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The End of Mr Y

4 December 2008 by superlative

I’ve just finished reading The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas, and I enjoyed it so much I thought I’d write a little something about it.

I only read it because a friend brought it into work and then asked if I wanted to borrow it; otherwise I don’t think I would have ever heard of it. I quite like it when that happens though, when you end up reading something you would otherwise have missed out on and then you really enjoy it.

When she offered to lend it to me, I asked what it was about, and (reading off the back) she told me it was an “engaging story that makes you rethink the nature of existence and the true structure of the world”. Hmm, I thought, that doesn’t sound very exciting… I had a look at it myself though and found that further down it also said “a thrilling adventure of love, sex, death and time-travel”, which had me hooked straight away! Clearly marketing is not my friend’s forté.

Anyway, the book is very good, and it does indeed live up to both of those quotes. The story is about a young academic called Ariel who comes across a copy of an exceedingly rare novel. Supposedly, the novel is cursed, and anyone who reads it ends up dying. Of course she has to read it, and she gets drawn into a dangerous world she could never have imagined and has to re-evaluate everything she thought she knew.

Being a fan of fantasy and sci fi, the book really worked for me, although I felt it slowed down a little in the middle. It picked up pace a lot after that though and I read the second half in a single afternoon. In its entirety, it is very original, and a lot of thought has obviously gone into its construction. Lots of the ideas it weaves together aren’t actually original though, and I recognised elements of lots of things I’ve seen before. Not wanting to give too much away, they included:

  • the Q continuum in Star Trek
  • the Matrix
  • Being John Malkovich
  • the Discworld theory of gods
  • the ‘rare and dangerous book’ theme from The Shadow of the Wind
  • and a little bit the Better Than Life game in Red Dwarf

If you know what all those things are, then the combination of them probably gives you a fair idea of what the book is about. And if you like all of those things (personally I hated Being John Malkovich, but it’s only similar to the book in a minor way), then you’re sure to enjoy it, so go read it.

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