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The End of Mr. Y: A Novel [Paperback]

Scarlett Thomas
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Sept. 26 2006
A cursed book. A missing professor. Some nefarious men in gray suits. And a dreamworld called the Troposphere? Ariel Manto has a fascination with nineteenth-century scientists—especially Thomas Lumas and The End of Mr. Y, a book no one alive has read. When she mysteriously uncovers a copy at a used bookstore, Ariel is launched into an adventure of science and faith, consciousness and death, space and time, and everything in between. Seeking answers, Ariel follows in Mr. Y’s footsteps: She swallows a tincture, stares into a black dot, and is transported into the Troposphere—a wonderland where she can travel through time and space using the thoughts of others. There she begins to understand all the mysteries surrounding the book, herself, and the universe. Or is it all just a hallucination? With The End of Mr. Y, Scarlett Thomas brings us another fast-paced mix of popular culture, love, mystery, and irresistible philosophical adventure.

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From Publishers Weekly

In Thomas's dense, freewheeling novel, Ariel Manto, an oversexed renegade academic, stumbles across a cursed text, which takes her into the Troposphere, a dimension where she can enter the consciousness, undetected, of other beings. Thomas first signals something is askew even in Ariel's everyday life when a university building collapses; soon after, Ariel discovers her intellectual holy grail at a used book shop: a rare book with the same title as the novel, written by an eccentric 19th-century writer interested in "experiments of the mind." The volume jump-starts her doctoral thesis, but her adviser disappears. And when Ariel follows a recipe in the book, she finds herself in deep trouble in the Troposphere. Her young ex-priest love interest may be too late to save her. Thomas blithely references popular physics, Aristotle, Derrida, Samuel Butler and video game shenanigans while yoking a Back to the Future–like conundrum to a gooey love story. The novel's academic banter runs the gamut from intellectually engaging to droning; this journey to the "edge of consciousness" is similarly playful but less accessible than its predecessor, PopCo. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

British author Thomas bites off a bit more than she can chew in this novel incorporating time travel, Derrida, and the dangers of sadistic trysts. Strange things keep happening to British university lecturer Ariel Manto. First her supervisor disappears; then she discovers the rarest of rare books, The End of Mr. Y, at a secondhand bookshop. The tome was penned by Thomas Lumas, a nineteenth-century scientist who, as luck would have it, is the subject of Ariel's dissertation. (The book tells the tale of a man who swallows a tincture, stares into a black dot, and winds up in a place called the Troposphere, where he travels space and time through others' minds.) Bored and befuddled by real life, Ariel mimics the author's eerie experiment, with mixed results. (On her first trip, she melds minds with a randy rodent and a psychotic cat.) Like her previous novel, PopCo (2005), Thomas' mildly amusing second offering aspires to be both wonky and hip: her protagonist obsesses over philosophical matters one moment, her lamentable love life the next. Chick lit for nerds. Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Kindle Edition
Grab a cup of coffee and welcome yourself to the feverish mind-scope of The End of Mr. Y where one book takes you on a mind-bending journey and delivers everything you hope for in a book. Needless to say, I read this book, obsessively, pulling late-night hours after putting my girls to bed, reading bouts the likes of which I haven't seen since I read Philip Pullman’s trilogy His Dark Materials.

Thomas sends Ariel the main character a female which I also loved on a quest worthy of the most brilliant traditions of sci-fi, fantasy and pop culture. I must read her other book Popco. But back to this book, the female character is intelligent, dirty, gritty and complex some might say a little freaky with the rough bondage sex but that’s what I like about her, she’s a true character with no apologies.

The back of the cover truly doesn’t do this book justice, it is so much more than a cursed book it’s about what knowledge can do for your mind, how the world can change for you, the troposphere is where time and space can all be manipulated according to your mind or others depending on how strong you are. This book really makes you want to drink coffee the main character is addicted to the stuff just like me and also just to learn as much as you can. I swear by the end of the book I thought that I would see the world in code, or I would find my own mind troposphere. The book delves in Derrida, Phenomenology, the interrelation of science and faith, creationists won't like this book and also language, I’m telling you you’ll love this book. Much praise for Scarlett Thomas!
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Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  68 reviews
44 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EEK! A mouse! Oct. 5 2006
By Rosemary Thyme - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I'll be honest: I was initially drawn to this book because of the cute little mouse on the front cover. I picked it up and read the back. It said in huge letters: IF YOU KNEW THIS BOOK WAS CURSED, WOULD YOU READ IT? Intrigued, I read the rest of the blurb and discovered it was about a woman, Ariel, who read a book that was supposedly cursed and wound up lost in an alternate level of consciousness where she could read others' minds. Wow! Now I was really intrigued!

As soon as I had the book in my hands, I couldn't wait to read it and find out if the book really was cursed.The book-within-a-book that Ariel reads may be cursed and it may not be, but I won't spoil it for those of you who haven't read it.

However, Scarlett Thomas's novel is definetely cursed. Each page of it will literally haunt and possess you. As you read it, you will become so absorbed in it that you will lose awareness of everything else around you.

You will stay up for hours after your bedtime trying to solve the many mysteries that lie within the multi-layered plots of the book. You will find yourself asking deep, profound questions, such as: Is there a God? How did the universe begin? Are there other universes out there that we aren't aware of? What are thoughts made of? Are thoughts tangible? Are we all connected somehow by the tangled web of thoughts we weave? Can we read people's minds and thoughts? Can others read our minds? What would it be like if I turned into a mouse? (I kid you not about the last one!) And when you finally go to bed, your dreams will be possessed by the labyrinths and questions of the book, and you will find yourself trying to make sense of it all. Even after you have finished the book, it will continue to haunt your mind. You will be filled with an insatiable desire to aquire all of Scarlett Thomas's other writings and read them!
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful novel! Oct. 12 2006
By Armchair Interviews - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Ariel Manto is a PhD candidate at an English University where she is working on a thesis based on the works of an obscure author from the late 19th century. Her thesis advisor disappeared a year before the novel's action begins--on the day that a campus building collapses over a long unused railroad tunnel that runs beneath the campus.

Ariel lives a rather hand-to-mouth life, in a seedy apartment building with inadequate heat, on a budget that makes Ramen noodles a feast, and in the company of an odd assortment of characters. On the day of the building collapse, she has to walk home through an unfamiliar neighborhood, wanders into a used bookshop, and finds the elusive last book by the subject of her thesis, The End of Mr. Y.

At this point, her somewhat unconventional life takes a turn for the bizarre, and the reader should strap on the roller coaster seat belt and hold on, hands inside the car please.

Ariel begins reading the book, discovers the secret that so many have tried to surpress, and--very much like Alice down the rabbit hole--follows the clues, and formulas, and the recipes in the book to discover the secret of Mr. Y.

It's a fantastical book, but Thomas makes Ariel's strange journey, the people she meets and flees from, the atmosphere and location of her journeys, all of what she experiences in the course of the novel, move from one point to the next in a fashion that carries the reader along--a little breathlessly and mouth agape, perhaps--but anxious to see what will happen next.

Thomas is a skilled writer, and she knows how to pace the novel in a way that keeps the reader from being overwhelmed by the strangeness of the tale. Ariel is refreshingly candid about her history and her unfortunate tendency to wander down some unsavory romantic lanes. She's a forward character, technology-obsessed, casual about relationships, drifting a bit--and keenly observant of others.

Armchair Interviews says: If you're looking for an exciting story with a fantastical twist, dive into the world of Ariel Manto and The End of Mr. Y.
45 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tropospheric Nov. 23 2006
By Daniel Myers - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
What I'm finding so curious is not this book, which I found to be a pleasurable read, all in all, but the polarised reviews of it. On the one hand, we have the rather pig-headed remark by Allison Block writing for The American Library Association, "Chick lit for nerds."-- On the other, we have Jonathan Coe's remark sprawled across the front cover, "Not only will you have a great time reading this book, but you will finish it a cleverer person than when you started."--- This is all a bit much. To begin with the Block-headed review, perhaps Ms. Block should stick to reviewing mindless testosterone-filled novels, plenty of them about. I'm not a chick, and I don't consider myself a nerd (though Ms. Block would no doubt disagree, since I fancied this book). Mr. Coe's remark, on the other hand is a bit much on eulogistic side. I don't feel any "cleverer" for reading this book. The ideas aren't terribly original; you can find much more intriguing and mind-bending notions by reading a popular book on String Theory, for example.

What is formidable is Ms Thomas's ability to form an exciting, sexy romp of a narrative employing these ideas. It's simply a wheeze to read. Contrary to what the Ms. Blocks of the world may assert, this book if for people who feel as Ariel feels on page 117:

"Real life is running out of money, and then food. Real life is having no proper heating. Real life is physical. Give me books instead: Give me the invisibility of the contents of books, the thoughts, the ideas, the images. Let me become part of a book;"

So, go on, it's fun, and it's not as if you'll be cursed or anything.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MUST READ THIS BOOK!!!! March 8 2007
By Verita - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you are interested in: mind reading, mind control, academia, time travel, homeopathy, quantum physics, adultery, kinky sex, laboratory mice, the creation of gods, the fate of autistic kids in the troposphere and/or how to keep an English apartment warm.

A very well-written, marvellously inventive and intelligent book about... I'm still not sure, but I loved every minute of reading it. One of the usual drawbacks of books that are as crazily inventive as this one is that the ending doesn't quite live up to the book -- never fear. The ending was a bit sad, I thought, but it fit. Very satisfying, especially if you like sci fi elements in your fiction, and if you don't, this is the place to start.
18 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing and dreary July 25 2007
By Conor Malone - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
What an utter waste of my money. The books starts off well but soon manages to mire itself in a wasteland and cannot seem to figure out to which, if any, genre it belongs. If you read it as light science fantasy/philosophy, then it would be ok; sadly, Thomas insists on injecting dry references to Derrida and Heidegger at regular intervals.

The first person narrative is sleek and clever, but the dialogue seems forced and sometimes painfully contrived. Thomas' overuse of expletives diminishes their usefulness and ends up making you beg for the talking to end so the story can continue.

The protagonist, Ariel, is a pleasantly real character who is fleshed out cleverly from the start. The narrative at the beginning of the book is particularly tight and smart, but Thomas begins to lose this in the second part.

To be blunt, it feels like the author was juggling too many storylines and not really sure of what she wanted. Anyone familiar with basic philosophy, methaphysics and physics itself will baulk at the repetitive references she makes to standard texts. The artificial intellectualism is at times nauseating and it's hard to understand why the publisher didn't just ask her to simply write it as a fantasy adventure rather than laden it down with second-rate philosophic musings.

As for the epilogue - even the best of authors struggle with them, and this one is a whopping big mistake.

Overall - not worth the read.
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