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on 23 September 2014
Ms Thomas explains Newtonian and post-Newtonian physics, and the philosophy that preceded and followed them, and the theology that underpins and is underpinned by all of this. All mixed up with a detective story, and a thriller and a love story. It's all a lot of fun, and I feel like going back and re-reading it right now to make sure I have learned all the lessons properly. It's an astonishing book, and you marvel at the imagination that produced it all.
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on 17 May 2013
Thomas has written a book where a character called Ariel enters another mental dimension and returns to find hours of her life have slipped by. I know how she felt. I'd start reading this and get so immersed that when I woke up I'd find a lot of time had passed in my real life and that I was starving, dehydrated or just desperately needed a pee. In many ways this is my perfect story, fusing a compelling narrative with a wonderful play of ideas - a truly metaphysical novel. It was like Thomas had entered the troposphere and climbed into my brain - so many things I'd wondered about pop up almost verbatim in her pages, only greatly enhanced and much more carefully thought out. Or maybe a bit like falling asleep in one of those Horizon programmes on quantum physics and finding it had woven itself into your dreams.

Fabulous. Literally. And with perhaps the best ending to a novel I've read in a long time.
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on 31 October 2008
Full marks for ambition: no doubt about it. Scarlett Thomas, whose name sounds like a pseudonym but apparently isn't, shows real imagination and no small portion of erudition in constructing the world of Ariel Manto (whose name really is a pseudonym, and an anagram at that) and the "Troposphere" she happens upon when researching a long dead and forgotten Victorian mystic called Thomas Lumas, in which much of the action - and philosophical musing - comprising The End of Mr. Y happens.

Yes, you read that right: Thomas combines a conventional "confront/defeat the monster" plot, which could almost earn a Hollywood treatment, with some thickly-laid on metaphysics which, even in the hands of the Wachowski brothers (to whose films this book bears only the flimsiest of similarities), decidedly would not especially as, ultimately, Hollywood-grade plotting loses out to post-structuralist posing some way before the end. Now you don't see *that* happen too often, so three cheers for that. And in parts it is a joyous, righteous, pseudo-intellectual romp.

But in others it's just pseudo-intellectual: the means by which Thomas seeks to bring about her epistemological triumph over the (disappointly thinly drawn) bad dudes displays nothing like the lightness of touch such a manoeuvre requires. For one thing, she doesn't pull her philosophical punches at the slightest hint of stage 1 brain in a vat metaphysics, as a less ambitious (but more successful) writer might. Instead, she indulges on long ruminations, delivered in improbably lengthy and articulate chunks, about more obscure and difficult thinkers like Derrida, Baudrilliard, Heidegger and Husserl, with whom she should not expect the greater part of her (or any) audience to be well acquainted. Obliged, therefore, to indulge in exposition she elects to explain the salient insights of these thinkers through implausible conversations between characters who, if attention were being paid to plot arc and character development, would have better things to be thinking and talking about. Alas when she does have her characters do something else, it invariably involves copulating, which, given the narrative constraints she has imposed, is about as unlikely as casual dialogue about literary theory and to my reading seemed quite unneccessarily grittily depicted. As a way to give this novel an edge the fornicatory aspect seemed forced, gratuitous and, frankly, dull - like the intracies of Heidegger's dasein, a personal obsession Scarlett Thomas might have been better advised to keep to herself.

For all that, when she does allow the plot to dictate the pace it picks up mightily and zips along. The characters face some neatly constructed conundrums, crises and paradoxes which flow from and support her epistemological point.
The writing is playful and, at times, neatly constructed: there are in-jokes and word plays throughout, and I don't pretend to have got anything like all of them.

In the end - though it may pain Ms Thomas to hear it - the cod philosophy can be safely dispensed with and the slightly icky bonking glossed over, since the wonderful contrivance of Thomas Lumas (itself a self-referential play on words, I suppose) and his Troposphere with its console, its choices, the mouse god Apollo Smintheus and his misfiring scooter carry the day, no matter how incoherent the whole may ultimately be.

Olly Buxton
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on 25 November 2011
This book was recommended to me, with the caveat that I should "ignore the homeopathy". That did sort of make me wonder what I was letting myself in for, but once I started reading, I realised that the homeopathy in this novel is just a type of fantasy magic - leading to some interesting discussion with the friend who suggested the book to me.

The novel focuses on Ariel, a PhD student studying thought experiments (in an English department). But her supervisor is missing, the university is falling down, and things only get weirder after that. Somehow everything is connected to an obscure book called The End of Mr Y, which Ariel finds in a second-hand bookshop. This is a really quick read with plenty of action, but along the way it manages to sneak in some interesting ideas about the nature of thought, language, and the universe. Definitely a bit different to standard fantasy fare, even while remaining basically a story of magical journeys to other worlds.
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on 24 January 2015
An interesting concept behind this book - it begins with with notion that there is a book which is cursed, a bit like the video cassette in Ringu, I suppose.

From there it moves into the notion of a potion that can kind of allow a person to enter the world of dreams. The curse it turns out is not that a person will die, but that they will become addicted to the world of dreams and allow their body to wilt away.

Moves on from there to explore the world of dreams in the novel and the attempts of the main characters to interact with it.
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on 30 April 2018
Not only does the original printing look beautiful! (the cover you see in the photo......plus the page edging is black! never seen that before on any book... but the book itself is ace! If you have any kind of interesting sex life at all it's not as racy as some of the reviews would have you believe, but the plot is very interesting , funny, and intelligent. Reminded me of a Clive Barker novel. Worth buying.
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on 7 June 2016
I'm surprised at the negative reviews. I thought this was a riveting read. I enjoyed the science and philosophy and felt it worked with the plot.

My only complaint about this and popco is that there is an element of trying to educate the world about animal rights, veganism and homeopathy through the medium of mainstream fiction which feels a bit preachie.

Otherwise I loved it.
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on 7 November 2014
I am absolutely loving this book (which I haven't finished yet). It started off like a university creative writing exercise but has quite literally expanded into a well written and thorough science fiction book. Proper science fiction of the Malcolm Bradbury style rather than fantasy.

It keeps veering into unexpected territory which is thrilling but smacks a little throwing the kitchen sink of writing genres at it. But it's such a good read that I can overlook that.
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on 15 March 2016
Very unusual book strangely compelling. I had read it then bought this one for a present for a friend. The person I gave my copy to liked it but found it played with their mind a bit. My original copy was more unusual with a more striking cover picture in red and black and black edges to all pages which enhanced the experience somehow. Enjoy.
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on 30 January 2013
Having read another of Scarlett Thomas's books, I thought I would try this one. The concept of a cursed book being the persuading factor. Whilst the author paints a good picture, and you can rather like the main character, there is so much scientific jargon, the story becomes rather ruined. Rarely do I ever not finish a book, but sadly with 150pages to go, I didn't mind what happened to anyone, and started to skip read to get to the end.
2 people found this helpful
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