(Author: Katherine Neville) + (Year: 1990) + (Goodreads)
Long story short: I got this book from NetGalley and I was unbelievably excited about it. In the end, it took me entirely too many weeks to finish it and now I have to send it to the “mediocre at best” shelf.
Now let me elaborate.
The story of The Eight seemed very compelling: a mysterious chess set, a game that has been going on for ages, two female characters going on the same quest, set apart by 200 years of chasing, a giant battle of good and evil including history’s biggest names.
However, what we had was:
- The Writing
Silly and childish. The characters have the tendency of becoming pale, very pale, deadly pale etc. in every five sentences. There’s a lot of name-throwing, even though all of the big names have little actual impact on the story. What I hated the most about the book was the cheap drama technique, stolen right from Indian/Mexican soap operas. Every chapter ends with something so dramatic it’s utterly laughable. It sort of looks like this:
Three bunnies who were friends were taking a stroll in the forest. One of the bunnies decided to pick flowers. The other two were discussing the nice weather. A birdie was soaring the sky. A bee saw the bunnies from afar and decided to join them on the walk, only it was flying, naturally. Suddenly a dark cloud appeared. The three bunnies got worried because they didn’t have an umbrella. While they were thinking about what to do and how to escape the possible storm, one of the bunnies turned and told the other two: “I’m actually your father.” The bee, shocked, replied: “It’s not possible because I’m actually their fraternal aunt.”
Five days later the three bunnies were taking another stroll. The weather was a bit chilly.
In the book there was no regard, whatsoever, about the time-frame. The events were happening in the course of so many years, but the narrative continued as if nothing has important or of any value has happened in the missing time. I specifically mean Mireille’s story. Can anyone really explain to me how these characters were so mobile in an age when the steam boat was barely a thing? Because the characters were crossing seas and oceans, traveling from America to Russia like it was the 21st century. Nine months pregnant Mireille was traveling between Algeria and France, crossing seas and deserts, climbing steep mountains like it was a walk down the street. Even in the “present”, which was actually 1973, the characters were almost teleporting from one destination to another.
This, of course, brings us to
- The Characters
Who were so unbelievable that even the author started joking with them at some point, in my opinion. I mean, come on… Really, 18th century underage French nun-to-be-but-not-really who speaks fluent English, learns Arabic, Russian and God knows what else, travels half the globe and manages to give birth to two children before turning 30? A man who supposedly rules France behind the curtains, who is a described as terrifying and evil, and then all of a sudden turns out to be a spineless plaything in the hands of Mireille and is on team Good. Or how about Cat, the first female to become a computer expert, and that, before turning 25, not to mention that alongside her unbelievable expertise, she is also fluent in a couple of languages and knows everything, from music, to computers, to physics, to mythology.
And of course, all of these characters also happen to be chosen to play the game, but how and through what criteria and how did they even get noticed? Figure that out for yourselves. And if there is something that can be considered a plausible explanation about some of the chess prodigies, there certainly isn’t one about Cat, who seems to come from nowhere. I don’t even thing there was much in the way of a back-story about her.
I didn’t expect it and it made me even more annoyed with the book. I’m not going to elaborate, because it’s too spoiler-y, but there’s insta-love, folks. And a very lame one at that.
What I did like about the story, though, was
- The Plot
In the hands of a better writer, this book could have been amazing. The idea about the chess set is very original. The other thing which I really liked was the information of many topics, which flowed through the narrative. The mix of fictional and real personages and histories was deeply appreciated, especially in comparison to everything else in the book. If the famous people which are randomly mentioned just to shock the reader, had any actual role in the book, it might have been much more interesting. But as a whole, I can’t ignore the fact that from informational point of view, I learned some things and I enjoyed it.
- The Weird Part
At the end of the book, there was a detailed biography of the writer. I guess that could be considered somewhat normal, even though I don’t think I’ve seen it done for anyone but proven authors and ones who have died a long time ago at that.
But putting a gallery of headshots of the author in the book… Well, that’s plain strange. Not to be rude, but what do old modeling pictures of a book’s author have to do with the book itself? If I’m interested, I can Google the author. I don’t really see a need for that self-promotion to be shoved down the reader’s throat. Huh?