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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fry will engage, shock and enthrall
If you are going to buy this wonderful book, I urge you to buy it in cassette form. It is a pleasure just to listen to Fry's voice and he is perfect at portraying such upper-middle class characters with feeling and humour. Star's Tennis Balls is a captivating tale of Ned, caught in an entangled web of misery as the result of a practical joke by the Machiavellian Ashley, a...
Published on 11 Nov 2000

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I like my revenge sweet, not sour, thanks
The beginning of this book grabs the reader's attention; Fry is a witty and a talented writer and the opening to this novel drew me in. I enjoyed the book immensely until Ned left the asylum, and was rooting for him all the way - then suddenly, the tone of the book changed, and became much darker. Not necessarily a bad thing; but here, it doesn't work.
Somehow,...
Published on 6 Mar 2002


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fry will engage, shock and enthrall, 11 Nov 2000
By A Customer
If you are going to buy this wonderful book, I urge you to buy it in cassette form. It is a pleasure just to listen to Fry's voice and he is perfect at portraying such upper-middle class characters with feeling and humour. Star's Tennis Balls is a captivating tale of Ned, caught in an entangled web of misery as the result of a practical joke by the Machiavellian Ashley, a character the listener will instantly loathe. Fry's linguistic skill makes this book all the more dark and disturbing and I couldn't switch the tape player off as I quickly sympathised with Ned, his situation both frustrating and depressing. It is a tale of one who has it all which inevitably never lasts, Fry's unique wit and wordplay enthralling the listener into his fictional world. It is also the complete unabridged version so I did not feel that I was missing out on anything by not purchasing the book. Overall, a macabre, absorbing tale which Fry reads with all his usual passion and intelligence. Already a firm favourite of mine.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The stars' tennis balls, 6 May 2003
By A Customer
This was my first attempt at reading a book by Stephen Fry although he already has converts in all my family, and I'm now seriously concerned it might have spoilt me for any other book. It is a gripping, engaging, erudite book from cover to cover and I couldn't put it down. Yes Ned turns from pathetic wimp to revenging angel, but who wouldn't under the circumstances ? And Neds' final action tells of his painful ending. Big words and all I couldn't put it down; I found it one of the most complete stories I've ever read. Bravo.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping terror where it makes sense, but some that doesn't, 28 Jan 2002
By A Customer
Along with other reviewers I foind this to be a mixed Fry. The literariness where it showed was true to form and the way Fry writes to teach us about words and history without patronising us sparkles. The characters were well formed and believable with the exception of latter day Ned. The hellish brutality of the torture (and "therapy" scenes) was extremely well written and worryingly good and the sequences of revenges I found to be utterly absorbing.
So where are my gripes? The first is the relative weighting. At least half the book is spent on the time in the treatment clinic as indeed it should, covering such a long period of time. However the passage of time doesn't match up. I felt he is there for less than the actual elapsed time. Then there is the issue about whether, after such treatment, Ned ("Thomas" by now) is actually sharp enough to take on the wisdom in Babe's masterclasses, or be as resourceful duing the escape from the sanitarium. And this spills into the final theme of the revenge planning. I never sensed that Ned ("Simon" at this stage) was actually bright or cunning enough to run the CotterDotCom business or have planned so meticulously the downfall of his tormentors, especially having missed so much of "normal" life and the development of the e-economy. So as much as I found the last scenes utterly page turning in their own right, they were ultimately based on some shakey character developments to my mind.
Other reviewers have thought this to be one of the less successful Fry works and a departure from his familiar territory. I guess I tend to think likewise, but it is still a rivertng read. And compared to so much dross that is out there, that's no bad thing.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fry wins, but were we watching, or being watched?, 14 Jan 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Stars' Tennis Balls (Hardcover)
Is this book very very clever, or is it trying to make us think we are clever? There are a lot of distinct literary balls lobbed during this novel. Every major writing style, ditto. The school boy bit mimics the style of novels aimed at kids during a certain period; the characteristation of the hero (its the only word that applies) pre-island, is one dimensional, as though written by Adrian Mole. Even the source material (Othello, the Count) reminds me of what I read at that age. This is deliberate; Fry even lists the source material by name, hinting that he is up to something bigger. But what? We are gieven a clue in the desciption of the inmates angered by the invisible playing board. In this scene, the clever prisoner plays a mind game which maddens the mad. is Mr. Fry playing clever tennis with his readers? The second half of the book, right down to the German, Dutch and Swiss locations is straight spy thriller stuff. And the end? Jeffrey Archer meets John Webster? Is this post post-modernism? Is it pretend post-modernism? Or is the whole smoregesboard simply playing with post-modernism, as does with so many other genres? Its the best Stephen Fry book by far, a Gullivers Travels for the third millennium. Hold onto your first editions...
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I like my revenge sweet, not sour, thanks, 6 Mar 2002
By A Customer
The beginning of this book grabs the reader's attention; Fry is a witty and a talented writer and the opening to this novel drew me in. I enjoyed the book immensely until Ned left the asylum, and was rooting for him all the way - then suddenly, the tone of the book changed, and became much darker. Not necessarily a bad thing; but here, it doesn't work.
Somehow, though I wanted Ned to get some kind of revenge for what happened, the latter part of the book felt overdone and tasteless, and I didn't really enjoy reading it. I would be tempted to say Fry was being brave in departing from the earlier tone and from his Mr Nice Guy image in general, but then the derivative nature of what ensues (noted by other reviewers on this site) prevents me from doing this.
I really wanted to like this book but I couldn't reconcile myself to the sheer nastiness of its ending. Perhaps it's unfair on Fry in the end - from a writer like Iain Banks the denouement might feel just right. Perhaps Fry was trying to get away from how he and his writing is perceived, but somehow it feels like he has missed the target with this one, rather than been misunderstood.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Revenge isn't always sweet ... but do read this novel!, 15 Jun 2006
Note: `Revenge' is the same novel as `The Stars' Tennis Balls' re-titled for the American market

You can't go wrong with Fry's novels: his plots are unpredictable, his writing style is witty, intelligent and captivating, and his (dark) humour is ever-present ... what more could you ask for?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars just as good as the classic, 18 Jan 2006
By A Customer
First a word of warning I wouldnt take the present perfect partner deal as they are if fact the same book (the revenge and the stars tennis balls). Loved this book read it repeatedly. I recommend that you read the count of monte cristo too because having seen the film of it and read this book which is "count of monte cristo for the dot com generation" i decided to read the classic. I had to do a book presentation for school and i compared this to the original discovering that they have more in common than the original and the film of the original. also the characters names are anagrams of the other charaters names. ie Ned Maddestone=Edmond dantes. Read this book its a great read especially if you cant be bothered for the old fashioned (not to mention depressing/deliciously long) original. It is thilling, exciting and you really feel for the characters. a truely interesting, thilling and fun read.
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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
By 
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.

THIS REVIEW IS NOT WRITTEN BY THOMAS WADE; WE SHARE AN ACCOUNT.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, 13 Mar 2002
By A Customer
I loved this book! I've read all Stephen Fry's books, including his biography, and this one didn't disappoint. I agree, Stephen has deviated from his usual witty, humerous style, to create a story of revenge. I know the story was rather dark and becomes sinister towards the end, but I think this was a good direction for the story to take. Once I started reading, I couldn't put it down! Come on, open your mind a little bit and accept this novel as a welcome diversion from the usual!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excelent read, Fry a master of the written word., 11 Oct 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Stars' Tennis Balls (Hardcover)
This book, as all the other books by Stephen Fry, will not fail to satisfy even the most demanding reader. To begin with, irrespective of the plot, Fry's use (and love) of the English language, together with his unique sense of humour, makes the reading of the book a pleasure in its own right. The plot evolves masterfuly and Fry, while not overdoing it, fills his story with details that ensure that, even at its most surreal, it (the story)remains believable and real. I would not mind, however, and this is an expression of my personal preferences and not in any way a criticism of the book, if the final "catharsis" of Ned Maddstone, the hero of the story, was less dark and sinister, and rather more in agreement with the humorous, albeit dark, character of the story up to the point where the retribution begins.
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The Stars' Tennis Balls
The Stars' Tennis Balls by Stephen Fry (Hardcover - 28 Sep 2000)
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