The End of Mr Y – Scarlett Thomas

This is one of those books that looked like it might be interesting, and as Waterstone’s had it at half price, I thought it was worth a try.

Ariel Manto is working in a University in an unnamed British town. Her supervisor and mentor has disappeared, one of the University buildings has collapsed into an old tunnel, and she has to walk home, which leads her to a second hand bookshop, which has a copy of a book she’s heard of, but never hoped to actually see – The End of Mr. Y by a notoriously eccentric Victorian scientist Thomas Lumas. Handing over nearly all her money for the box of books (the bookseller wouldn’t split them up), she takes them home. And then things start to get interesting.

Lumas writes that he wants the novel to be read as a work of fiction only. Now why would he say that? Is there more to it than that? Is there some truth in the rumours that the book is somehow cursed – that if you read it, you die?

The book tells of the strange experience of the man known only as Mr Y, who encounters a stranger who gives him a strange concoction that allows him to “travel” into other people’s minds. This leads him into very dark places, and leads to his ultimate ruin.

Undaunted by this, when Ariel finds the missing page from the book hidden in one of her mentor’s books, she decided to try to make up the mixture and try it out. And then things get really interesting. She finds herself in a twilight world where she can get into the mind of anyone (or any animal) nearby. This would all be a lot of fun, but unfortunately some other people are after the secret, and they’re not at all nice to know.

This is seriously good fun, delightfully original, and generally Good Stuff. Worth a read.