Night Film: A Novel Hardcover – August 20, 2013
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From Publishers Weekly
- Item Weight : 2.05 pounds
- Hardcover : 624 pages
- ISBN-10 : 140006788X
- ISBN-13 : 978-1400067886
- Product Dimensions : 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.4 inches
- Publisher : Random House; First Edition/First Printing (August 20, 2013)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #76,118 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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
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.
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 particularly interested in the story, as his own career came to an abrupt standstill after he attempted to write a story about her father, the reclusive horror director, Cordova himself. Cleverly, throughout this book, Pessl uses 'web pages' and news articles to justapose modern responses to news stories and total exposure, with the reclusiveness of Cordova himself, who hasn't appeared in public or given interviews since 1977. There is also a nod to her first novel, when the name of a film class about Cordova is entitled, "Special Topics in Cordova." After some pretty injudicious remarks on air, McGrath found himself faced with a lawsuit, disgraced, out of work and divorced, seeing his five year old daughter only at the odd weekend. Now, Ashley's death prompts him to reopen his investigation into Cordova, in the hope he could get his career, reputation and life back.
Along with Nora, the young coat check girl who was the last to see Ashley, and Hopper, who knew Ashley as a girl, he begins to track down anyone who may have spoken to Ashley before her death. His story will uncover many things and take you, the reader, from depraved secret parties to the possibility of black magic. For what caused Cordova to go into seclusion and what drove Ashley to kill herself? This is a roller coaster ride of a novel, wonderfully written (half literary fiction, half thriller/mystery) and with characters you will sympathise with and care about, plus the illusive world of Cordova himself. Pessl has created a man, a myth and a cleverly constructed world that you will believe in. Brilliant - for me, it is one of the best books of the year and, indeed, one of my favourite thrillers ever. I am pleased to see that Special Topics in Calamity Physics is being republished on kindle to coincide with this new release. When you have finished, and loved, this, I suggest you download her first novel. Pessl has come back even stronger than before and I certainly look forward to reading more from her - and simply hope there is not such a wait again, although this was certainly worth waiting for.
Just as she was on the edge of losing me in its last hundred pages, through becoming a bit too fantastical for belief, she did yet another, effortless, audacious, utterly credible, didn't-see-it-coming volte-face, tipping her book into a direction I hadn't seen would be there, and leaving me shaking my head in admiring amazement.
Enough with the adjectives; just what is it about, and why is it so fabulously original and worth reading.?
The narrator and almost central character, Scott McGrath is an almost washed-up middle-aged man, an investigative journalist with an obsession. His obsession is the reclusive, dark cult, noirish auteur film-maker Stanislas Cordova, whose queasily shocking films, full of investigations into the dark side of the human soul, have become cult classics, banned from mainstream showing. An underground legion of Cordova fans, world-wide, arrange hidden showings of his movies (he has not made a new one for years) using social media and deeply hidden, protected-from-prying-eyes websites which you must know about to even find, let alone get access to.
Rumours escalated about Cordova over the years. He has always eschewed publicity, whilst his films gained notoriety through dark hints and rumours. Some of these are that his films, dealing with death, sex, violence, hidden and shameful desires, were `for real'. Many of the actors and crew who worked on Cordova films appeared to have had strange epiphanies as a result of the experience, and have vanished off the radar. Those that are still around refuse to talk about Cordova and the film they worked on.
Viewers of these films also report shocking, changing experiences and well-mangled minds as a result - hence, the banning of those films.
McGrath did attempt to instigate an expose of Cordoba some years previously. The result of this was professional and personal suicide. He became unemployable after an emotional anti-Cordova outburst on TV. His marriage broke apart under the strain of his obsession to expose Cordova. He is resentfully ticking over, convinced he was set-up to fail by Cordova himself.
Then news breaks (this is start of the novel, not a spoiler!) that Cordova's daughter Ashley, an incredibly gifted classical pianist, has been found dead at the bottom of an elevator shaft in an abandoned New York warehouse. The verdict is suicide.
McGrath is not convinced, and begins another Cordova investigation, picking up a couple of unlikely, shadowy sidekicks along the way, a small-time drug dealer and a restaurant coat-check girl, actress wannabe.
What makes this different from any other well-written, imaginative thriller-cum-crime investigation, are the audacious games Pessl plays with her medium, adding to reader enjoyment and justifiable, rather than authorial self-indulgent, mind-mangling reader experience.
These include fanzine web-pages, photographs, police reports, medical records, and pages from the New York Times, including its on-line pages, reporting Ashley Cordova's death, and an early interview with Cordova from Rolling Stone, before he completely eschewed such practices.
The interactive, this-is-reality experience also steps beyond the book's pages as, in both Kindle and real book, some pages contain a particularly Cordova-apt symbol. Readers possessing an Apple or Android device can download a free Night Film app, and then, taking a photo of the pages containing the symbol will launch webpages so that the journey continues on-line
I am sulking, badly, as a woefully discriminated against Blackberry user. Random House, the publishers, have no plans to launch the Night Film app for blackberry, and my Windows PC and lappy, not to mention the blackberry, uncompromisingly tell me that the app is not compatible with my devices.
I feel like Scott McGrath, before he found a way into the Cordova secret fan website.
Pessl has been compared to many other writers, in terms of her subject matter and style - predictably, these include the Steig Larsson Millenium trilogy (Pessl a more imaginative literary writer) and Donna Tartt's Secret History - Tartt is cooler, more cerebral, more intellectual, more introverted, reflective and disciplined in her writing and imagination I think.
There is something so very lush and unrestrained about Pessl - this is not a `magic realism' novel, but she has the rich, fantastical imagination of particularly the South American Magic Realists.
However, the comparison which most hit home, in literary fashion - though not till the final 50 or so pages of the novel, was that classic, early `mess with the head of the narrator AND the reader' book by John Fowles, The Magus (Vintage Classics) . An example of so-called `god-game' writing. Pessl engages with a variety of this, and I have some similar `the reader has been rearranged' sensations.
However, it is the world of film she seems mostly to inhabit, a wonderful amalgam of Hitchcock, the Blair Witch Project, The Omen, David Lynch, Tarantino, not to mention the suspicion that Polanski and Kubrick might have been partial inspirers of Cordova.
I recommend this highly. I have now bought her first book, and fully intend a re-re-re read of The Magus!
This is a very skilful author who manages to create an impressive array of characters and plot lines, all woven together by a myriad of carefully placed clues, but ultimately it could have been a lot tighter, and more disciplined. Not quite satisfying enough, but still a great ride for the most part