From Publishers Weekly
In the World of Ideas, the bizarre netherworld Eyre creates in her debut, dead philosophers engage in daily debates, everything tastes like cheese and Socrates reigns as president and believes philosophy is a life-enriching pastime. So when curmudgeonly Ludwig Wittgenstein argues that philosophy isn't beneficial to the common man, Socrates wagers his presidency that he can prove Wittgenstein wrong. Lila Frost, Socrates's secretary, is entrusted to locate a candidate from "Over There," the world of the living; the only requirement is that the chosen one must be young enough not to be jaded. Lila pops into U.K. fish and chips shop Cod Almighty where 15-year-old Ben Warner works, and after a tête-à-tête and a handful of chips, Ben travels (via a portal located in his bathroom) to the World of Ideas, where he's immersed in discussions about whether the senses are reliable, if mind can triumph over matter and what makes an individual, well, individual. The forays into the magical world are littered with sly bits of humor, though the narrative gets bogged down in lengthy philosophical discourses. Still, the novel succeeds in making the case that philosophy isn't just for beard-strokers. (Mar.)
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Eyre's charming debut novel is a mischievously enticing variation on Philosophy 101. Taking cues from Alice in Wonderland and The Phantom Tollbooth, Oxford-educated Eyre imagines the World of Ideas, where philosophers gather after death--an idyllic place, except for all the arguing. Socrates has cheerfully served as president for 2,109 years, but now he has wagered the presidency in a bet with misanthropic Ludwig Wittgenstein, who doesn't believe that philosophy is for ordinary people. Socrates insists that it is, and, furthermore, that philosophy enhances life. Socrates' lovely assistant, Lila Frost, selects an unwitting subject: 15-year-old Ben, who has a disappointing summer job at Cod Almighty, a fish-and-chips shop. Lila has Ben sneak into the World of Ideas through the linen closet, then introduces him to marvelously eccentric philosophers, who, as they walk a maze, compete in fencing matches, picnic, and vehemently debate the mind-body question, the meaning of happiness, and free will. Eyre's wit is radiant, and her clever blend of intellectual riddling and frolicking comedy is larky and enlightening. Donna Seaman
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