Customer Reviews for

Special Topics in Calamity Physics

Average Rating 3.5
( 116 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(53)

4 Star

(18)

3 Star

(11)

2 Star

(7)

1 Star

(27)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

Brilliant Plot, Wondeful Writing

I really wanted to give this book five stars. I REALLY did. Pessl is a first-rate writer. I kept a pen with me the whole time I was reading so I could underline my favorite passages. The plot keeps you turning pages voraciously. It is so tightly woven that you're blown ...
I really wanted to give this book five stars. I REALLY did. Pessl is a first-rate writer. I kept a pen with me the whole time I was reading so I could underline my favorite passages. The plot keeps you turning pages voraciously. It is so tightly woven that you're blown away by the conclusion, realizing that the author had it all intricately mapped out from the very beginning. And the main character, Blue...when I finished the book I felt a little sad that I couldn't follow her on her journey.

BUT, Pessl's genius is also her downfall. As a rule, I'm a big fan of superfluous verbosity, but I have to admit that I got a little exhausted at points. The constant interruption of her sentences with parenthesized information tended to get irritating, and I'm sure I ended up skipping over some of the doubtlessly insightful information therein - but I just really wanted to get along with the story. Also, while clever, her incessant literary references became cumbersome at points (and sometimes weren't all that clever). And while many of her metaphors were stunning, I think there are probably 10,000 instances of the word "like" in the book, which can get tedious.

So, while I absolutely LOVED this book, couldn't put it down, and would highly recommend it, I couldn't give it the five stars I reserve for the crème de la crème.

But regardless, I stand humbly in the long shadow of Marisha Pessl's genius.

posted by Wanderluster on March 16, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

7 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

read the secret history instead

i am hard-pressed to remember a time when i was less impressed by a novel, but i suppose i have now learned my lesson (see 'buying books based on publisher-generated hype', stevens 1986). The characters were flat and unbelievable, and the author seemed more intent on im...
i am hard-pressed to remember a time when i was less impressed by a novel, but i suppose i have now learned my lesson (see 'buying books based on publisher-generated hype', stevens 1986). The characters were flat and unbelievable, and the author seemed more intent on impressing the reader with her pretentiousness than on creating a good novel( see 'substituting pedantic style and obscure references for good writing: your key to literary success' journal of writing, nov. 2004). The pseudo-surprise twist at the end fell incredibly flat, and seems inspired by too many tv shows and movies where it is considered avant-garde and masterful to drop a bomb at the end in order to shock the audience, no matter how ill-conceived and out of context it may happen to be (see 'suprise twists: use them to disguise bad writing', wilson, et al, random house 2001). if you think the review with citations was annoying, imagine an entire book filled with them. save yourself the trouble and go read 'the secret history' by donna tartt. it is no academic masterpiece, but it is a great read with some good commentary and characters, and it is obviously the book that pessl read and is trying to copy.

posted by Anonymous on November 22, 2006

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2007

    Thrilling read

    It was wonderful to read a book with a vocabulary for educated adults instead of one written at the level of twelve year old. I found the story captivating with a surprise I did not see coming due to the skill of the author. Fantastic read. I could not put it down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2007

    Good for people who get it

    Most people just don't enjoy literature that consists of excellent description and driven by dynamic characters. It's full of vocabulary and for people who can stand to learn from reading a challenging, excellent novel and story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2007

    Wonderful and worthwhile.

    I picked up this book after hearing some wonderful things, and I have not been disappointed. The writing (which has been criticized by some as overly verbose) is completely appropriate, given Blue's situation. I highly recommend this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2007

    Extremely Entertaining

    This book is probably one of the most enjoyable novels I've read in a long time. I worried that I would miss out on a lot of the references because I'd only read about a third of the 'Required Reading', but I found it to be easily read and fun as its own work. I'd love to read it again after getting to read all of the books Pessl references. All in all, a clever, engrossing, and addictive read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2007

    creative fun

    I couldn't put it down. It was a delight to get into Blue's head. In fact, much better written than The Secret History.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2006

    fiction for obsessive fiction readers

    Prompted by another true book geek like myself, I picked up Pessl's book and immediately fell in love. The author's constant literary references are both clever and fun in the same spirit as those allusions we toss out in mixed company purely for the joy of it. I'd also venture to say that the narrator's continual framing of her experience in literary terms is a mental affliction any real book geek has endured from time to time. What really hooked me, though, is Pessl's lyrical, tumbling prose - which is a delight to read for it's own sake, regardless of where the story is headed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2006

    Outstanding

    Finally, a book worth the effort of reading it. As if James Ellroy wrote PREP and was edited by Pynchon. Not often are characters this detailed and interesting in a novel this complex. A must read for the serious reader. Best novel of the year so far.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2006

    Outstanding and funny

    I read this book in a couple of days. The author is a brilliant stylist who has a knack for characterization and is often hilarious. Blue is a bit unbelievable as a character -- as a college professor at an Ivy League university I have seen a lot of kids this age in my time -- but Pessl gets you to suspend disbelief enough that you are pulled in. Life would be a lot more interesting if there were more people as bright, learned, articulate, and amusing as the main character of this book -- or her creator.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2006

    What a writer!

    One of the most interesting fiction books I've read in the last 10 years. Hope this author keeps it coming for years.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2008

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2011

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    Posted August 16, 2009

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    Posted January 10, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2008

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2011

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