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. 🙂
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
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.