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Old 04-01-2012, 10:06 PM
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Default The Night Circus Arrives Without Warning

There is no thread one moment, and then there is!

So I just finished reading Erin Morgernstern's first novel, The Night Circus, and on looking into it afterwards I guess it was kind of a big deal recently? Like a tie-in social media game or some crap? Lots of press? I don't really follow news or releases or anything for books, there is sort of an infinite amount of them so I let them filter into my pile as they catch my eye. Sometimes timing is better than others!

Anyway, I thought we might discuss it because I really liked it!

If you didn't read it, go read it already and then come back to talk about it!

Possible spoilers from here out, though I will try to mark the actual spoiler-spoilers.


First and foremost, I think Morgernstern absolutely nailed the tone. The whole book had something of the beautiful dreamlike quality of the circus itself about it. From beginning to end it kind of floated along on its own cloud of well-crafted atmosphere, and that was pretty much enough to keep me going the entire time.

It reminded me very much of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which I also loved, for a number of reasons. Victorian England is a major one, of course. But the treatment of magic as something forgotten but not lost, yet relatively simple and applied directly to daily life was similar as well. Not to mention the rivalry at the story's core, of course, though they played out very differently...

And what really struck me was that it was a very romantic book. Not in the lovey-dovey sense, but in the classical sense. It painted a dreamlike picture of beauty and marvel and never really shied away from its story for the sake of realism or pragmatism or gritty cycnicism.



There were some elements that fell kind of flat for me, though. The biggest being the relationship between Celia and Marco. They never really struck me as being in love for any other reason than because they were, and because protagonists are in love because that's dramatic? But there were other relationships much better fleshed out - Celia and Friedrick, Marco and Isobel, both of which were far more interesting, but left behind for the sake of our heroes' grand love?

It felt like she was trying to sell their love as a byproduct of the binding spell, at least the way Marco was struck dumb when he first saw her, and how they had physical reactions to being in contact with each other. She threw in Tsukiko's past with Hinata to try and convince us that people bound like this fall in love... but we never knew why. Especially since Celia never even knew who she was competing/working with until much later, but was suddenly in love with him anyway once she found out.
It didn't really sell for me, and so most of the last quarter felt pretty forced.

Also, the game at the core of the story ended up being pretty... mundane, for all that we went through. Just compete until one of them drops. As it's explained to us at the end it's supposed to be a test of "strength"... but the game as structured wouldn't really test their strength or much else, especially in the parameters that Prospero and Alexander originally disagreed about.

But I guess the game was really more of a MacGuffin, since part of the story was about how the two broke out of the confines and worked together and collaborated to create something bigger and more beautiful than the compeition itself. The middle sections were largely free of game stuff and the circus just kind of grew and was beautiful for itself
, and I appreciate that as well.

I'll cut myself off before I ramble more. What did you think of the book? be honest, did you run out and get a red scarf?
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Old 04-02-2012, 02:25 PM
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As i mentioned earlier and elsewhere, this is one of the best books i've read, simply from a craftsmanship perspective. The sentences and word choices and imagery and artistry are absolutely delightful to read, especially for someone who loves reading for reading's sake. The story and the milieu aren't even my thing, and yet i was totally enthralled.

Just fantastic.
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Old 04-02-2012, 07:49 PM
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I got bored with the tie-in browser game really quickly, and that made me doubt whether or not the book would actually be any good, but I was pleasantly surprised when the book finally came out. Especially since it's the author's first novel.

I was also kind of confused about the whole the binding spell equals love aspect of the plot, especially since you'd think that Prospero and Alexander would have figured out (and worked around) that little wrinkle ages ago (and the implication throughout the book is that they've been at their little game for a long time.)

That said, it was refreshing to read a romance in which the third wheel(s) were sympathetic characters in their own right, who were not turned cartoonishly evil in order to fuel drama later on in the plot. I guess that Isobel does break the safety spell on the Night Circus, but not without a lot of angst and regret, and not without being pressed hard by that point in the story.

I did not go out and get a red scarf right then, but I was highly tempted to make it part of my Halloween costume last year...
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Old 04-02-2012, 10:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul le Fou View Post
The whole book had something of the beautiful dreamlike quality of the circus itself about it. From beginning to end it kind of floated along on its own cloud of well-crafted atmosphere, and that was pretty much enough to keep me going the entire time.
Intrigued! I love that shit.

So can I ignore the social media element completely?
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Old 04-02-2012, 10:14 PM
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there's a social media component?
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Old 04-02-2012, 10:44 PM
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The Night Circus

It plays a lot like Echo Bazaar, except with more emphasis on sharing the experience with others (which makes sense when you consider the plot and the events of the book.)
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Old 04-03-2012, 04:54 PM
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i am glad i did not know about that before i read the book. I hate ARGs something fierce.
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Old 04-04-2012, 01:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dawnswalker View Post
That said, it was refreshing to read a romance in which the third wheel(s) were sympathetic characters in their own right, who were not turned cartoonishly evil in order to fuel drama later on in the plot. I guess that Isobel does break the safety spell on the Night Circus, but not without a lot of angst and regret, and not without being pressed hard by that point in the story.
Hell, I think the third wheels were better developed than the main characters. Herr Thiessen was awesome, and his growing relationship with Celia actually believable. Isobel and Marco had a real thing going on - not like a healthy relationship, mind you, but an actual more-or-less-developed thing. It was kind of frustrating to see that all laid aside for PLOT ROMANCE.


Also, I have no idea about the ARG/social media thing. I saw that it existed after I had finished the book, saw that it required me to sign into Facebook to play, closed the window on principle and considered nothing lost.
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Old 04-04-2012, 12:23 PM
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Dug the book. Still can't figure out why my wife and apparently all her friends thought there wasn't an ending.
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