12 March 2011

The Eight (Katherine Neville)

Gosh, I wanted to like this book. Despite the Code-that-shall-not-be-named-or-linked-to, the quasi-historical Earth-Shattering Secret thriller is not an illegitimate genre--Foucault's Pendulum is the exemplar, of course, and Borges can do labyrinthine mind-boggling in short-story form with books and languages that don't exist. So The Eight--a double narrative between the 1790s and 1970s, following the battle for control over a cursed chess set that somehow encodes the mysteries of the universe--could have been fantastic.

Sadly, it wasn't. The writing wasn't great--authors, you are just not allowed to use sentences that start with "Little did I know..." more than once in a novel, OK? And the conspiracy surrounding the chess set just got kitchen-sinkier as time wore on, cycling through music and math and physics and oh also alchemy and the Freemasons and maybe becoming a god or something? The E-SS similarly seemed to be about half a dozen different things, and ended up being the least interesting. Oh, and there was this romance that just came outta nowhere--irritated me no end.

Props are at least due for writing this kind of book with women as the main characters. But it would have been nice if they were main characters in a better book.

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