Friday, October 31, 2014

Night Film - Marisha Pessl

Night Film
I am not usually much of a seasonal reader. I read what I want, when I want. The only real exception is sometimes throwing in a few beach reads for vacation. Even that, though, is more about when I choose to go on vacation, not necessarily the season. I certainly have never read a thriller purposefully around Halloween. 

Yet, as I was looking over my On Reserve list earlier this month, I saw Night Film available. I had been seeing this one come up now and again and I knew there would be no better time. A few of the other book blogs I read had mentioned what they were reading for the Halloween season, so I thought I would jump on board.

My determination: seasonal reading is fun! I want to do more of it!

Night Film by Marisha Pessl really proved to be the best Halloween book. It kept me on the edge of my seat and offer a good deal more darkness than I am used to in my fiction choices. 

The book centers around fictional film director, Stanislas Cordova. He's a mysterious enigma of a man, not seen in public for decades and having conducted only one partial interview over the course of his career. He lives on a huge estate in upstate New York, acres and acres surrounded by military grade fencing. On that property, he has constructed his own studio after being admonished for going to far by the mainstream media. His films are dark, evil even. They deal with the deepest faults in human nature: our hatred, violence, betrayal. Cordova is not scared of facing demons. 

The protagonist is reporter Scott McGrath. He had a run-in with Cordova several years back when he got an anonymous tip and pursued a unflattering story about the mystery man. His career has since been wiped out.

The story picks up when Cordova's daughter, Ashley, is found dead at the bottom of an elevator shaft in NYC. The circumstances are less than clear and McGrath gets pulled into the twisted world surrounding the director once more. As one character describes it, the world around Cordova is warped, the light shifts and you aren't really seeing what you think you are. McGrath ends up experiencing this first hand as he and two kids in their early twenties, decades younger than himself and who end up as his accidental sidekicks, try to discover the truth about Ashley's life and death.

The book is griping and more than a little scary at points. I started reading it a few days before Kevin left for a work trip. I had to put it on hold while he was gone because I didn't trust myself reading it alone at night right before I went to sleep. Total recipe for nightmares and/or being awake all night.

There's a segment of the book where McGrath and crew begin to think Cordova has surrounded himself with black magic and all the bad things are consequences of that. This was my least favorite part. I prefer logical, rational solutions. I don't like paranormal books or movies. Partially, because I think that's not something to be messed around with, and partially because my worldview thrives on logic. I was very pleased that Pessl didn't leave it there. She allowed us to get sucked in along with McGrath and then we all had to climb out of that rabbit hole together.

I found the ending of the book particularly satisfying. Obviously, with a book of this nature, I do not want to spoil it for you. Suffice it to say, I rarely feel a story is so properly fulfilled as I did her. Pessl tied up her loose strings into a very neat, character-appropriate bow. Again, I don't want to say too much. I'd love to discuss more about this in the comments with you once you've read it! (Sidebar: this would be an awesome book club book for a group up for a little mystery and suspense.)

Pessl did something so rare, too. She integrated technology well. Now, if you read my review of Don't Try to Find Me, you know poor technology integration is a huge pet peeve of mine. Pessl may be the first author I have seen use both in an engaging way and as a means to progress her story. Throughout the book, rather than talk about an article in a magazine or what a web page said, instead, she showed you. It made the whole thing feel much more real. Interestingly, the book has a real-life companion app. I didn't test it out, but, for this particular book, it seems like a great marketing tool that fits well with the story.

One very intriguing thing about the book was how real and detailed Pessl made Cordova's movies and fan following seem.You could totally imagine someone really being like him or having a following as he does. Rob Brunner wrote a wonderful New York Times article about wanting to experience the fictional movies, music, and other art forms dreamed up by extra imaginative authors in response to Night Film and other great authors who have created fictional things we really want to experience. 

If you've made it this far, congrats. I apologize for the loquacious nature of this post, but I had a lot to say about this one. I definitely recommend it, but only so long as you're prepared for some scary, dark twists. Anyone looking for something light-hearted or uplifting should steer clear.

Pages: 602
Date Completed: October 12, 2014

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