Paperbacks: The End Of Mr Y, by Scarlett Thomas

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The Independent Culture

Even hardcore science-fiction sceptics will find something to enjoy in Scarlett Thomas's novel about time travel to a fourth dimension. Touching on every genre under the sun – from fantasy to transgressive romance – the novel acts as a crash course in Darwin, Derrida and particle physics. Narrator Ariel Manto is a geeky expert on 19th-century thought experiments, drawn to the work of Victorian novelist and mystic, Thomas E Lumas.

She can't believe her luck when she discovers a copy of his mysterious final work, "The End of Mr Y", in a second-hand bookshop. As in all fantasy scenarios of this kind, it comes with a curse attached that promises certain death to all readers. A risk-taker addicted to kinky sex and late-night vodka, Ariel decides to take a peek. Within days she has exchanged her dismal off-campus flat for life in the Troposphere - an alternative universe where hitching a ride on other people's ideas is as simple as jumping on a bus.

A writer of verve and nerve, Thomas has taken a classic fantasy formula – the idea of getting lost in a magical book – and given it a post-modern makeover complete with electronic consoles, gun-toting CIA agents and a caffeine-drinking mouse. The End of Mr Y proves to be that rare beast – a user-friendly experimental novel.

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