Sunday, July 26, 2015

Top Ten - 7. The Eight

I said in my review for The Eight with the favourite authors and books that not many regard this as a fantasy, but it is, even though it's status as part of the genre is probably a little tenuous. It's one of those books that is very hard to classify as so many elements go into making up its whole, and it's an example of how far the boundaries of this genre that I love can be stretched and why it remains one of my favourite novels, ever.

Katherine Neville, while she has lived a remarkable life and is a brilliant writer, has never quite been able to recapture what she did with The Eight. Someone else on a forum a long time ago, described it as 'lightning in a bottle', and that's what it is. The stars aligned and everything came together for both readers and writer with The Eight. All of the elements in The Eight: history, the French Revolution, chess, Charlemagne, religion, modern politics, mystery, adventure, intrigue and the secret to eternal life, combined to make a wondrous whole.

It's a book I've read a number of times (not as often as The Lies of Locke Lamora, but I don't think I'll ever read any other book that much), and I always find something new to appreciate and something familiar to fall in love with all over again. Cat Velis is one of my favourite fictional heroes.

I have occasionally wondered why Hollywood hasn't jumped on this. They often claim to be searching for something new, which The Eight definitely is, however I think what they really want is something safe that they can pass off as new, and whatever else The Eight is, it is most certainly not safe. In some ways, while a movie or TV production of The Eight (and in recent years with the success of episodic multi season productions like Game of Thrones, I can see how filming The Eight over a 6 or 10 episodes, or even more fittingly 8, may actually benefit it better to give viewers a greater sense of the entire story) would be interesting to see and probably increase the book's profile, I'd also be scared of how I felt if they cast the wrong person as Cat, or any of the other characters, or what they may have to change to make the book film better or be more relevant (it was published in 1988 and is set in 1972, so they may have to make allowances for modern sensibility and knowledge), which would affect my view of the whole thing.

It really is a marvellous book with something for nearly every reader and I urge anyone who hasn't read it to do so.


  1. One of my favourite books to, and long overdue for a re-read, I think!

    I tried to explain what it was about to someone once, and their eyes glazed over as I ran through, "Chess!" "French Revolution!" "Catherine the Great!" "Immortalilty!" "More Chess!" "stuff & things!" "read it! You'll understand!"

    And stay well away from the sequel though!

  2. Got to agree there about the sequel. Should be avoided like a fire.