7 February 2012

BOOK REVIEW: "Special Topics in Calamity Physics" - Marisha Pessl

photo source: [viliflik.wordpress.com]

To start off, everyone to whom I told that I was reading a book called „Special Topics in Calamity Physics“ looked at me in a weird way and probably wondered who and why forced me to do it. I guess it’s quite improbable to imagine me engaging in a new passion of the highly complex subject of physics ^^ I was tempted to read it when I once saw the book cover in a library being praised with a quote from Audrey Niffenegger (whose book “The Time Traveler’s Wife” I really enjoyed).  Another one compared Marisha Pessl’s style with that of “The Virgin Suicides” by Jeffrey Eugenides which is one of my favourite books. But wasn’t there some kind of wise saying advising you not to judge a book by its cover? Well, this book is probably the proof to why the saying is plausible.

In the beginning you feel quite enthusiastic. The style seems unusual and unique, you get interested in the characters being crafted, and at first there are only Blue and her father Gareth. Yes, a girl named Blue. And she does present an account of how much she had to suffer while growing up and in school because of that name. Guess someone should have given this book to Beyoncé while she was pregnant to prevent her from naming her daughter Blue Ivy.

With time you just realize that the story is not interesting enough. It’s difficult to stick to continue reading the book as there is absolutely nothing that makes you want to carry on and find out more about. The next thing is the style which you thought of as entertaining in the beginning, but which simply becomes plain annoying. Believe me, it’s not fun to see quotations being made to other books in almost every third sentence. Besides from that, the story gets somewhat more captivating only way past the middle of the book.

And then the shock. The ending. It’s devastating. By this point you’ve already come to accept the weird style which you even consider charming – BUT! Even with an ending like that, and it’s extraordinary, you can’t make up for 450 pages of dreadful reading. Why on Earth does this revelation needs to stay secret until the last 50 pages?! Sure, it improves the whole judgment of the book, but you know what? It’s just too late! And in addition to that, the whole conclusion is a bit far-fetched. It reminds me of a detective story I once read: a man is killed in an apartment behind locked doors and locked windows; and there are simply no clues inside of that room. That’s the way you feel when trying to solve the mystery behind “Special Topics in Calamity Physics”. The resolution in the end of both stories are comparable, when in the detective story it’s a monkey, which traveled on a ship from Peru to Great Britain, climbed through the window and strangled that man. Pretty absurd? Something you wouldn’t have ever guessed? But you’re still not satisfied with that solution because it’s just so surreal?  You can expect something similar with Marisha Pessl’s book as well!

You can see that I wasn’t really impressed by this story and I’m still having a hard time reading it. Is the story bad enough for 2 stars? Yes! Would I recommend the book to anyone else? Maybe, but probably only to hear an other person’s opinion about it. Did I enjoy reading it (which usually automatically deserves the minimum of 3 stars)? Surely not, except for the last 100 pages. Would I really want anyone else to go through the same reading experience I had to endure? I really wouldn’t! So with this short analysis I was finally able to make up my mind: giving it 2 stars and banning it to the list of disappointing reads.  


  1. Interesting review.. but am not sure whether i want to read this or not.. now that you've given it only 2 stars!

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  2. Answer: Hahaha, that's so funny! Thank you so much :)

  3. I don´t know this book!

    Nice words!

    J. Héctor


  4. like your blog! :)


  5. Thank you for your blog, he let me know that many little knowledge, I will put it share to my friends
    Regards:- Sandeep Sharma



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