“The End of Mr. Y” is not an easy book to read.
Not if you’re me, mainly because I suck at science stuff (I’m a history and literature geek, kids) and never could wrap my head around even the most basic details of physics, much less its quantum brother.
(Side note: I’ve concluded that I’m shit at billiards even though I’m excellent at geometry because of my bad grasp of physics, hence the whole “force/distance/acceleration” calculation problem.)
The book tells a pretty simple story: self-destructive Ph.D. student Ariel finds a rare book by the author she’s studying in a second-hand bookstore, and reads it even though it’s supposedly cursed.
But that’s just the frame.
Inside the story is a multitude of other stories, each one incredibly real and difficult and painful.
“The End of Mr. Y” challenges our notions of reality, consciousness, god and existence. It’s a bit technical, thanks to the use of binary code as metaphor for reality (among other examples), and Scarlett Thomas can be quite wordy, but all in all it’s a decent and entertaining read.
I don’t know how exactly it happened, but Thomas manages to combine Poe, Sartre, Heidegger, Einstein and God into one entertaining thought experiment.
Maybe it’s because underneath all the divisions between science, literature, philosophy and religion is just man’s innate need to understand what it is to exist. Forget the why; the very question of us living in a solar system seemingly devoid of other life forms is enough of a conundrum to last a lifetime.
What made us? What keeps us existing?
We’ve got a myriad ways of looking at it, but like “The End of Mr. Y”, there really is never enough of a satisfying answer.