BY NICO VREELAND

[In this feature, we highlight a handful of the best book reviews appearing over the weekend in major newspapers.]


The Girl with the Sturgeon Tattoo, by Lars Arffssen, reviewed by Nick Owchar (L.A. Times)

If ever a wildly popular “literary” phenomenon needed a firm pantsing, it’s Stieg Larsson’s Dragon-Tattoo-Girl series (also: Twilight). Larsson’s awful writing manages to be both clumsy and long-winded, and his cardboard characters make Michele Bachmann look like a master of nuance. It’s very bad novelling, made worse by its stunning popularity. Enter Lars Arffssen and The Girl with the Sturgeon Tattoo, a send-up about “Lizzy Salamander” and “a psychopathic serial killer who’s probably also a world-class surgeon … or an experienced samurai warrior.” Those two may or may not be the same person. It’s a shame that Owchar comes at this from the point of a Larsson fan; he doesn’t seem to get, for instance, Arffssen’s best joke. “At 200 pages,” Owchar writes, Sturgeon “is about 150 pages too long.” If that’s not Larsson-esque, I don’t know what is. [Get this book]


King of the Badgers, by Philip Hensher, reviewed by Katherine A. Powers (B&N Review)

I found Hensher’s last book to be beautiful, exquisitely written, and utterly devoid of compelling drama. This time around, the British Jonathan Franzen (trademark pending) centers his story around the disappearance of a child in a quaint seaside arts-and-crafts village. Sounds like he’s tried to put together a compelling plot, and if it’s a success (a point on which Powers never quite draws up a verdict), this could be a fantastic read. Hensher is, in non-plot-related ways, one of the most immensely skilled living novelists I’ve ever read. [Get this book]


Survivors, by Richard Fortey, reviewed by Colin Tudge (Guardian)

Horseshoe crabs, oddly enough, are over 450 million years old, which means they survived the Permian mass extinction, the largest extinction event ever on Earth, which killed 96% of marine species of life. This book is a naturalist’s quantification of such “survivors,” mixed with a first-hand account of how these species are getting on today. [Unfortunately, not yet available in U.S.]


A Man of Parts, by David Lodge, reviewed by Christopher Benfey (New York Times)

This latest novel by two-time Booker finalist David Lodge appropriates the life of H.G. Wells, the stupefyingly prolific writer who created The Time Machine and War of the Worlds. Wells was equally prolific sexually, and he believed that sex was a recreation “like tennis or badminton.” I can’t say for sure if I like the sound of the book itself, but the review is interesting for its life-of-eccentric-genius details. [Get this book]


In brief: I just don’t believe that a novel about a man who locks himself in a bathroom at a dinner party will be a satisfying read. … If you liked, or even just kinda liked Room, sounds like you should check out this book. … David L. Ulin previews upcoming fall books. … First full review I’ve seen of The Idiot Sarah Palin, or whatever McGinniss wound up calling it. … The Washington Post rounds up books about incompetent navigators. I guess the one about my mother doesn’t pub until next spring.

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