It is supremely well-written. It is so powerfully written that about 1/3 of the way through I have put it down, and will never, ever read another word of it.
I have never done this before. Never before have I found a book which was at once so vividly written and so heartlessly cruel.
Many, if not most, of my LJ friends love to be scared to death. They thrill at roller coasters and zombie movies and Friday The 13th and riding shotgun at 170 mph next to a blindfolded driver. To me this is not entertainment. I do not enjoy hearing the story about the evil ruler who shoves his fist down his cheating consort's throat, ripping her heart out from the inside.
Carrion Comfort makes those innocent activities seem like preschool stuff. And that is all I am going to say about that. I'll be putting this book on the BASFA auction block at the next meeting.
Along those lines, but comparative child's play, is yet another excellent Gong Li vehicle from China called The Curse of the Golden Flower. The flower is a golden chrysanthemum, the imperial symbol. Li plays the consort of the emperor of China 1,000 years ago. She is his second wife, his first wife he said died 20 years before. Li is boinking her eldest step-son, the emperor is forcing her to take "medicine" every 2 hours which we all know is a slow poison, the eldest son is boinking the daughter of the doctor who makes the "medicine" (and she administers it to the empress). And so on. The emperor has three sons, they are all plotting against him and each other, but he's not only Pure Evil, he's a lot smarter than they are, so they don't stand a chance.
The acting is outstanding all across the board. Chan, the doctor's daughter, is a total babe, played by Man Li - watch for that name, she's in the same mold as Gong Li and Zhang Zhi-yi, who have both made hit flicks in Hollywood. Also impressive is Yun-Fat Chow, who does some actual acting in this film, for a change. Director Yimou Zhang once again shows his mastery of color and light and epic crowd scenes which make Cecil B. DeMille look like a piker. Costumes are to die for - any of my costumer friends would be in happy happy joy joy land watching this film.
It's not a spoiler to say the bad guy wins, because pretty much everyone in this plot is the bad guy.
Edit add: IMHO Gong Li is the greatest living film actress. Granted, I do not speak Chinese well enough to know if she does accents which fit her various characters, but the emotions are all there. Considering how late in life she learned English, I think her performance in Memoirs of a Geisha shows her line delivery is up to the compliment.