- Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: Mariner Books; 1 edition (October 2, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0156031612
- ISBN-13: 978-0156031615
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 82 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #144,070 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The End of Mr. Y Paperback – October 2, 2006
This month's Book With Buzz: "The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware
From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers "In a Dark, Dark Wood" and "The Woman in Cabin 10" comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, "The Lying Game." See more
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From Publishers Weekly
In Thomas's dense, freewheeling novel, Ariel Manto, an oversexed renegade academic, stumbles across a cursed text, which takes her into the Troposphere, a dimension where she can enter the consciousness, undetected, of other beings. Thomas first signals something is askew even in Ariel's everyday life when a university building collapses; soon after, Ariel discovers her intellectual holy grail at a used book shop: a rare book with the same title as the novel, written by an eccentric 19th-century writer interested in "experiments of the mind." The volume jump-starts her doctoral thesis, but her adviser disappears. And when Ariel follows a recipe in the book, she finds herself in deep trouble in the Troposphere. Her young ex-priest love interest may be too late to save her. Thomas blithely references popular physics, Aristotle, Derrida, Samuel Butler and video game shenanigans while yoking a Back to the Future–like conundrum to a gooey love story. The novel's academic banter runs the gamut from intellectually engaging to droning; this journey to the "edge of consciousness" is similarly playful but less accessible than its predecessor, PopCo. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
British author Thomas bites off a bit more than she can chew in this novel incorporating time travel, Derrida, and the dangers of sadistic trysts. Strange things keep happening to British university lecturer Ariel Manto. First her supervisor disappears; then she discovers the rarest of rare books, The End of Mr. Y, at a secondhand bookshop. The tome was penned by Thomas Lumas, a nineteenth-century scientist who, as luck would have it, is the subject of Ariel's dissertation. (The book tells the tale of a man who swallows a tincture, stares into a black dot, and winds up in a place called the Troposphere, where he travels space and time through others' minds.) Bored and befuddled by real life, Ariel mimics the author's eerie experiment, with mixed results. (On her first trip, she melds minds with a randy rodent and a psychotic cat.) Like her previous novel, PopCo (2005), Thomas' mildly amusing second offering aspires to be both wonky and hip: her protagonist obsesses over philosophical matters one moment, her lamentable love life the next. Chick lit for nerds. Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
First, the good. An interesting concept (a potion that allows the drinker to inhabit another person's body, and experience their thoughts and emotions) that sometimes was delivered extremely well. The description of Ariel's neighbor's thoughts and emotions was one of the strongest parts of the book. Thomas gives Axel, the neighbor, and most of the characters in her book distinct and well-developed, each with his/her own voice. Her "novel-within-a-novel" is also well done, capturing well the distinctive, older, style of writing she proposed for that book. Finally, Thomas has a full box of metafictional tricks, and she deploys these with skill throughout. The meta-references, and meta-meta-references were fun, to me.
The bad. The narrator, Ariel, is a bit too unsympathetic, though obviously that is a matter of taste for the reader. But I found myself not really caring about what happened to her, or her adventures. The plot is creaky. It seemed to me that Thomas realized that the very slight plot of the novel-within-the-novel wouldn't support the larger novel she planned around it, and so she had to come up with something more dramatic and involved (or maybe her editor told her that she needed a more engaging plot). But what she has come up with is melodramatic and convoluted. The novel also includes lots of devices that are there only because the novel wouldn't work without them (such as Ariel calling up "console" when she wants to go into a different mind), but that otherwise make no sense within the story she's created. Finally, Ariel becomes obsessed (as Mr. Y did) with re-entering the Troposphere, as Thomas names the mystical place where the potion takes its users. But she really fails to communicate why anyone would be so obsessed with the place, or what makes it so attractive. As Ariel's desire to go back to the Troposphere is a main plot driver, the failure to make a convincing case as to why anyone would want to go there is a major weakness of the book. I have to say that I also found the grimy sex scenes a bit gratuitous, but that is again a matter of taste.
The ugly. The dialogue. Oh Lord, the dialogue. It's atrocious. Pages and pages are spent on conversations, primarily between Ariel and Adam, her "love interest", about scientific and philosophical matters. It's the worst sort of first-year-university-student-drunk-on-too-much-booze b.s., with the most superficial (and often inaccurate) condensation of already almost-unintelligible Continental philosophy (Husserl, Heidegger, Derrida, etc.) you can possible imagine. Half-way through, I just started skipping over these conversations. They add nothing to the plot. I don't know whether Thomas herself believes that she's properly elucidating these philosophies, or whether it's just the characters, but either way it's just embarrassing and cringe-inducing. Thomas constantly has Ariel say or think things such as "... which made me think of Derrida" or "... which leads me back to Heidegger's theory", followed by amateurish, wildly incorrect summations of the relevant philosopher's ideas. And she has a very annoying tendency to refer to ideas, theories, arguments as "stuff". I counted four uses of the word "stuff" on just one page -- there are literally dozens and dozens throughout the book. Really lazy writing that a good editor should have caught and corrected.
This book would have worked much better as a novella (of the length that the work-within-the-work, "The End of Mr. Y", seems to be), without all the pseudo-philosophical "stuff". As written, it's over-stuffed with needless description and execrable dialogue, which threaten to overwhelm the positive qualities. When I finished it, I realized that, in fact, the book is really just a novelistic retelling of "Being John Malkovich" with lots of unnecessary bells and whistles added in. So I went and re-watched "Being John Malkovich". That's what I'd recommend you do too.
This is the only book I can think of that I’ve ever deliberately read slowly. The main character, Ariel Manto, is a girl who is trying to get a PhD on thought experiments. So throughout the book, the reader is skillfully given philosophical and/or scientific passages that really make you think. In wanting to understand, I took the time to read and re-read passages. (Though, of course, it doesn’t hurt that Thomas’s writing style effortlessly drew me in as a reader.)
The main focus of Ariel’s PhD is Thomas E. Lumas and thought experiments of his time period. One of Lumas’s most obscure books is The End of Mr. Y, which is rumoured to be cursed as everyone who has read the book has died/gone missing. By chance, Ariel one day manages to locate a copy of the book. Even with what she knows of the book’s dubious history, she can’t pass up the chance to read it.
Ariel is a brilliant character. She hasn’t had the easiest life, but that doesn’t stop her search for knowledge.
“There’s always another level that we just don’t know. The Scientists have it down to the quarks and electrons, and the various weird variations of them that come down in cosmic rays and so on, but they don’t know if that’s it, if they have found indivisible matter – what the Greeks called atomos. It could even be that there’s infinite divisibility. And there are still these big questions that no one can solve: What came before the beginning and what will happen after the end. The fact that these big questions still exist is exciting. No one really knows anything very important – and there’s still such a lot to know.” (Pg. 226)
After Ariel reads the book, events unfold quickly. This was a pleasure to read as someone who enjoys that bit of supernatural, that hint of romance, and the philosophical ideas and thought experiments that got me thinking. Considering the language and some of the acts that occur in the book, this is definitely an adult fiction novel, though an argument can be made for the mature teen readers out there. This book is for people who are looking for a wild ride and the thoughtful engagement of the mind.
For this review and others, check out BookMunchies.com.
Creative, thoughtful ideas; in actuality, the earth's troposphere is not an alternative reality.
The sinking building subplot would have been a useful gimmick if it tied better into story.
Repeated references to deconstructionist and existential philosophy were distracting, in my opinion.
The often forced, glib dialogue detracted from page-turning worth.
The multitude of leaps into alternative reality without forewarning left me wondering--did not a proof editor think to suggest more lead in?
Kinky sex is OK, but seriously overdoing it subtracted from the reading experience.
I liked the Through The Looking Glass quality of the story. I liked directly experiencing a mouse's world. I liked the homeopathy tie in.
The ending lacked finesse.