**spoiler alert** This novel is The Hustler-lite featuring a young girl chess prodigy, instead of a hungry young pool player. Tevis cops to this in hi...more**spoiler alert** This novel is The Hustler-lite featuring a young girl chess prodigy, instead of a hungry young pool player. Tevis cops to this in his "about the author" statement. At least, he did in the the 1984 edition I checked out of the library. The dustjacket features an icy girl playing chess, as a cat looks over the game, painted in a style reminiscent of Patrick Nagel and containing touches of Art Deco, but softer and creamier.
The novel is a cousin of Tom Petty's "Don't come around here no more" video. Black, white, and astringent all over, and yet Tevis's writing is both dogged and thrilling.
In a rough outline: underdogs scrap toward enlightenment. Eventually, in their respective books, both the girl and the hustler reach a zen state of Matrix-bullet-time, wherein the underdogs conquer their respective games using their innate genius talent honed by poverty.
The girl is an orphan. The hustler is a drifter.
The girl likes barbiturates and chess. The hustler likes scotch and pool.
The girl mechanically kicks ass through many games. The hustler has his ass kicked, until he gets over his self-pity enough to fight back for two games.
The girl consistently wins money, always with the goal of conquering the indomitable Vasily Girov. The hustler has his thumbs broken, heals, and always plays with the goal of conquering the indomitable Minnesota Fats.
Characters win by washing their faces and clearing their minds during the ultimate game. This cleansing, metaphorical and physical, is the tell that a character is going to crush an opponent.
The Queen's Gambit is The Hustler rewritten as a proto-YA novel. Read whichever one conforms to your world view and maturity level, or read based on whichever game appeals to you most: chess or pool. Otherwise, the books are interchangeable. Both teach the same, useful lessons about winning and standing up for yourself in tight spots.(less)