A compelling novel of revenge told with wit and skill.
Ned Maddstone has the world at his feet. He is handsome, talented and about to go to Cambridge, after which he is expected to follow his father into politics. But an unfortunate confrontation with a boy in his school results in a prank that goes badly wrong and suddenly he’s incarcerated – without chance of release. So begins a year long process of torment and hopelessness, which will destroy his very identity, until almost nothing remains of him but this unquenchable desire for revenge.
Inspired by the Count of Monte Cristo, Fry’s psychological thriller is written with the pace, wit and shrewd insight that we have come to expect from one of our finest novelists.
Er, I actually started listening to this back in…November? I kept having trouble with my iPod skipped back to the beginning of audiobooks, making me lose my place, so I gave it up ’til I got a new ‘Pod. Now I don’t have that trouble and I can listen to audiobooks as much as I want. Huzzah, technology!
The Stars’ Tennis Balls is a modern retelling of Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. It’s about a young man named Ned who, through a series of events orchestrated by three of his peers– Ashley Barson-Garland, a seemingly perfect student who has an unfortunate habit of jerking off into school boys’ hats, Rufus Cade, a stupid thug, and Gordon Fendeman, the American cousin of Ned’s girlfriend Portia– and a secret service agent named Oliver Delft, ends up imprisoned in an insane asylum for 20 years. He loses his family, his girlfriend, his future, and very nearly his mind. But then he meets Babe, a brilliant man also falsely imprisoned, who can help him escape– and who can help him get his revenge.
If I hadn’t already loved Stephen Fry before reading this book, I’d love him after. It is seriously good! The entire thing is fantastic, and Mr. Fry’s voice is oh-so-wonderful. The characters were somehow both perfect archetypes and believable humans, and the plot had enough suspense and excitement and OMG! moments in it that it flowed really quickly and most satisfyingly.
Ned does, of course, get his revenge, and he gets it most thoroughly. The men those boys grow up to be are so disgusting that I didn’t feel bad for them once Ned had gotten his revenge on them– all of it ending in death and humiliation, mind. They do die in horrible ways, and I did feel bad for the families they left behind, but at the same time I was…content that Ned got to even the score.
The ending was absolutely perfect. I’m trying to stay away from spoilers, so apologies if this is very vague, but Ned couldn’t have done anything other than what he did. Nothing else would have worked, and his decision showed that he was still human after all his murders and plotting. That was a nice surprise; I wouldn’t have liked it as much if Ned had completely lost himself in his quest for revenge. The ending wouldn’t have had that hint of hopefulness about it, nor that potential for happiness. Happiness for Ned, at least, if not for the families of the men who he killed.
At any rate, I would easily recommend this for anyone looking for a well-written, exciting thriller with wonderful characters and an engaging plot.
Read: January 2009
Since the story mirrors The Count of Monte Cristo, there’s all kinds of lovely anagrams and references to the original work. Here’s a list, if you’re interested.