A-schaef’s #CBR4 Review #03: The Princess Bride by William Goldman

I once developed a theory that I still hold as true: anybody who has not seen The Princess Bride is probably a broken, empty shell of a human being, but they’re just not aware of that fact yet. That movie is simply one of the most easy to love things ever put to film. Knowledge of my love for it is quite well known among my loved ones, and it led to me receiving the book as a present this year. I am telling you this because it is literally impossible for me to review this as an independent piece. The movie is so ingrained in all of my pop culture awareness that I can not ignore its existence, and it’s not so completely awful for me to compare them if we consider that William Goldman also wrote the screenplay for the film.

All of that aside, this is a good book. It’s not as perfect as I perceive the movie to be, however, and that irked away at me for all the time I spent reading it. The real magic of these characters is how they managed to be so good-natured and funny in the face of what happens to them. I get the feeling that this is what Goldman was aiming for, but couldn’t give them the necessary context in prose to show what he was trying to. For example, there is a classic scene where Inigo and Vizzini lean over the cliff and Vizzini shouts “inconceivable!” to be matched with Inigo’s almost halfwitted “you keep on using that word…I do not think it means what you think it means.” It’s one of my favourite moments in the whole movie, and the exact line happens in the book, but instead of the dry, joking delivery, Inigo turns to Vizzini and screams it in his face. It’s an off-putting moment, and one that confused me a lot.

I will try to stop my whining here and admit that the book did a few things even better than the movie. For example, we get backstories for the band of criminals. We learn about Inigo’s father and we relate more with his goal of avenging him. We receive a heartbreaking backstory for Fezzik, who was my favourite character by miles in the book. The whole mythology of the world is created seamlessly and from the viewpoint of a wonderfully whimsical omnipotent being. It makes the read very immersive and very fun.

This book is probably even better than I’m giving it credit for. I have no choice but to compare it with the movie in my mind, and the minor inferiorities it has are too obnoxious for me to ignore. But it’s a very enjoyable read nonetheless, and I imagine it would be stunningly good if you are still a broken, empty shell of a human who hasn’t seen the movie.

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