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review 2018-05-12 16:14
Children's fantasy novel, first of a series – quite fun
Dragon's Green - Scarlett Thomas Dragon's Green - Scarlett Thomas

 

 

Effie Truelove lives in the Realworld and discovers a lot about magic and her role in the Otherworld where magic reigns supreme. Along the way, she finds schoolmates who develop abilities and become friends. There's plenty of action and a fair amount of original ideas in this novel and lovers of children's fantasy will enjoy it. The style reminds me of the Septimus Heap books and Harry Potter fans will probably enjoy the storyline.

 

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review 2016-09-25 00:20
The End of Mr. Y - Scarlett Thomas
The End of Mr. Y - Scarlett Thomas

There are some books that just swallow you up, aren't there? You just want to inhale as much of them as possible as fast as you can, and they kind of take over your life for a few days, and it's sad but also sort of a relief that you can go back to normal sane reading for a while.

 

That was The End of Mr. Y for me.

 

Which is kind of appropriate, because it's...how can I put this? It's a very trippy book. It starts out as a novel about a cynical and rather lonely PhD student, Ariel (and I am a sucker for novels about cynical and lonely academics), who finds by chance an extremely rare Victorian novel by an author she happens to be studying in a second-hand bookshop. The book, however, turns out to contain a secret: a recipe that will allow the reader to enter a dimension made of pure thought. Travellers in this dimension can read others' memories and even travel into the past. Of course, there are those trying to get hold of the book, and Ariel, for nefarious and murderous ends; Ariel needs to escape them not only for her own sake but for the sake of the world.

 

Oh, and if you stay in the thought-dimension for too long, you die.

 

Summed up like that, it sounds like the misbegotten lovechild of The Da Vinci Code and The Matrix, and, yes, in some places it does read...a little over the top, especially during the more action-packed sequences within the thought-dimension. But there are a couple of things that, for me, raise it above pulpiness: its ideas and its characters.

 

It's an extremely philosophical book, playing with ideas about quantum physics and semiotics, namechecking Einstein and Darwin and, gods save us, Heidegger and Derrida. At some points, its exposition of things like special relativity, while informative, become a bit info-dumpy and dense; but as a whole I think it's doing something quite clever with all of this, something to do with the sucking void between the signifier and the signified (also a topic for which I am an absolute sucker).

 

And then there is Ariel: damaged by a string of bad experiences, so crushingly disappointed with her life that she won't admit it to herself. I haven't rooted so hard for a character for a long while: for her to stop making self-destructive decisions, to find some self-worth and let herself reach out to people. She's a fascinating character, and I would quite happily read another book about her.

 

Overall, The End of Mr. Y is a novel about losing yourself, and maybe finding the courage to find yourself again, which is what makes its hypnotic, hyperreal qualities so apposite. It's not for everyone: if you like your fiction terse and fast-paced, give this one a miss. But if this is your kind of thing: go for it.

 

 

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text 2015-07-18 18:20
Trying To Be Clever
The Seed Collectors - Scarlett Thomas

I loved The End Of Mr Y but Scarlett Thomas's latest novel has left me entirely cold. The story features a family of famous botanists, the older generation of which disappeared on a hunt for a miracle plant. The plot revolves around a series of moments in their lives after the death of the surviving family matriarch.

 

The trouble is, it's almost completely unreadable. There are umpteen characters and they're impossible to tell apart because they aren't properly described or differentiated. They're also deeply unpleasant and universally preoccupied with rather shabby sexual fantasies.

 

It's not a world I recognise or one I feel able to care about. None of these characters is even remotely like anyone I've ever met. They are, at best, ideas about people because this is, like all Scarlett Thomas's fiction, a novel about ideas – ideas about consciousness primarily.

 

I understand that Scarlett Thomas is trying to do something interesting with her writing and I applaud that. But, for me, there has to be something more to a book than verbal and conceptual experimentation.

 

There have to be characters who feel real; there has to be dialogue that is emotionally engaging; there has to be a plot that contains some element of drama. This book has none of that. It's trying way too hard to be clever.

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review 2015-03-15 00:00
Bright Young Things
Bright Young Things - Scarlett Thomas What a load of horseshit.
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review 2015-03-15 00:00
Bright Young Things
Bright Young Things - Scarlett Thomas What a load of horseshit.
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