The Book: Katherine Neville, THE EIGHT. Ballantine Books trade paperback reprint, 2008 (originally published 1988), 32nd printing. As new, inscribed by the author.
First read: 1990
Owned since: 2008 (this copy)
If this blog were "Books I Couldn't Hang On To" instead of "Books I Kept," THE EIGHT would have been my very first post. This is at least the sixth copy of this book I've owned; the others I either gave away or lent out and never got back.
It's okay. It's that kind of book. THE EIGHT is a swashbuckling adventure novel written by a woman for women, though plenty of men love it too. It has everything: history, science, romance, murder. One of the most exciting events at Book Expo America was the release of advance copies of its sequel, THE FIRE, which comes out this fall. Of course I snagged a copy, and am already deep into it; for the rest of you, this new paperback edition of THE EIGHT includes an excerpt.
THE EIGHT is the story of a mystical chess set created for Charlemagne, which carries a formula for eternal life. The set is magical, but also cursed; it is divided up and buried, launching a centuries-long quest to find it.
Catherine Velis, a mathematician and computer expert working for OPEC in the early 1970s, is drawn into the quest before she even realizes what's happening. Her worst enemy, Lily Rad, becomes her best friend as the two women make their way across the Sahara, the Mediterranean and then the Atlantic Ocean in a desperate chase to retrieve the chess pieces before the forces of evil can. The story shifts back and forth in time between Cat and Lily's adventure and the story of the last dispersal of the pieces, during the French Revolution.
My friend and roommate Leigh first read this book, and thrust her copy on me. "You have to read this," she said. I protested; the thing was 600 pages long. "Trust me," she said. "It's like a movie. You won't be able to put it down." She was right, and I've done the same to several friends in the 18 years (18 years!) since.
Twenty years is a long time to wait for a sequel. THE FIRE has much to live up to, but I'm taking it on the plane with me tonight, and it's the first time I've ever looked forward to a red-eye. Five hours of uninterrupted reading time...