Week 5 and I should not be reviewing this book right now. I should wait until tomorrow when I’m probably less angry at it, but I can’t. I’m angry and when I’m angry I write. So no further sh*t from me – let’s dive straight into this cauldron of mindfuck and find out why I’m so angry right now…
Title: The End of Mr. Y
By: Scarlett Thomas
Published by Canongate, 2007, Edinburgh
When Ariel Manto uncovers a copy of The End of Mr. Y in a second-hand 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.
Rating on Goodreads: (it was okay)
This book is difficult. I want to give it three stars but I want to give it two. I liked it and I didn’t. I’ll tell you what I do know but whether or not you, as a reader, will like this book, is heavily based on how well you react to mindfuck and weak, pointless characters.
I know I love the book cover – it’s one of the prettiest things I have ever seen. The sides of the book are painted black and it’s a nice effect. Coupled with the unusual content it should make for a very unusual book and a very unusual experience. And it is unusual, just not in the way I wanted it to be.
This is, somehow, an easy read. Despite all the mindfuck, it’s easy to get through. The language is simple, all the science lectures underway are possible to understand, though they do get boring at times. But generally, the mindfuck is the best part of it: The journey of philosophy and thought experiments. I do have the feeling this is the entire point of the book. There’s a philosophical, scientific(ish) journey that Thomas wants to present to us and she frames it with a story from the real world. The journey is brilliant. I like the thought experiments and the ideas and the theories.
What I don’t like? Everything else.
Really, the protagonist is the most intensely unlikeable character I’ve ever read. She has no redeeming qualities, no purpose other than to be a pawn for the story to move about. She’s whiny and annoying and seems full of herself. I dislike her, and having studied the writer’s website and seen a lot of the writer in this character, I dislike the writer, too. It’s not really fair, but there you have it.
So the protagonist is annoying and all other characters are dull and shallow. I don’t get the point of her love interest. He was not needed – he felt tacked on and I found no reason for her to love him so much. This may be some destiny, we’re meant to be shit, but if that’s the case she could have at least given them some chemistry. There was none. He is not necessary! The “love” they supposedly had for each other made me feel nothing at all.
This story was obviously written because Thomas liked the theories she read in books – which also accounts for the excessive name dropping (she’s especially infatuated with Derrida and mentions him every few pages), but that’s not an excuse not to make me care whether the characters in this novel live or die. I didn’t feel any of their pain, I didn’t feel their happiness or their love, and when I read a novel – any flippin’ novel – that’s what I want to feel. That’s why I read novels. To feel and to live and breathe other lives.
If you’re into thought experiments – definitely give this a try. If you care about well-rounded characters and a story that make sense, don’t. It’s full of pointless swearing and pointless sex. I don’t usually mind sex or swearing but it was used so much and with so little purpose, it was jarring. Everybody swears, everybody talks about sex. No character is ever, at any point, real or alive or fun. The book didn’t make me happy or sad, just dizzy.
There are parts I liked, that’s why I read it so fast, too, but it’s hard to remember what I really like when I dislike such a large chunck of the story so intensely. If I could, I’d go back and just read the thought experiments. If that’s all I’d read, this would have been a three or a four, but as it is, I intensely dislike probably 75 % of this entire book and that’s nothing more than a two.