The curiosity of a young academic triggers a journey of wonder and danger.
Ariel Manto, a Ph.D. candidate at a British university, gets an unexpected day off when old tunnels in the campus building adjoining hers threaten to collapse. On the way home, she stumbles onto a much bigger stroke of luck. At a modest bookshop, she comes across a copy of Thomas Lumas’s seminal work, The End of Mr. Y, a mysterious novel often cited but thought to be no longer extant. Serendipitously, Ariel is studying Lumas. Lured to the university by Professor Saul Burlem, Ariel has been writing extensively about science, but from a literary perspective. This makes Lumas—a scientific theorist who wrote books in many genres—an ideal candidate for her research. Shortly after April moved into Burlem’s capacious office, Burlem vanished, presumably on a research project. Ariel begins to devour Lumas’s masterpiece, chunks of which alternate with the main narrative. Mr. Y describes a sort of time travel, into what Lumas calls the Troposphere. Unfortunately, the crucial page that explains how the hero achieves the time-travel trick is missing. Acting on a hunch, Ariel downloads all the information on Burlem’s computer, and just in time. Department secretary Yvonne is about to have all Burlem’s belongings put into storage to make room for two new occupants, the overfriendly Heather and the highly attractive Adam, with whom Ariel feels an immediate attraction. They seem headed for an affair until Adam informs her that he’s a clergyman. Burlem’s computer contains the missing page, which had a formula, the ingredients for which Ariel acquires at a local herbalist. Almost before she knows it, she’s transported to Lumas’s alternate reality, gets chased by CIA-like agents back in her “real” world and indeed drifts toward romance with dreamy Adam.
Delicious cross-genre literary picnic, breezy and fiercely intelligent, reminiscent of Haruki Murakami.