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The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas

The End of Mr. Y (original 2007; edition 2008)

by Scarlett Thomas

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,977963,424 (3.76)193
Title:The End of Mr. Y
Authors:Scarlett Thomas
Info:Canongate Books Ltd (2008), Edition: Export ed, Paperback, 512 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:Fiction, Books About Books, Magical Realism, Time Travel, 2012, 1 Star

Work details

The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas (2007)

  1. 61
    Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder (mpettitt)
    mpettitt: Another book where philosophical thinking is encouraged within the plot
  2. 20
    The Prestige by Christopher Priest (gaskella)
  3. 20
    Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas (souloftherose)
    souloftherose: Scarlett Thomas' earlier novel The End of Mr Y shares many similar themes with Our Tragic Universe
  4. 10
    Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (Anonymous user)
  5. 10
    The Ghost Writer by John Harwood (GirlMisanthrope)
  6. 10
    Mobius Dick by Andrew Crumey (Anonymous user)
  7. 10
    The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman (riverwillow)
  8. 10
    Darkmans by Nicola Barker (VisibleGhost, Widsith, debbiereads)
    Widsith: Both slightly bonkers Kent-based novels-of-ideas with supernatural elements...I think Barker is the better writer, but Thomas has the whole geeky-cool angle covered.
  9. 00
    The Amnesiac by Sam Taylor (GirlMisanthrope)

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» See also 193 mentions

English (88)  Dutch (5)  German (1)  Italian (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (96)
Showing 1-5 of 88 (next | show all)
Really a lot of fun! Quite imaginative! ( )
  keithostertag | Nov 12, 2014 |
Whilst I agree that this has been oversold as far as unswervingly highbrow or hard SF readers are concerned, it's got plenty going for it as a character-driven fantasy novel, and Scarlett Thomas is becoming my new favourite comfort-reading author. (Even within my friends list, opinions of The End of Mr. Y range from "highly intellectual yet accessible" to "completely stupid", so this isn't the easiest review I've ever written.)

The book is, admittedly, comfortable because of its blend of familiar things I already love: impoverished postgrad Ariel has adventures whilst investigating work of fictional Victorian author (Possession, though the C19th pastiche extracts aren't half as good), drinks magic potion like Alice, encounters concepts from Pratchett's Small Gods and enters other minds like Granny Weatherwax gone borrowing or all those body-swap movies from the late 80s, and there's some Matrix type stuff for good measure. The overall tone is reminiscent of some of the stories in Neil Gaiman's wonderful collection Smoke and Mirrors, the narrative and plot being pushed by a protagonist with a strong personality and a darkish past and present, rather than by the SFF content itself. There's an argument for Scarlett Thomas's work as weirder, darker, more academically-inclined chicklit, but on the other hand, Ariel's angst and lust, and Thomas' moments of acute insight into messed-up people (esp. p277ish; also 345, 411 and all over the place really) are hardly different from the portrayals in Gaiman's male character-focused stories. (Unlike chicklit characters, Ariel never goes "huh! men!", tacitly seeming not to find them particularly 'other', and she hardly ever makes whole-gender-based generalisations. She spends a helluva lot of time thinking about other things [interesting things, not handbags and bad chardonnay] as well as love and sex, without seeing that as an either/or ... Thomas keeps writing characters I want to be friends with.) And as in Smoke and Mirrors, there are a couple of scenes sexier than plenty of stuff marketed as erotica - though there isn't as much shagging as some of the blurb quotes imply.

Reading posts about entirely different books made me realise that The End of Mr. Y will be of interest to people who like reversal of traditional gender roles in fantasy stories. Ariel is driving the adventure throughout, and her male love/lust interests are, as the adventure gets going, as peripheral and helpmeetish as they would be for a man in a typical action movie. This is perhaps less the case towards the end but I might just see it that way because I'm a bitter old hag who doesn't like characters experiencing unrealistically fulfilling romance, despite sometimes having falling asleep to ridiculous merging dreams like the final chapters; at the same time I could still think of plenty of stories in which the they would have been the other way round.

There's ample comment on Goodreads about inaccuracies in the characters' academic discussions (especially re. physics and the "linguistic turn" of philosophy and literary theory. The people who are complaining that homeopathy has an effect in the book simply need a reminder that this is fantasy fiction and that the works of Ben Goldacre can be overapplied.) The media has presented Mr. Y as formidably clever - to the chagrin of people who picked it up expecting some novelised Godel Escher Bach - but the tone of everything I read between the covers is casual musings from bright non-specialists ... it sounds like (and in some cases in the book is) conversations with friends after which you might realise you got something slightly wrong. If, for instance, Eng lit, theology and biology academics are riffing semi-drunkenly about what they've read in popular science books on quantum physics, what's here sounds fine in that context. (If I was joining in the pickiness, I'd say that Lamarck was presented as entirely infra-dig, although epigenetics - a topic that had already found its way into BBC documentaries a couple of years before Mr. Y was published - has given a new slant on his ideas. But then I realised that wasn't necessarily the point or the spirit of the book.) However I would have liked to have seen a little more determined accuracy from the narrator in tone as well as content in some of her home subject areas - if you're a postgrad you need to do that alongside the flights of enthusiasm.

But in the end the academic conversations are icing; you don't really need them to enjoy the rest of the book if you don't like them. The fantasy story is fine regardless - the chat and speculation is just how the characters look at their experience. Which I find more interesting than an unreflective adventure, though they do go on a bit sometimes.

I may only have given it four stars due to its faults and moments of derivativeness but I really loved The End of Mr. Y as I love too few books as an end in themselves. (Often I don't understand what the rest of you are on about re. loving books generally... A couple of years ago, a remover said, seeing the book cases, "So you like reading then?" The first, silent, response that came into my head, "Not really, but what the bloody hell else am I supposed to do?" ...Aloud, I made a vaguely affirmative non-verbal noise and started talking about cardboard boxes.) I was glad it was there when I couldn't sleep, I span it out so I could keep going back into its world - its plot analogy for addiction to an imaginary world actually applied - rather than trying to get it finished and ticked off. I'd have been delighted were it 1000 pages not 500, or if it was part of a series as long as Discworld. ( )
  antonomasia | May 23, 2014 |
This book had GREAT promise when it started. And I think the height of its promise partially resulted in the fall of its disappointment. I loved this book when I started it and through about half of the book. I felt attached to it in something akin to the way I had felt attached to Ready Player One. And then it just took a nosedive. I don't know what happened.

You know when you read a book that's interesting and creative and smart, and the author puts a lot of intellectual stuff in there that's also interesting, and it doesn't weigh the book down? and you feel like you're learning new things, and it's just wonderful? that's the first half of the book. All the additional science information and philosophical information was good, interesting, and appropriately "lengthed."

And then it was like the author felt like this was her chance, she was going to EDUCATE her readers, darnit, whether they wanted to be educated or not. The science and/or philosophical information stopped being relevant to the plot, stopped assisting with the movement of the story, and started feeling like the author's own opinions and soliloquies, rather than those of the actual characters. And it was too much and weighty and created disappointment.

The story of the book is about a book called The End of Mr. Y, written by an author who engaged in "thought experiments" (considers some hypothesis, theory,[1] or principle for the purpose of thinking through its consequences), and who is supposedly brilliant. Supposedly, because all copies of the books, save 1 in a vault in a foreign country, have disappeared. Supposedly, because anyone who has ever read the book has allegedly succumbed to the curse and died. Supposedly, because no one really knows. Then, our protagonist stumbles upon the book and finds herself on a rapidly accelerating roller coaster to the ultimate thought experiment.

Intriguing concept, and partially excellent executed. Thomas creates a few very vivid characters, and although her protagonist, Ariel, has been criticized by some readers as non-realistic, I strongly beg to differ. I know her -- I've spent many hours having those types of conversations with her. She is realistic, even if she's not your "typical" heroine. And I love Adam, one of her co-stars. I mean, he was expertly drawn. The idea was great, the characters were great, and the execution was, therefore, disappointing.

If you're super philosophically read, you might enjoy this anyway. But for most people, it became more of a task than an enjoyable reading experience. Ultimately, it is a good book -- an intellectual modern sci-fi/fantasy. But not great.

Overall, THREE AND A HALF of 5 stars. ( )
  avanders | Apr 21, 2014 |
I plan on reviewing this later after I've gotten thoughts together ( )
  raisedbybooks | Mar 12, 2014 |
Scarlett Thomas's unusual fantasy-rich novel is outside of my usual wheelhouse. I'm glad it ended up in my hands, because it was an utterly enjoyable book. Ariel is a graduate student whose advisor has disappeared. She finds a copy of a book that supposed didn't exist anymore, The End of Mr Y, that both she and her academic advisor had been interested in. She is then drawn into an odd world called the Troposphere, while being hunted by some unsavory men claiming to be with the CIA and helped by an ex-priest. It's an imaginative tale, studded with odd bits of philosophy and physics. It's kind of The Night Circus meets Sophie's World. ( )
  RidgewayGirl | Aug 12, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 88 (next | show all)
Thomas writes with marvelous panache, although I wish she indulged less in her earnest calls for homeopathy and animal rights. Amid all the novel’s engaging questions about the nature of reality, it’s hard to get worked up about a subplot that has Ariel traveling through time to save laboratory mice. Still, she spins Derrida and subatomic theory into a wholly enchanting alternate universe that should appeal to a wide popular audience, and that’s something no deconstructionist or physicist has managed to do. Consider “The End of Mr. Y” an accomplished, impressive thought experiment for the 21st century.
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But what if God himself can be simulated, that is to say can be reduced to the signs that constitute faith? Then the whole system becomes weightless, it is no longer itself anything but a gigantic simulacrum--not unreal, but a simulacrum, that is to say never exchanged for the real, but exchanged for itself, in an uninterrupted circuit without reference or circumference.--Jean Baudrillard
Indeed it is even possible for an entity to show itself as something which in itself it is not.--Martin Heidegger
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0156031612, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:59 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Ariel Manto has a fascination with The End of Mr. Y, a book no one alive has read - maybe because it's cursed and everyone related to it (the author, various book collectors, Ariel's doctoral advisor) disappears. But suddenly she discovers a rare copy in a used bookstore. Using the book to follow in Mr. Y's footsteps, she falls into a trance and steps into the Troposphere - a wonderland of an alternate dimension where she can travel through time and space using the thoughts of others. And so Ariel launches into a heart-racing, brain-teasing, time-twisting adventure of science, faith, consciousness, death, and everything in between."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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Average: (3.76)
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1 14
1.5 9
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Canongate Books

3 editions of this book were published by Canongate Books.

Editions: 184195957X, 1847671179, 1847670709

Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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