The End of Mr Y- Scarlett Thomas



“But is thought real? Does thought have mass? It must do. We’ve already agreed that thought is matter. Or have we? I’m still not sure about all this.”

Oh boy, this isn’t the novel to choose if you’re looking for a bit of light reading. Here we go…

Enter the troposphere: a world inside your subconscious where you can jump into the minds of mice and get hunted by blond guys in suits who don’t seem to endure any sort of retribution; a world so confusing, that’ll you find yourself skimming certain parts in order to get back to the plot.

Scarlett Thomas’ 2006 novel, The End of Mr Y, is mind-boggling. I’m unsure where to place it, but I think mystery/ science fiction does the job. This novel tells the story of the lonesome, chain-smoking, Ph.D. student Ariel Manto. Her guiltless, sexual tendencies towards married men and her extraordinary ability to live off the minimal amount of food gives her an edge that makes you fall in love with her; though I get the feeling it might do her good to stop thinking so much.

Ariel’s research into thought experiments and 19th-century novelist, Thomas Lumas, leads her to stumble upon a book that supposedly, no other living person has ever read: ‘The End of Mr Y’.

So, the fictional novel within the novel (phew, confusing) is the story of a man who takes a tincture which allows him to enter the troposphere (Yeah… I don’t know) and is, therefore, able to jump into the subconscious’ of other people (somehow). He can essentially create his own world and in turn, becomes obsessed with it and struggles to find meaning in the real world. Ariel knows that the book is cursed (hence, why no other living person has ever read it) but this only spurs her on to read it more, and you can’t help but encourage her.

This novel does get confusing at times, but, despite this, there was something that glued me to it. Thomas portrays Ariel’s character beautifully and it is clear that extensive research and dedication has been done in order to produce it. A variety of both philosophical and scientific ideas are explored and explained and I often found myself having to gather my thoughts in order to progress further with the book.

Reading The End of Mr Y does feel a bit like stepping into another world, I found myself utterly engrossed at times and by the end of the book, I came to realise that it is all a lot simpler than I thought. Despite an intimidating premise for a novel, it’s really not that bad.

Not only this but physically, the book is an absolute joy to hold. The cover itself makes me imagine stepping into another world; a Victorian space of mystery and wonder, the type of wonder that is explored through Lumas’ ‘The End of Mr Y’. It was awarded a Nibbie for best cover and I know you shouldn’t judge a book this way, but it’s what really caught my eye in the first place.

Important Information: 

Released – 2006

Published by – Canongate

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