This book was thrust at me by a good friend during a particularly dark period of my life and he enjoined me to read it - "it will put you off revenge completely". It was, of course, The Star's Tennis Balls, but it has now been renamed.
It was not what I was expecting. I had read some of Stephen Fry's other novels and found them to be highly entertaining romps that you wouldn't want your Grandmother to read, despite the brilliance of the writing. This one is much, much darker.
Perhaps because I finished the last few chapters at such a pace which took me into the early hours of the morning, I found the finale rather frightening. I don't know whether that is what the author wanted, but my friend was quite right. This aside, it is (of course) a superb piece of English prose as one would expect from the exceptional Mr Fry.
I was about ten pages into Revenge when it dawned on me that I had read it before. Another ten pages, and I realised I was reading the re-titled The Star's Tennis Balls, which I had read when first published in 2000 or so. It was an odd moment of Déjà vu, because I recall having the same feeling a quarter of the way through The Star's Tennis Balls, which is how long it took for me to realise it was a reworking of The Count of Monte Cristo. Slow, eh?
Stephen Fry has, however, enough literary clout to make me willingly read a book I absent-mindedly purchased by mistake, despite having read it before and having read the full, unabridged classic to which it pays `ommige a mere six months prior. I suspect that if he republishes again under the title `False Imprisonment, Escape and Retribution', I'll pick up another copy and be just as tickled.
Fry's chief strength is his love of language... no one should pick up his work who isn't prepared to wallow in dialogue of the frothiest, smoothest, double-edgedest (sorry Mr. F) kind. It's surprising, in fact, that he can stop playing for long enough to get the story out (if I had his talent, I'd just wrap the reader in words until they suffocated in glee, and damn the point), but fortunately he has his gift under some sort of control, and can move characters, theme and plot along at the exactly the right pace.
If Revenge, (or TSTB, if you prefer) has flaws, they're minor ones; the updating and recasting feels, in places, suspiciously like a vehicle for Mr. Fry to wax ecstatic about technology and gadgets (now a few years outdated, although he's carefully not overdone the opportunities for this). It also rather detracts from the villainy of Ned Maddstone's* oppressors; at least in the first instance of their envy-led schoolboy pranking. However, Fry plays cleverly with the reader's sympathies; leading it first hither, then stripping it and lending it to another character for a brief time.
`Revenge' was as aptly titled to begin with as it was subsequently renamed. The hit and miss nature of exacting satisfaction, the treatment of the `serve' on landing - it's a `best laid plans' scenario with nastiness at its heart. Fortunately, the nice Mr. Fry is capable of being completely horrible, at least in print, and the only `escape' is the practical one. I was particularly impressed by the downfall of Maddstone's chief oppressor.
In conclusion: would read again. On purpose, even.
*The anagrams... it's impossible not to wonder what it must be like inside Stephen Fry's head. Do any words, at all, get out that haven't been wrenched and fondled like a Rubik's cube for all possible permutations and patterns?
Great book, yet again from Stephen Fry. Unfortunatley we'd already read it as it's the same book as "the star's tennis balls". Didn't see that written anywhere! Still a good book if you haven't already read it!!!
As others have noted, this is the same book as 'The Stars' Tennis Balls', so don't buy them both.
This is a touching novel, part old-fashioned revenge fable, part thriller, part psychological drama. Stephen Fry always manages to create characters worth investing in, and here the triumphs and tragedies are particularly keenly felt.
...and that's the extent of the review, really. Perhaps it was dim of me, but as a long-time fan of Mr. Fry's work, I got all hot under the collar at the idea of a new novel from him. In fact, it is a re-titled (for the American market) edition of "The Stars' Tennis Balls": which is good, but not great and you can find heavily reviewed on this site elsewhere. God bless.