Night Film by Marisha Pessl
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
4 What-The-Fuck-Just-Happened stars.
I don't think I have ever had more trouble figuring out how to rate a book in my life. My emotions are so conflicted right now, and my head's still spinning from the entire reading experience.
"The problem with you, McGrath...is that you have no respect for murk. For the blackly unexplained. The un-nail-downable. You're mining for something quite powerful that does not want to be found. And it will not."
As not to ruin the story for anyone, i won't really get into the overall plot of the book. Just lay out some of my thoughts and emotions.
Night Film had quite possibly the most brilliantly creepy opening scene I have ever come across. It takes a LOT to get under my skin, but this scene did just that.
A man jogging alone in the middle of the night. A young girl, face obscured by long dark hair and wearing a bright red coat. The feeling of being hunted by something not exactly human.
By the end of the prologue i was feeling both entirely unsettled as well as super excited to dive head first into this monster of a book (it comes in at a little over 600 pages).
The girl was like one of those picture books with pages that unfold and unfold, all the way out, which caused children's eye to grow wide. I suspected she'd never stop unfolding.
There was so much about the first half of this book that worked for me. I loved the fact that the author incorporated both photos and 'web pages' throughout the book. It definitely went a long way in making me feel as if i were reading a true crime novel, instead of fiction. I loved how the mystery of Cordova was laid out for the reader. I really felt like I was in the middle of the investigation right along with our main character, and I absolutely loved that. And the storytelling itself felt so fresh and unique to me, that for a long time...even though early on in the book...i truly thought this would end up being one of my favorite books of 2013.
"Surely you've noticed that the space around Cordova distorts. The closer you get to him, the speed of light slackens, information gets scrambled, rational minds grow illogical, hysterical. It's warped space-time, like the mass of a giant sun bending the area surrounding it. You reach out to seize something so close to find it was never actually there."
Unfortunately, and surprisingly (at least for me) around the 65-70% mark, the story began to fall apart.
The lines blurring the good guys from the bad were constantly shifting. One minute the author made a particular character out to be a monster, and 20 pages later, the same character was made out to be the victim. It wouldn't have bothered me so much if it only happened a couple of times. But it was a recurring theme that really became annoying after a while. Also, I felt like the main character, for supposedly being a hard-nosed investigative journalist, was far too naive about certain things. And far too dismissive of events that were obviously going to be important later on in the story.
One thing that i really enjoyed was how certain minor, yet pivotal characters had opportunities to shine. There were several scenes where key players in the Cordova mystery were allowed to tell the reader a story. To lay out certain events that went a long way towards unfolding the underlying storyline. Pessl has a knack for using words to paint a picture for the reader. Making us feel like we are in the middle of the story...no matter how disturbing the scene may be.
I have to admit, I was incredibly disappointed in how the author chose to resolve many of the mysteries in the story. Yes, the plot was outlandish and over the top....but I loved that about the book. I truly wish she would have stayed true to the promise of the story, instead of going for a seemingly much safer, less disturbing angle. After the roller coaster ride of the first half of the book, I feel like the last third was a total let down.
As for my thoughts on the actual ending of the book? Seriously? That's what we get after 600 pages of build up? This had to be the most ridiculous, and infuriating ending I have read in years.
***Minor Spoiler Alert***
This wasn't an ending at all. There wasn't even anything close to a resolution, and just when we get to the moment we have been waiting for for the entire book....bam. The author slams the door in our faces. I realize that the ending of the book was supposed to mirror the endings of many of Cordova's films. But, as a reader I still feel immensely cheated.
So, that is why I found rating this book to be so difficult. There were so many things that I loved about it. But there were also so many things that I thought were beyond frustrating. In the end though, I have to give it 4 stars, on the strength of the first 300+ pages alone. Add in the creep factor, the uniqueness of the concept...and Night Film was an entertaining if eventually disappointing walk on the wild side.
"Did I not warn you McGrath, that to capture Cordova was to try and trap shadows in a jar? You wanted the truth? Here it is. It's boxes inside of boxes. What made you so certain you could ever figure him out? That his questions even had answers?"