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Publisher's Summary

Special Topics in Calamity Physics is a darkly hilarious coming-of-age novel and a richly plotted suspense tale told through the distinctive voice of its heroine, Blue van Meer. After a childhood spent moving from one academic outpost to another with her father (a man prone to aphorisms and meteoric affairs), Blue is clever, deadpan, and possessed of a vast lexicon of literary, political, philosophical, and scientific knowledge. And she is quite the cineaste to boot. In her final year of high school at the elite (and unusual) St. Gallway School in Stockton, North Carolina, Blue falls in with a charismatic group of friends and their captivating teacher, Hannah Schneider. But when the drowning of one of Hannah's friends and the shocking death of Hannah herself lead to a confluence of mysteries, Blue is left to make sense of it all with only her gimlet-eyed instincts and cultural references to guide - or misguide - her.
Structured around a syllabus for a Great Works of Literature class, Pessl's debut novel is complex yet compelling, erudite yet accessible. It combines the suspense of Hitchcock, the self-parody of Dave Eggers, and the storytelling gifts of Donna Tartt with a dazzling intelligence and wit entirely Pessl's own.
©2006 Marisha Pessl (P)2007 Penguin Audio, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. All rights reserved.
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Critic Reviews

"A stunning debut...a wry send up of most of the Western canon and, most importantly, a sincere and uniquely twisted look at love, coming of age and identity." (Publishers Weekly)
"Donna Tartt goes postmodern in this eclectically intellectual murder mystery...The writing is clever, the text rich with subtle literary allusion...Sharp, snappy fun for the literary-minded." (Kirkus)
"Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics is the most flashily erudite first novel since Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything Is Illuminated...A whirling, glittering, multifaceted marvel, delivered in an irrepressibly smart and flamboyant new voice...Q: Is Special Topics in Calamity Physics required reading for devotees of inventive new fiction? A: Yes." (The New York Times)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Jeanie on 01-12-07

Over 21 Hours of Bliss...

It's hard to believe that after over 21 hours of listening to this story, I didn't want it to end. The prologue threw me at first. It's a bit confusing and wordy, but once you get into the first chapter you'll be hooked. It was at times hilariously funny and other times deeply poignant, and as I stated above... I didn't want it to end. Blue van Meer is an all-time original and one of those fictional characters that will stay with me for the rest of my life. The book is an amazing piece of work, and I cannot praise or recommend it enough.

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61 of 62 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Karen on 02-23-07

Several stories in one

Listening to this book was a strange experience. For the first third, I have to admit that I just tolerated it. Although the narrator had a wonderful voice when speaking from the perspective of the young girl, I found the portrayal/voice of her father somewhat grating. Throughout, I found that the 'footnotes,' referencing literary works, were distracting for an audiobook, even though I probably would have enjoyed them in written form. Nevertheless, by the second third of the book, I was drawn in to the main character and her quirky band of friends, really caring about all of them. Strangely, the last third of the book switches tone quite a bit, becoming almost a mystery, which the main character strives to solve.
Ultimately, very satisfying and engaging, but --if you find yourself, like me, somewhat disinterested at the beginning-- hang in there. It gets more engaging over time.

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20 of 20 people found this review helpful

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