by Scarlett Thomas
Doctoral student Ariel Manto is missing her supervisor. Professor Burlem was the reason she moved to the University and now he has disappeared without any explanation. Evacuated from the University campus after one of the buildings falls into an underground tunnel, she is forced to walk home and as it starts to snow, she seeks refuge in a second hand bookshop. Inside, she finds a box containing a copy of a rare, and possibly cursed, book by the subject of her thesis, Thomas E Lumas. With the only money she has left, she purchases the entire Pandora's box of books and begins an adventure that threatens her own life and the possible end of all known existence.
The Book in question is The End of Mr. Y. It is a book about a book and a thought experiment about thought experiments. You are the reader, but since you are reading the book at the same time as the narrator is reading her book, you are also necessarily the subject of the thought experiment. The consequence of this fiendish device is that while you might not give a jot for philosophical conundrums you will be welded to the plot within the first few pages, as unable to turn away as a steam train might move its tracks. This is the paradigm of a page tuner and Thomas keeps stoking the engine.
The End of Mr. Y is more than just a book. It is a friend, a fairground, a mystery, a bowl of soup and a treasure. It steals ideas from philosophers, scientists, Victorians both eminent and infamous and presents them as temptingly as the White Witch's Turkish delight. Fortunately, you will be able to go back and eat it all over again as soon as you have finished. Which desire only convinces me that while The End of Mr. Y may not be cursed, it undoubtedly casts a spell.