Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Eight by Katherine Neville

Whew! Finally, another book finished! This is number one of 2009 for me, but I'm proud to have finished it on schedule (the goal was before 1/14).

I really, REALLY enjoyed this book. It was long, at 600 pages, but quite exciting just the same. Catherine Velis is a computer expert (the book was written in the eighties, so it was a bit of an anomaly for 1 - a woman to 2 - be in the field of computers). She is hand-picked by a shadowy cabal to participate in The Game. At first, she doesn't understand what The Game consists of, but as she feels her way along, from New York to France and, ultimately, Algeria, she realizes that she is playing a real-life game of chess. Her goal is to find the pieces of the Montglane Chess Service, scattered around the world and hidden for centuries, and reassemble them to decipher a formula hidden within, revealing...what? The Service's ultimate product isn't revealed until the end of the book, although some who are familiar with ancient myth and mysticism may be able to figure it out.

This book is, I believe, similar to The DaVinci Code, but with a female protagonist. I haven't read The DaVinci Code, but I understand that it involves a mystery dating back to the Freemasons, which this book does also. The story is involving and interesting. Some of the chess talk and mathematics that go into it were difficult for me - I'm a verbal gal, not particularly one with the numbers. But those parts were easily glossed over, and I was able to discern enough to keep up with the story. I enjoyed the historical detail of Revolutionary-era France and the Middle East. Cat Velis and Mireille, the 18th century nun who originally guarded the Montglane Service, were well-drawn, strong female protagonists, which I could appreciate, especially in the context of a book written in the 1980's.

What didn't I like about the book? It was a bit too long. Cat was assigned to a job in Algeria in the first or second chapter, but it took at least 200 pages before she even set foot out of New York! And the foreshadowing was a bit heavy-handed. There was a lot of "If I had only known at the time..." and "I was soon to find out..." But those were minor quibbles. The storyline kept me intrigued and, when I had to put the book down, I couldn't wait to pick it back up again to find out what would happen to Cat or Mireille next.

Four and a half out of five Whatevers. People who liked The DaVinci Code (are there any?) and/or other historical thrillers will dig this book. Also for fans of Revolutionary-era France (one of my favorite periods in European history), for those who want to learn more about the history of the Middle East, or for chess fanatics.


jenclair said...

This sounds really good, and I love a long book!

Lexi said...

The book was great! Got me through the holidays...