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3.9 out of 5 stars
The Stars' Tennis Balls
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 11 November 2000
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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 6 May 2003
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
on 28 January 2002
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
on 14 January 2001
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
on 6 March 2002
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 18 January 2006
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 10 December 2010
What a cracking book!

I have enjoyed all of Fry's novels, but found 'The Stars' Tennis Balls' particularly engrossing. Ned's absolute bewilderment and anger at his treatment at the hands of Delft, Barson-Garland and Cade is very compelling. The middle of the book, where Ned is take under Babe's wing, is very amusing.

It is certainly a most sinister story, with Maddstone's Bourne-esque capacity for vengeance much more clinical and brutal than that depicted in The Count of Monte Cristo.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 15 June 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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 13 March 2002
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 28 February 2011
I must admit before I begin, I have never read The Count Of Monte Cristo and had no idea that this was a remake of it. I started not knowing a thing about the plot, especially since the blurb is so brief and the cover so minimal. All I knew is what I'd been told, that this was an excellent book. I found the initial chapters ordinary, like any other book, but as the story unfolded the majesty of the plot gripped me. For people that do not of the plot I will say no more, other than that this book changed the way I see the world. This is my absolute favourite book. That said, my experience is limited: I was only 13 when I read the book and I am only 15 now.
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