The Eight is a thrilling mystery/adventure with smart and capable heroines, fascinating history, intriguing mysteries, exotic locations, startling dis...moreThe Eight is a thrilling mystery/adventure with smart and capable heroines, fascinating history, intriguing mysteries, exotic locations, startling discoveries, math puzzles, codes and ciphers, amusing historical cameos, twists and turns, and what I think is an epic scope. It may not be high art, but it is extremely entertaining and enjoyable. It is without a doubt one of the most entertaining books I've read, and therefore, despite it's flaws, it is highly satisfying. So either I'm not a discerning reader or the entertainment value really is that good. Or both.
This is one of those books that the cliche of being unable to put it down was made for. It took a while, particularly since the narrative switches between two different time periods with two different heroines to get used to, but once I got into the story, I did little else other than read more of it (apart from the several hours I spent telling my boyfriend all about it and, in fact, reading parts of it that I'd bookmarked out loud to him until I literally lost my voice).
As I said, it took me a little while to really appreciate it. As a history buff (or, at least, a lover of historical fiction), I was loving the opening of the story in 1790s France, which is undoubtedly a fascinating setting for a story. This made it very jarring for me to be pulled into a first-person narration (which I thought was grating) in New York City (too unexotic, I thought) in the 1970s (MUCH too recent to be of interest to me...I thought). But when the story went back to the past, I started to be annoyed by how unnatural the dialogue sometimes seemed. Other complaints, which I put in my status updates, included: "Characters are numerous, while characterizations and motivations are somewhat weak. But I'm enjoying it and wish to read it all in one go." and "Interesting story, interesting ideas. Perhaps too many. Writing a bit clunky at times, and unpolished." Neither of these were complete condemnations, which shows they weren't too bothersome. Not having read any later books by this author, I'm hoping the less than excellent prose was due to this being her first book. Also, compared to other writing that I've thought wasn't great, Katherine Neville is way above: she's not simplistic, and she definitely has a style--it's just unpolished.
Finally I found myself in such thrall to this book that I never put it down if I could help it. I wanted to read it in one sitting just so that I wouldn't have to wait to find out what happened. It took me four days, and if I hadn't talked to my boyfriend it would have been three.
This book made me excited to learn more about its themes, locations, characters, ideas. I'd been looking forward to reading this for so long that I had very high hopes for it, but after reading some reviews on goodreads had somewhat low expectations. Suffice it to say, my hopes were met, my expectations were exceeded, and now I want to go read the sequel that came out last year.(less)