What are you going to do when you found a book with a line on the cover saying “This book is cursed”??? Well, I don’t know about you but this tagline caught my attention and I ended up in reading that thought provoking and mind churning book. But to be true, this one is among one of the toughest books I have ever read with so much of metaphysical stuff that I my poor brain struggled a lot. See “Not only is nothing good or ill but thinking makes it so, but nothing is at all, except in so far as thinking has made it so” So what do you think now???? The novel is an avant-garde look at 19th-century philosophy combined with the fervor of a sci-fi novel and the deepness of a most astounding expedition of self-introspection and discovery.
The book: The cover of the novel is the best I have seen in years with pages edge being black, and the cover having a psychedelic twirl of intricate black calligraphy on a haughty red background (see the pic) and with a shadow on last page that kept me attached to the novel to know who the shadow was on the back page. Hey that is not all, the weirdness of the content of this ingenious novel will not disappoint you while taking you into an unforeseen exciting and riveting contemplation experimentation through the mysterious world of the Troposphere.
The Plot: The novel is story of Ariel Manto, who is conducting research into a 19th century author Thomas Lumas, one of whose commercially failed books, The End of Mr Y, is alleged to be cursed as “anyone-who-reads-it-will-die”. But this book seems to have disappeared from existence along with everyone who ever had its copy. During a sudden visit to asecond-hand bookshop, She finds out a copy of The End of Mr. Y which starts with “By the end of this book I will be nothing, but for the time being you can call me Mr. Y.” and tells the quest of Mr. Y and his unearthing of Troposphere (an alternate world where the visitor can travel through time and space and able to enter the minds of other people, and access their thoughts and memories), that could be only be reached after consumption a meticulous mixture. Somehowshe managed to prepare the mixture, swallowed it, stared into a black dot and is transported into the Troposphere in her quest for the truth and where a jigsaw puzzle begin to unravel. This cursed book brings together a strange mix of people as Apollo Smintheus (Mouse god), ex-CIA agents and an errant Jesuit priest who are wholly disengaged and yet essentially associated in another sphere. But soon she finds that the knowledge she now holds could put her own life at peril and she sets out to find Saul Burlem, her lost PhD advisor, who may be the only person left who can save her.
Who was Mr. Y.??
What is troposphere??
Is she able to save her life???
Will Apollo Smintheus and Saul Burlem help her??
To know the answers read the book.
Characters: The main story is constructed around Ariel Manto, a young PhD scholar living in mouse-infested freezing apartment, whose thesis counselor has inexplicably absent just after her joining, she is visiting a married professor for sex which is a source of income rather than an expression of love. But, her ultimate passion is reading and she says “Real life is physical. Give me books instead: Give me the invisibility of the contents of books, the thoughts, the ideas, the images. Let me become part of a book; I’d give anything for that.” And that was the reason that after getting a copy of The End of Mr. Y, she rushed home with mixed feelings of fear, wonder and intrigue and despite of the curse she read it to know the truth. Her journey to the troposphere, which started in scarcity, lure and craving finally get converted in form of reality, love and above all trust.
All other characters (Saul Burlem-Her lost PhD advisor, Adam-Her 2nd Boyfriend, Apollo Smintheus- The mouse god and denizen of the Troposphere) were built around her character and help in generating various subplots.
The Author: The author Scarlett Thomas was named as one of the twenty best young British writers in 2001 and Writer of the Year at the 2002 Elle Style Awards and after reading The End of Mr. Y I know the reason. This one is an absorbing concoction of page-turning-mystery-mixed-philosophical-religious ideas. The best thing about the novel is that it doesn’t hold back and drag out the suspense to a point where it looses its grip. It is like reading Darwin’s work mixed in Robert Louis Stevenson novel; metaphysics supported with logic and fact and is a perfect mix of genre as romance, felony, assassination, science and mathematics, faith, philosophy, psychology, spirituality, self-loathing and honesty. Despite being relied mainly on history, philosophy, religion and physics no-where it seemed a dull commentary, be it description of 4th Dimension or Apollo Smintheus or gedankenexperiments.
Facts I liked: The best part of the novel is the deep and profound theme based on the ideas borrowed from Derrida (Algerian-born French philosopher famous for Deconstruction theory), Heidegger (German philosopher famous for Being and Time) and Samuel Butler (iconoclastic Victorian author famous for his takes on The odyssey), the natural world of realism, the influence of faith and even the conception of life itself. Besides, the first person narration allows the reader to empathize with Ariel and it also left some loose ends for developing other characters.
Facts I disliked: This book is the toughest book I have ever read, be it the dialogues or the words or the quotes used in the book. See a few examples “The matter of which man is a cognizant escapes the senses in gradation” and “in any place that I take flight, the dark will mutate into light”. Besides, the explanation of Darwin’s theory, The Odyssey, Schrödinger’s’ cat, Relativity theory was a bit hard on my small mind and through out the book I have to Google them to know more and more. The language is coarse and the central character finds it hard to express, even love, without swearing. There are descriptions of some dirty sex at few places.
My take: To say that it is a petrifying, mesmerizing attention grabbing thriller would be an irony as the author through a sequence of actions and plot creates a spooky, daunting setting which makes you glide through the pages. Half way through the book you feel as if you know the entire plot but here comes the ace in form of some twist and turns leaving you again rapt and above all shocked!!! There are few spoilers of course, the coarse language and swearing and at places the dosage of psychology and science gets too heavy for liking. Despite the novel’s length and content, it is immensely readable and even succeeds as a page turner. All in all, a must read for all the thriller buff.
P.S: For more check http://www.harcourtbooks.com/TheEndOfMrY/landing.asp