A week or so ago, I picked up Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl. I figured it was high-time, meaning, a lot of people I like like this book, the fact that I found a pristine hardcover for a ridiculously low price at a BookSale way back when must signal the Universe conspiring for me. Yeah. At least that’s how I rationalize reading this faaat–500 pages!–chunkster of a book. And then I had to stop reading the book because I’d left it at my boyfriend’s. Huh. I picked it up again some odd hours ago, and tried to read.
Here’s a comparison. Take a lookie at what I wrote back then, the day I began it:
Picked this up because I was getting panicky over the fact that it’s been a week since I finished a novel. Huff huff. It’s going well. Not completely engrossing at its first couple of pages, but the need to read is good motivation.
I love Gareth, Blue’s father. So flawed. So arrogant. So dorky-hot.
I am at Blue’s first day of senior year. I’m liking this book a lot, very much so. It’s got heart. It’s quirky, it’s charming. But I can’t help but feel that there’s something sinister about all this–Hannah Schneider, we are told early on, dies. I mean, a cultish group of select students (called the Bluebloods, huh), headed by a mysterious part-time teacher? That’s sooo The Secret History by Donna Tartt. In fact, it’s starting to look a lot like The Secret History by Donna Tartt. And I hated that novel, so full of itself, so Ooh I’m Smart and Mysterious and Hellenistic. Abandoned that fast.
Though I am definitely liking Special Topics more than Tartt’s novel. It’s been more appealing to me. It’s got a lot to do with our narrator Blue. She’s a precocious teenager, wise beyond her years, and armed with references that spanned genres. I don’t mind. She doesn’t come off as pretentious–in fact, I am so charmed by all this. I mean, the references and the similes can get overwhelming. But I’m holding on.
And then this is what I wrote when I picked it back up again:
CRAP, I’m just at page 101?!
But I trudged on. It got slow. And slower and slower. After reading 200-ish pages, I gritted my teeth and just skipped to the last hundred or so pages. It was getting tedious. So very tedious.
I still liked Blue’s voice–it’s the best part of this chunkster–but I was beginning to notice that the entertainment value of her precociousness and the references and gah those similes were tiring. The story was moving at such a slow pace that Blue’s voice–the wonderful storytelling–was just masking a weak narrative.
The fact that we learn of Hannah Schneider’s death early on. In the blurb, actually. But I was at p.170-ish when I started to feel cheated. I kept waiting for Hannah to die, but it just would not come, augh. And when a decoy death–well, an important death in the course of the story, not just in this reader’s expectations–came into the picture, I’d really thought, “Oh, yeah, bitch is going to die.”
But no. That just really got annoying. Also part of the reason why I skipped to the end.
I backtracked for parts where I needed some clarity. Most of the back stories for the revelations, though,–those that probably nestled in the middle 200 pages–I didn’t bother to hunt down. Huh. And those revelations were a doozy, most of them bewildering explanations for the most rational suspicions. Like who Hannah Schneider really was (I mean, of course she’s not who she said she was).
The conspiracy revealed was just so freaking ridiculous, and the characters had begun to act in ways that made me scratch my head. [A spoiler-alert I can’t help:] WTF Nightwatchmen? WTF Gareth? Where the hell did these resolutions come from? Augh.
I wanted to like this book, I really really did. But the story was ridiculous, how it played out, and how it was told–save for Blue’s voice. Blue, we can keep. The 200 pages of Stalling? Not so much. If I was a Rate-This-Book kind of reader, I’d rate it 4 for Blue’s character, and then a 3 for story. And audacious lack of editing. Tighten, Miss Pessl, tighten!
Meh March strikes again.