a really lovely balance between 'is it evil incarnate or is it totally mundane', which is my favorite flavor of horror.
The best part about reading Night Film is that the book is filled with photographs, documents, and other visual elements, many of which have hidden content in them. If you download the Night Film Decoder app, you can scan the pictures to access the bonus content. It's seriously awesome.
I recommend just blindly jumping into this book if you're even remotely interested at this point.
Cordova's films are so dark and violent that they have been banned from some theaters. There are some people who are very addicted to his films and all things Cordova called Cordovites. One of McGrath's friends is one of them and he inadvertently helps McGrath with his research.
It is basically impossible to discuss this book without spoilers so I won't say any more. From the beginning I was conflicted about reading this book. People either loved or loathed it. I didn't like the multimedia pieces that were thrown in. They irritated me. I don't see the need and hope that authors run away from this foolish little mechanism. The ending of the book was underwhelming to say the least. When I finished, I shouted, "Why?" If you read the book, I think that you will understand.
Top reviews from other countries
I picked this book because it was featured on a list of the best pageturners and I was in the market for some narrative escapism. The book revolves around a middle-aged journalist who is trying to find out what happened to the daughter of an elusive horror film-maker. On the page-turning front, the book does not disappoint. There are a lot of twists and turns, many intriguing settings, and enough cliffhangers to cover Dover. I also liked the slightly post-modern perspective towards the end. However, the book fell short for me in several aspects. First, I did not like the materials that were strewn in. It seems like the book tried to emulate parts of the House of Leaves but utterly failed. The clippings from newspapers and snippets of websites did not add to the atmosphere but made the book seem cheap and trashy instead. To me, these materials looked like something from an escape room game and broke the atmosphere of the writing. Second, the characters were quite flat. The main character and his sidekicks were nothing more but tropes from countless airport novels or weeknight TV shows. At times, it felt like I was reading a grown-up version of the famous five. Despite these shortcomings, the book kept me hooked to the end and I did feel entertained. But, given the wide selection of excellent books out there, I would not recommend this one.
If you want a novel about film which is coherent, genuinely chilling, and which provides some laughs along the way, before hitting you with a mind blowing ending, please read Flicker - not Night Film.
Scott McGrath is a man who pretty much self-destructed via his own career – he’s an investigative journalist who took things one step too far in an attempt to expose one of the most reclusive men on the planet in Stanislas Cordova. And it’s only by accident that he ends up being pulled back into the Cordova story after the apparent suicide of Cordova’s daughter, Ashley.
Finding himself, rather unwillingly, with two young sidekicks, he sets out on a journey to find out the truth both about Ashley Cordova’s death, and Cordova himself. I found it rather difficult to get a handle on McGrath as a character – he’s obviously driven by the fact that Cordova turned his life upside down. He’s also a father, still in love with his ex wife, and rather lost in his own life. He’s a real example of how obsession can drive people to the brink of madness – and at times his obsession was actually rather overwhelming for me, too.
The irony, perhaps, of Night Film is that for huge chunks of this rather substantial book very little happens plot-wise. There are moments of heart-pounding addictive reading, but for me it was definitely the excitement of pulling apart the layers in slow-motion. There wasn’t really a point where I felt bored or that I didn’t want to keep reading, it was more when I’d finished that I realised for over 600 pages not a great deal had actually happened. That, however, is a testament to the storytelling and character development that Pessl invested in.
Night Film is most definitely a book I recommend reading in paper form. Although I don’t doubt the ebook version would work well, and I’ve heard that the audio version is also fantastic, it’s the visual additions of web pages, notes and pictures that really hooked me in initially, and kept my interest so high. There is also a (free) app available that contains even more multimedia – music and speech clips and picture montages that add yet another dimension to the story.
If you like crime mysteries, or books that are slightly quirky and different, I can highly recommend Night Film – it’s a bit of an investment time-wise but I found that time flew by when I was reading. Engaging, creepy and unusual, Night Film is definitely one of my 2014 favourites so far.
“Is this magic, or is it a mental health problem?” is a trope that I am inordinately sick of, yet I still found myself getting utterly engrossed in the enigmatic thriller which Marisha Pessl wonderfully crafted.
Pessl’s characters feel authentic, and real, and I was surprised by how quickly I found myself growing attached to them. A special mention goes to Ashley, who is more of a ghost than a physical presence, passionately haunting this story, whilst existing inches outside of the reader’s grasp, like a distant lighthouse beacon, flickering over a dark horizon.
Night Film does not offer up neat, faultless conclusions, and these unsolved conundrums may not be to every reader’s liking, but there is definitely an absorbing, provocative story to be enjoyed here.
I don’t know if this is a world and characters that Marisha Pessl is planning to revisit, or if the tale ends here, but I would be happy with either outcome.