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Thomas Wade "'You could buy a car with that'" (West Midlands, UK)

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The Stars' Tennis Balls
The Stars' Tennis Balls
by Stephen Fry
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read, but unfortunately, seen through Monte Cristo coloured spectacles, 7 Dec. 2008
I certainly enjoyed this book; ah, how wonderful! - a tale of revenge - what a delicious theme! It is in fact a modern retelling of the ultimate revenge novel (and one of my all-time favourites), The Count of Monte Cristo. Many of the reviews I have read have commented on this and some have said that the plot was "stolen", but it is so close the actual that it would be foolish to deny that it is indeed The Count of Monte Cristo retold in a modern style. (And one reviewer rightly points out that a similar plot to that of Monte Cristo was around before the novel - incredibly, in real-life events.)

I was aware of this from the beginning, as my brother, who was reading it before me, commented that it was sad and read the part where Babe reveals to Ned that he has been imprisoned for 10 years. I then outlined the first part of Monte Cristo, and he said it sounded much the same. With this in mind whilst reading it, I marvelled at Fry's dedication to the original, preserving the characters and even adding some clever techniques - I felt especially smug when I worked out the pattern at the introduction of Paddy Leclare - and Portia! - ha ha - genius!

And this is where it loses a star. It is a well told, gripping story but it does not have the power of The Count of Monte Cristo. Fry is hurried, while Dumas takes his time and builds up suspense. The characters in The Stars' Tennis Balls and the incarceration that Ned suffers do not have the depth that is there in The Count of Monte Cristo and so do not fill the reader with the same lust for revenge and empathy for the protagonist. One thing Fry does manage to do, however, is give me a sense that revenge is at best, futile, at worst, immoral, which does not come across to me in Monte Cristo, whether this should be the case or not. I also find the backdrop of 20th century London, Sweden and Germany, does not have the dazzle of 19th century Paris, Rome, the Chateau d'If and the glorious island of Monte Cristo.

I am sure Stephen Fry knows this and simply wanted to pay homage to the great work of Dumas, and for those who may not have read the original, it gives them a great story in contemporary clothes (my brother literally could not put it down), but for those who have, it sometimes suffers a little from the comparison. It begs the question: If the original is an "all-time great", should one ever try to recreate it? I personally, am not at all sure.

Just to mention a couple of points that have appeared in other reviews:

1. The title refers to the influence fate has throughout the book, particularly the very unlikely coincidence that it should be Delft who intercepts the note (Dumas also relies heavily on coincidence - but is it not a factor in all our lives?) and also that Ned sees himself as an agent of fate.

2. I agree that none of the characters are particularly likeable or easy to sympathise with, but why should they be? We do not have to like every element of someone, or agree with everything they do! Some of the greatest novels have heroes we feel ambivalent about (See two great American novels: Gone with the Wind and Bonfire of the Vanities).

3. The gruesome bits. I did at points, screw up my face in a grimace of disgust, but I do believe that violence and horror has a place in literature and the book just would not have been successful without it. I agree, though, that some kind of warning beyond a pair of donkey's ears sporting a straw boater would have been nice!

To sum up: Thoroughly enjoyed, and thoroughly thought through, but will always suffer from comparison.


Us V You
Us V You
Offered by steelwheels
Price: £5.13

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing debut from the Stourbridge rockers, 3 May 2007
This review is from: Us V You (Audio CD)
This transcendent debut album from the Stourbridge 4-piece has an undeniable sense of urgency and incandescent energy. From the soaring vocals of the front man, through the sublime fretwork and fervent axe-thrashing of the lead and bass guitarists, to the furious percussion, this Rock tour-de-force forges ahead through the battlefield where grunge, metal and classic hard rock fight for dominance, to fuse a sound from the embers of the funeral pyre where only the most feared of warriors were immolated after their glorious death, surrounded by the mutilated bodies of their vanquished foe.

The stunning sound of the album is only surpassed by the supreme stage presence and low-down filthy-dirty POWER of the live act. All in all, Us v You firmly plants Orius's first foot in the annals of Rock History.

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