It’s the story of a British graduate student, Ariel, who’s working on her Ph.D; her thesis is about thought experiments like Flatland, or Schrodinger’s cat. This isn’t a perfect description, but it’s like philosophy of science crossed with post-modern literature.

It seems to be part of a specific sub-sub-genre of ‘books about books’ – one of the titles Ariel might research for her thesis is a very rare and supposedly cursed book called -yep- The End of Mr. Y. Last summer I read The Shadow of the Wind, another book-about-a-book.

Anyway, Ariel finds the book by chance and it propels her on a strange journey into the union of all human and animal consciousness, which puts her in danger from some exceedingly shady characters. Along the way she muses at length (sometimes to my exhaustion) about the meaning of consciousness, whether machines will someday become conscious, whether language is self-replicating, and the implications of quantum science for humanity. 

Still, it’s engaging and interesting. My only quibble with the writing style (aside from the asides about quantum blah blah) is the occasional use of jarringly modern metaphors. Maybe in 20 years they’ll seem run of the mill. But to me, sentences like this one felt goofy:

But this road sweeps through the landscape like the broad stroke of an eraser tool on a computer, as if the pixel size has been set too high and too much has been rubbed out.

Bottom line: recommended, kind of, I guess…

Next up: Middlesex

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