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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.)
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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
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