A unique, beautifully written book about that I fell in love with, got frustrated by and ended up being just good friends with.
I've decided that the best way to do justice to a book as long and complex as this one is to start by offering up my overall impressions and then sharing the detail of the experience of reading the book, based on the notes I made as I went along. There are no spoilers.
"Special Topics In Calamity Physics" is a book with a personality all of its own. Reading it was like meeting a very charismatic person for the first time and being dazzled by their larger-than-life not-afraid-of-anything personal style, seduced by their erudition and left hungry for more of their stories and views on the world.
For the first half of this book, I was in love. But it's a very long book, nearly twenty-two hours of audiobook, and, just as with people, long exposure meant that, by the second half, some of the glamour rubbed thin, the erudition began to seem compulsive and irritating and I became hungry for the author to GET ON WITH IT.
By the end of the book, my admiration for it was more considered. I admired the depth of characterisation, the boldness and originality of the idea, the unashamed intellectualism of the delivery and the persistent vein of humour that kept everything human. It was an experience I wouldn't have missed.
On the other hand, I was frustrated that the book seemed to meander rather self-indulgently at times and that the impact of the bold idea was almost lost under the weight of the writing style. I was reminded of an interview with Dennis Hopper where he said that the hardest thing about making "Easy Rider" was knowing which of the perfectly shot scenes to leave out. With "Special Topics In Calamity Physics" nothing was left out.
Then there's the last chapter, "Final Exam". I hope that was humour but it felt more like a sneer.
This book may not be for everyone but I strongly recommend that you give it a try and see if it's to your taste.
My experience reading "Special Topics In Calamity Physics.
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