Friday, 6 February 2015

The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas // Review



"When Ariel Manto uncovers a copy of The End of Mr. Y in a secondhand 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."

First, on spotting The End of Mr. Y being proudly displayed on the bookshelf in the charity shop where I volunteer, I fell for the cover and it's black-stained edges. Then I fell for the blurb. Love, sex, death and time travel? What's not to like? I purchased the copy (which I think is probably one of the most good-looking books I've ever seen) and began reading it almost immediately at home. I was still in the middle of Return of the King by Tolkien but I was kind of infatuated with Mr. Y. If you happen to be interested in buying your own copy of the (huge) paperback edition I read, pictured above, you can find it with the ISBN 1847671179.

As you can probably tell, the blurb didn't give away much about the actual plot, so I went into it a little blind, but from what I knew, it had all the ingredients to become one of my favourite books. I won't pretend I was interested in all of the content, like I thought I was going to be. There was a lot of science-y stuff in there that I had a grasp on at first (I think I barely understood sub-atomics, for instance), but as the book went on the topics changed to things that were, I think, a little beyond my realm of understanding. It wasn't all about the nitty gritty, though. In layman's terms, the book was about another fictional book, also called The End of Mr. Y. In the book, written by (fictional) author/scientist Thomas Lumas, there lies the secret to time travel; a recipe for a serum, which, when digested, transports the person to another world called the Troposphere or 'MindSpace', while their physical body lies in slumber (imagine an Avatar-type experience, with a slightly more virtual, video-game setting). The Troposphere is slightly different for each individual, but you can't stay there for too long, or you'll find there are complications - namely the two men that follow Ariel back from the Troposphere.

I agree with Ursula's point that "[Ariel's] voice expresses a personality, certainly, but not a very winning one." The main character Ariel is possibly a little sex-addicted, saying she had "slept with hundreds of men," possibly to get over a rubbish relationship with her parents. I don't know whether I really liked her, but at the same time she wasn't hard to tolerate. She was certainly clever, and in a way, independent. There were, however, times when she allowed sex she wasn't entirely comfortable with, but we're usually told about these experiences in hindsight and not in too much detail, thankfully. But it's not only Ariel's story we're told. The 'console' in the Troposphere allows you to jump from mind-to-mind, resulting in lots of streams of consciousness, briefly each time, but we always return to Ariel. We enter the mind of a homosexual man who has been dumped, and lots of teenage girls; some worried about weight, some worried about unrequited love. I thought this was a really clever way of exploring issues.

This probably isn't a book for the easily-offended, even though I think it's quite a fun and quirky idea mashed into a complex(ish) plot. If you wouldn't like getting in the mind of someone who likes sex, don't read it, basically. It wasn't what I originally expected - it was a bit mental to be honest - but also very enjoyable and readable. Although the main character is going-on 30, it was actually an especially good book for me to read, as an 18 year old who is growing out of YA fiction and looking for something more 'mature'. I guess it could actually be classed as a 'new adult' book, seeing as Ariel's a University student, so I definitely recommend it to anyone who's in college/Uni in the UK. I couldn't put it down. I think it's meant to make you question the impact language has on our minds and our consciousness, and it does, strangely, make you want to make the serum just to see if it actually does something. Give it a go - Do you think you could resist the temptation?

Rating: 3.5 stars (I'd love to give it 4 but it was just lacking in something)

"The sky was the colour of sad weddings"

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