11 April 2013

The End of Mr Y - Scarlett Thomas

This book, first of all, is stunning to look at. Black colouring on the edges, a kaleidoscopic feeling cover in yellow, red and black, perfect black script in curling, jaunty lettering. Um, wow.

Ariel Manto is a PhD student who is interested in thought experiments and the works of Thomas E. Lumas, a little known writer whose ideas were extremely radical. Saul Burlem, her mentor, is missing, but Ariel carries on her studies regardless. That's when she comes across an extremely rare book; The End of Mr Y. The catch? The book is cursed. If you read it, you die. You can guess what happens next. Ariel reads it, and soon discovers that not all of the book is fiction. By drinking a little bit of holy water and carbon, a person ca transport themselves to the Troposphere; a place where you can read other people's thoughts, see Gods and even go back in time. Oh, and did I mention that two guys from America are after her and the book?

There's one or two things to mention about this book. It takes a little while to get into it. I was beginning to wonder if Ariel would actually try to get into the Troposphere or not. It wasn't until the middle of the book that things really started to get moving. The other thing is that this book has conversations relating to the existence of God, quantum physics, and various theories that I have actually almost forgotten now. So, some readers may have to persevere if they are not at all interested in these things. However, the ideas and theories in the book are every plausible, and that, I believe, is the mark of a good book. Like when many people were sure Dan Browns 'The Da Vinci Code' was based on truth. Well, maybe it is, maybe it isn't.

Ariel, as a main character, is bittersweet. Just when you think you like her she will say or do something self-destructive or stupid. She is very clever, so we tend to feel that she should know better. Her past is sometimes difficult to empathise with. Her current situation isn't one you'd necessarily like to be in either. Still you do feel for her sometimes.

The writing style is nice, descriptive, but sometimes the dialogue is too much. Explanations of theories and arguments, though necessary for the plot to develop and for the big reveal at the end, are taxing. If you're tired, it's quite likely to not sink in at all.

Having read the whole book, it is fair to say that the plot is interesting, clever and absorbing in part, but I cannot say that it was 'hugely enjoyable' (as The Times said) for me.

Two out of five I'm afraid. Good premise, great ideas, but not a book that I'll be likely read again.

PS; You may have heard of another novel that has taken off a bit more; 'Bright Young Things'. I havn't given up on this writer, so I may be giving this a go.