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Fiction, Read Along

The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas

I am attracted to this book because of its cover. Nothing else. I am attracted to all Scarlett Thomas’ 3 recent books of her career just because I am attracted to the cover. Simple as that and it is definitely something the publishers should think of when it comes to marketing. Design a striking cover and attract reader to buy it, without a clue what the book is all about.

The End of Mr. Y opens with the heroine, Ariel Manto, a PhD. Student with a mess-up life. Ariel is immensely bright, and very much on the cutting edge; she understands Derrida theory, the Schrödinger’s Cat and différance, reads Heidegger and catches on at once to all the philosophy, physics, and metaphysics hurled about her head by her colleagues. Ariel Manto’s life consists of smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee (and other evils) and researching nineteenth-century thought experiments while hoping that her mentor miraculously returns to help her. Professor Burlem mysteriously disappeared a year before.

The collapse of the University building is due to an underground tunnel. Soon after that Ariel chanced upon a fabled book in a used book store; one of two rare copies surviving since the late 1800s. The book however has missing pages. It is believed that anyone who reads the book dies shortly thereafter.

Obviously Ariel finish reading the book, even concocted a drink which is a homeopathic whiff of charcoal in holy water and vege-cabo that will transport Ariel’s mind to another plane of reality, which she calls the Troposphere, in which there are evil CIA agents who pursue her there in the mindspace and the real world to get their hands on the recipe.

This is where the book brings us into the sort of Matrix movie-like science fiction mode i.e. the mind in a different world than the body; and the mixture of intellectual discussion around Quantum physics, thoughts experiment, codes and language, faith and religion, with romance and a thriller plot computer game sort of cat and mouse chase; and it became a book that is not easy for me to put a finger on.

I read Our Tragic Universe and love it because of how Thomas managed to throw in a mixed of ideas and still get a plot going behind the scene. Her writing is poetic and always philosophical and I found a few of these as favourites:

I had not found happiness, or, indeed, my fortune within the shadows of the Troposphere. Yet within it I felt something of what a bird may feel skimming in the air: for the time I roamed within this new world I knew I was free. And although to the world of flesh i had failed, in the world of minds I flew. – page 159

You can jump from person to person in the physical world (but only if the person is at theat moment vulnerable to the world of all minds). – page 335

Emotion could simply be termed ‘motion’. Indeed, I remember that this world used to simply mean movement, or a transference from one thing to another. In this world-made-of-language, meaning never really becomes obsolete. In this case, the motion is of something that has no mass (motion itself) and so that meaning it carries can travel at incomprehensible speeds: speeds fast enough to take you backwards. All you have to do is get on a train and find the right station. – page 384

Thought have substance. Thought is matter. Matter has to be coded before it can mean anything. And thought is what encodes matter. Thought decides where the electron is. – page 442

I’m not very good with sci-fi and fantasy so when the mouse god Apollo Smintheus shows up and all the computer game talk of console and maze annoys me a little.

One of the things that put me off about the book though was that it was rude and shocking at parts. On top of my reading slump it affects badly on what I think about the book. I like the fact that the book is indeed ambitious, ingenious and abstract that makes me as a reader, thinks about the relationships between all those complex ideas introduced. Scarlett Thomas is a writer in her own league and I admire her for that. However, I like it less than Our Tragic Universe. I hope I will like Popco a little more since I had it on my shelf.

To rate a good book, I always do a mental checklist of whether I will keep a book or give it away. This is a book I would give it away and the only thing that stops me from doing that is the beautiful cover that potentially would grace my bookshelf. 😦 Well, at least I read it. 🙂

Rating: 

Dreams are so cruel sometimes. I’m never going to have that life. In fact, these shreds of life that I’m left with – I’m not sure they add up to anything very much. – page 425

I’m reading this with Vishy and Judith @ Leeswammes’ blog

Paperback. Length: 506 pages. Publisher: Canongate 2007. Source: Own. Setting: Contemporary England and 4th dimension. Finished reading at: 17th September 2011.

Other views from my three favourite bloggers:

Bina@if you can read this: Did I regret reading this novel? No, but I think that Thomas is at her best when she introduces all the concepts and theories that interest her, her enthusiasm is quite catching. But the resolution was not for me, and I also feel that the novel is about 100 pages too long for the plot.

Jackie @ Farmlane Book Blog: Overall I found it to be a thought provoking book, with great characters and an intelligent plot.

Steph@Steph & Tony Investigate: All to say that I find Scarlett Thomas’s brain incredibly sexy and am now obsessed with collecting her books and casually web stalking her.

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About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.

Discussion

22 thoughts on “The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas

  1. So funny: I was also attracted by the cover and the over alone. I had no idea what the book was about but when you suggested a read-a-long I said Yes straight away!

    I actually liked the book a bit more than you and gave it 4 stars. I wasn’t put off by the rude parts but I did find it unnecessary. I was more put off by the idea of the Troposphere – at first, at least.

    Thanks for suggesting this book! I enjoyed it. I will have a look at Thomas’ other books too.

    Posted by Leeswammes | September 18, 2011, 7:45 am
  2. “Design a striking cover and attract reader to buy it, without a clue what the book is all about.” You are right – it is the only reason I picked up this book too! I enjoyed it a lot more you. It is rare to find a good novel with such impressive science. I like the way she isn’t afraid to use complex ideas within her books. I’m glad you tried it.

    Posted by farmlanebooks | September 18, 2011, 1:25 pm
    • Jackie,
      I think she is super talented and if the book wasn’t so full of swears words and …. I would have scored this a little higher. Well, I read this and can put this behind me. At least now I know what the book is all about, behind the beautiful cover. LOL 😀

      Posted by JoV | September 18, 2011, 7:02 pm
  3. Thanks for hosting this read-along Jo! It was wonderful. I just finished the book in the nick of time 🙂 I will post my review tomorrow.

    Enjoyed reading your review, Jo! Glad to know that you liked the book, though you didn’t love it. I enjoyed reading the book and loved the scientific and philosophical parts of it. I loved the fact that Scarlett Thomas wasn’t afraid to discuss complex ideas and she had a gift of making them accessible in everyday language.

    Posted by Vishy | September 18, 2011, 6:30 pm
  4. It’s nice to hear that Our Tragic Universe is better! Because I liked(ish) The End of Mr. Y, but not enough to want to read more by the author. But I could give a try to Our Tragic Universe if you think it’s a better book.

    Posted by Jenny | September 19, 2011, 1:48 am
    • Jenny,
      It’s a matter of my opinion though. I like Our Tragic Universe (OTU) a little better because Thomas discuss complex ideas with an understated plot about relationship issue which works very well for me. A lot people seems to think The End of Mr Y is better. Go with the masses? 😉

      Posted by JoV | September 19, 2011, 7:48 am
  5. Sorry to hear this one didn’t work for you quite as well as Our Tragic Universe… I have a hard time deciding which of the two I liked best. Thomas’s books are so complex and erudite that I feel like I could hardly judge either book on just a single read! I am really excited to try PopCo at some point, though I still have to find a copy of it before that can happen…

    Posted by Steph | September 19, 2011, 6:21 pm
  6. Its a shame you didn’t like this one too much. I, like you, have been eyeing this one up in the shops for a while never really knowing what to make of it, but just being so attracted by the cover. I like science fiction books but I’m not very good at understanding real science, if there going to throw real scientific ideas at me I’ll probably just get confused and bored, so maybe not a book for me.

    Posted by jessicabookworm | September 20, 2011, 4:11 pm
  7. I had no problem with the rudeness, sex etc, but the “shaggy God story” wasn’t my thing. And heh, the consoles got on my nerves as well 😀
    I enjoyed PopCo a bit more, loved the cryptography and the school, but again the esoteric healing stuff and only drinking green tea etc, gah! I guess I feel ambivalent about all her wokrs, but half of it is fantastic, so I always try again.

    Posted by Bina | September 21, 2011, 5:51 pm
  8. I read this novel a couple of weeks ago, and in fact I had similar thoughts about it – only mentally I rated it somewhat more highly. 🙂 So from this I guess I will absolutely love Our Tragic Universe.

    Posted by entropic | September 28, 2011, 6:03 pm

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: Double Read-Along – Wrap-up and Reviews « Bibliojunkie - September 18, 2011

  2. Pingback: Book Review: The End of Mr. Y. by Scarlett Thomas « Leeswammes' Blog - September 18, 2011

  3. Pingback: Book Review No.28 – The End of Mr.Y by Scarlett Thomas « Vishy’s Blog - September 19, 2011

  4. Pingback: September: A month I can’t quite remember « Bibliojunkie - October 10, 2011

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

Books Read

JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Mockingjay
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City


JoV's favorite books »
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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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