Ariel is a PhD student working on the topic of thought experiments. Of particular interest to her is a book by Thomas E. Lumas called The End of Mr. Y that has been pretty much lost and is supposedly cursed. So Ariel can’t believe her luck when she stumbles upon the book in a second-hand bookshop by accident. Central to the book is the troposphere – a dimension where all conciousness connects. But there is more to it than just an out-of-print 19th century book and soon Ariel finds herself in over her head and on the run.
This is one of the (many) books that I have actually had on my bookshelf for years and been meaning to read for ages. And I’m incredibly glad I finally got around to it. It is really good – smart, philosophical, intellectual and extremely gripping.
It’s not every day that you read a (fiction) book that quotes Heidegger and Samuel Butler, asks questions about the nature of conciousness, matter and thouhgt and manages on the one hand to not become entirely unreadable because the author actually just wants to show off how smart they are; and on the other hand to not drift of into spirituality too much, even though the entire thing certainly has its esoteric moments.
So that is already quite a feat. But Scarlett Thomas doesn’t leave it at that. This is not only a smart, intellectual book, it’s also engaging and tense.
Ariel is a fascinating character and one that we don’t get very often: she’s smart and strong, but also incredibly insecure and a little bit broken. Which she knows, so that self-awareness again feeds into her strength.
But the book isn’t perfect. There are a couple of plot holes and, as incredibly creepy as the KIDS were, I could have done without the whole Rainman thing (a trope we really need to get over). Especially since it doesn’t go anywhere anyway.
The ending was a little unsatisfying. I wanted to know [SPOILER] how Ariel’s actions in the troposphere and her changing the past actually affected our world. That we don’t get another look at it was really disappointing to me. Also, the garden Eden thing was a little too much (though Thomas explains that she didn’t mean for it to be religious insight, rather them remaining caught up in metaphors). Still. [/SPOILER]
But other than that, I really enjoyed the book. I was completely caught up in it, I was fascinated and very intrigued. I didn’t want it to end.
Summarising: if you want to read something smart and slightly mind-fucking, this one’s for you.