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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas

The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas. Orlando, Florida: Harcourt, 2006. ISBN: 978-0-15-603161-5

Now here's a book that is difficult to classify! Science fiction? Probably. Fantasy? Maybe. Or is it mainstream fiction, not genre? Indubitably. It has elements of all of them. And more. In the end, I guess I'm going to index it under science fiction, because of the preponderance of advanced physics which permeates the story.

A doctoral student finds an extremely rare book; only one copy is known to exist. In the book is a formula which, when ingested, allows one to enter an alternate form of reality known as the Troposphere, where you travel by means of other people's thoughts. Only not just people, but animals, too. At one point our heroine (although she has many of the characteristics of an anti-hero at times) uses the minds of mice, many many mice through multiple generations, to travel through time itself.

Not only that, but the book is supposed to be under some kind of a curse. Those who read it, inevitably die. But then, that's the fate of all of us, eventually, right? But would you read a book, if reading it meant you weren't long for the world? Of course, most of us wouldn't take such a curse very seriously.

It's the formula itself that makes me think fantasy, not SciFi. Because it consists of a many times diluted homeopathic tincture, together with holy water from a church, which makes no scientific sense at all. Yet the entire alternate reality is explained in terms of quantum physics, string theory, and the like. So maybe it's really fantasy with a scientific cover story! Well, who cares. Only me, in that I have to decide which of my genre indexes to put it in.

It's a well-written story, with enough action (of various types, including sexual) and even suspense to keep you entertained, while maybe you're learning something too. I'm afraid I haven't even begun to do justice to this decidedly peculiar book, but it has received numerous accolades. Try it, you might like it! Recommended for those who like something a bit out of the ordinary.


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