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

Scarlett Thomas

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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 on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  68 reviews
43 of 47 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!
20 of 21 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.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars toothache of the brain June 3 2008
By doomsdayer520 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Scarlett Thomas has unleashed an incredibly ambitious novel here, in the form of a thought experiment encompassing vast areas of philosophy and quantum physics. Like at least one previous reviewer in this forum, I was reminded a bit of Neal Stephenson, at least thematically, in that wired-philosophical-quantum-universal-theory-of-everything sort of way. It's all wrapped up in the tale of a flawed heroine, Ariel, who is researching a supposedly cursed book that offers its few readers a recipe for entering an alternate dimension of pure thought (the Troposphere).

Ariel embarks on bizarre psychosexual explorations in both the Troposphere and in the physical world, while frequently engaging in PhD-level discussions on super-advanced philosophy and relativity. This is the aspect of the book that will probably turn off many readers, as Ariel and the other characters descend into chapter-length egghead discussions, and usually right in the middle of the drama or action. Fortunately Scarlett Thomas seems to know plenty about such matters and she usually - but not always - keeps the brain exercises integrated with the plot. But I can't blame other readers for getting exasperated with the constant obscure references to Heidegger, Derrida, and Einstein - and such discussions really slow down the second half of the novel.

On the good side, the general plotline surrounding the cursed book and the Troposphere is consistently fascinating, and there are some pretty good developments in Ariel's character as she compares her own messed-up life to the possibilities of living in a purely mental realm, in which she can experience the thoughts and feelings of others. The deep-thinking characters are also a bonus for bookworms and philosophically-minded readers, and I bet that Scarlett Thomas could write a believable (if very dense) non-fiction textbook on the postructuralist physics ruminated on by her characters. However, I did not care for the story's ending and Thomas has crammed way too many cosmological and epistemological (gasp!) ideas into the storyline. Regardless of Thomas's ambition, it's very difficult to keep a theory-of-the-universe thought experiment like this under control. Regardless, this is a highly unique novel for readers of a certain mindset. [~doomsdayer520~]

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