Book Review: The End of Mr. Y. by Scarlett Thomas
September 18, 2011 34 Comments
JoV of Bibliojunkie announced a read-a-long of this book. While it wasn’t on my wish list, I had seen it in the shops and was tempted by its cover, which in my eyes is really beautiful.
I had no idea what the book was about, though. I must have read the back cover in the shop, but in general I tend to forget what that says really quickly, even if I end up buying the book.
So, it was a surprise. Not always a good one, but overall, I enjoyed this story.
The End of Mr. Y.: What it is about
Ariel Manto is a PhD student at an English university. She has read almost everything by a nineteenth century writer called Thomas Lumas. Her supervisor shared her love for Lumas’ books, but disappeared a year ago without a trace.
One day, Ariel finds a rare book by Lumas in a bookshop, the only one she hasn’t read yet. IT’s called The End of Mr. Y. It’s said to be cursed, with everyone who reads it suffering the same (unknown) fate as the writer.
After reading it, she ends up in the Troposphere, a mysterious place in which she can enter the thoughts of other human beings and animals. Is this real, or did her fantasy make it all up? In the end, she has to decide whether she wants to destroy the Troposphere, as it is a dangerous, but addictive place.
The End of Mr. Y.: What I thought
The book’s beginning was a quiet story about a penniless PhD student who finds a book. Which was all well. But then she starts to travel to the Troposhere and I found this really odd. Although Ariel knows it’s not safe, she goes there several times. So I got really annoyed with her. I didn’t like her too much anyway, and now she was doing things that I didn’t want her to do!
But then after a while I accepted that this was the story and started to like it a lot more. The solution of why certain scientific discoveries have been made was interesting, very clever.
Spoiler: In white text. Select the text below to make it appear.
I really liked these ides: All scientific “findings” are simply the fruit of the imagination of the scientist in question. If he had not thought of it, it would not be like that. E.g., relativity only exists because Einstein made it so. And most interestingly: the fact that light can be both a wave or a particle depending what you expect to see – since people haven’t decided what light is, they see what they want to see.
There was a lot of scientific discussion, a bit too much for me. Luckily, I have an interest in popular science and most of what was discussed wasn’t new to me. I can imagine that some people might find this slow to read and hard to understand.
In the end, I did enjoy reading the book and when I closed it I was satisfied that I’d read a good book. But I was very different from what I expected (a literary fiction story, possibly a with some humorous elements).
Rating: 4/5 stars
I got this book: from my library
I read this in: Dutch, the original language is English
Number of pages: 384
First published: 2006
Genre: fantasy, literary fiction