Monday, 29 September 2008

R.I.P Read Three - The End of Mr Y

This is my third read for the R.I.P. Challenge.

I remember seeing The End Of Mr. Y on a book pile in Waterstones when it came out in hardback last year and that I just had to stop and admire it as it was so gorgeously different to everything else on the tables. I think that the designer, Gray318, did a great job! I could kick myself for not buying this book then as my paperback copy is not nearly as beautiful, although I am pleased that they retained the black trim on the pages and thankfully the slightly different cover, although very simple, is still arresting. Enough of aesthetics - what's the book about? Well, from the blurb:

"When Ariel Manto uncovers a copy of The End of Mr. Y in a second-hand bookshop, she can't believe her eyes. She knows enough about its author, the outlandish Victorian scientist Thomas Lumas, to know that copies are exceedingly rare. And, some say, cursed.With Mr. Y under her arm, Ariel finds herself thrust into a thrilling adventure of love, sex, death and time-travel."

The premise of "The End of Mr. Y" in the book of the same name (confused?) is that the author has bought a secret recipe that enables him to flit between people's minds and enter the "Troposphere". Unfortunately for Ariel, sinister people get wind that she's located a copy of the book and that's where the pace of the book starts to pick up.

I'm not sure what I was expecting this book to be about... A mystery, a curse, a hint of Victoriana along with a whiff of romance?
All of which I got but, and this is a big but, this is a far cleverer book than I anticipated and covers way more ground than expected. It succeeds in being a hybrid thriller that includes elements of philosophical thought, theology, time travel and hard science. Ariel is clearly a complex, and mostly unhappy, young woman and the characters she interacts with are all very real and generally somehow damaged.

I thought that the book-within-a-book sections, where Ariel reads Mr Y, were not at all intrusive and they felt very authentic in terms of style and language. The story never seemed to get sidelined in favour of "thinking" as Ariel works to understand the laws that govern the
Troposphere and I enjoyed the intellectual challenge of failing utterly to keep up with her thought process! I console myself with the thought that I didn't need to understand it all to enjoy the story!

I found this to be a very imaginative, well written, intelligent and entertaining book to read. It was not at all what I expected (thankfully way better than anticipated) and I'll definitely be digging out some of her earlier books.

Scarlett Thomas was born in London in 1972, has written seven books and currently teaches English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Kent. I feel so inadequate! She does have a website however it doesn't seem to be very well at the moment but there's an interview with her from last year on Bookslut you can read instead!

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