Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Our Tragic Universe” as Want to Read:
Our Tragic Universe
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Our Tragic Universe

3.42  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,694 Ratings  ·  562 Reviews
The newest novel by Scarlett Thomas, this time centering on the end of the universe, the possibilty of superbeings, a mysterious beast of the moor, and the nature of storytelling.
ebook, 384 pages
Published September 1st 2010 by Mariner Books (first published 2010)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Our Tragic Universe, please sign up.

Recent Questions

This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
In homage to Scarlett Thomas’ narrative experiment, I am sorely tempted to review the black paperback edges (gimmicky, annoying) rather than the story (gimmicky, annoying) on the principle that the review would be to the book as the plot is to the author – that is to say, only peripherally relevant, something that gets in the way of all the clever thoughts she’s had while writing.

Loosely speaking, there’s a relationship plot that might have been a bit too chick-lit for my taste, anyway, what wi
Nov 06, 2012 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sigh. Scarlett Thomas -- you are endlessly frustrating.

Thomas is clearly intelligent; the ideas and concepts she weaves into her novels are bright, interesting, and fairly potent. The thing is...she knows she's intelligent. And it seems pretty important to her for you, the reader, to know it, too. It's not even that she's pretentious, or that her stories are -- well, not always, anyway -- but that she is so focused on her bright ideas that the stories themselves become...incidental. The End of M
This is without a doubt one of the best books I've read all year, but it's quite a difficult one to review. It's hard to explain what the story is actually about; in many ways, it isn't really about anything, but without giving too much away, that's sort of the point.

Scarlett Thomas's last novel, The End of Mr. Y, was very good, but disappointed me because - after a fantastic start - the ending strayed too far into fantasy and became slightly ridiculous. Because of the similar cover, and the pro
Sep 12, 2010 Megan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Once I was so far along in the book I decided to read the reviews because I wasn't getting anything out of it. Frankly, I didn't understand why it was reviewed so highly so I forced myself through it thinking it would turn around. On page 170 Meg lists the problems with her book. "The items on it were: It is boring; it has no focus; it is self-indulgent; I hate the central character; it's too depressing; no wants anything; no one does anything; there are no questions to be resolved; there is too ...more
Jason (RawBlurb)
Review: Our Tragic Universe, Scarlett Thomas

Forewarning, this is a positive review though I can see where it might not appear that way. It was just a very hard book to write about!

Our Tragic Universe (originally to be titled ‘Death of the Author’) is a nonstandard plot. Part time writer Meg is living in a small town England. She is living unhappily with her long term boyfriend and her dog, barely scraping by. Meg is continually trying to write her “Real Novel”, editing and paring down her words,
Dec 29, 2014 Antonomasia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Antonomasia by: GR readers' advisory forum; Matthew Marcus
With semi-comic characters who talk about Nietzsche whilst knitting, and try to debunk pseudoscience and supernatural experiences during dog-walks, Our Tragic Universe is a charmingly shambolic (to some, shambolically pretentious) blend of 1970's British kids' fantasy novel, eccentric chicklit with an M.A., metafiction and amusingly presented mundane detail. It has curious contrasts: ostensibly fairly high, polymathic intellectual content and some startlingly fresh metaphors alongside instances ...more
Apr 25, 2016 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Scarlett Thomas’ books have a quantum quality about them. I really enjoyed this but I feel like if I recommended it to someone they would enjoy it less. It’s as if the act of recommending it would reduce its quality. This book would be best enjoyed when stumbled upon randomly in the corner of a dusty bookshop, but would probably be terrible if it was effusively recommended. I felt similarly about The Seed Collectors.

The ‘Schrodinger’s book’ thing is apt since Thomas tends to write simple real-wo
Aug 15, 2012 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers
Oh my god, I loved this book! I have a first edition hardcover with that cool black/gray, white, and gold cover and the black-edged pages. I bought it at City Lights when I was on my way home from hiking in the Redwoods and then left it sitting on my shelves for two years. After slogging through In the Garden of Beasts, I just wanted to read something I wanted to read, so I grabbed Our Tragic Universe, flopped onto my bed and practically stayed there until I had read to the end.

The whole story i
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
This is a challenging book to review: the entire time I was reading it, I was convinced I hated it; only I'd stop reading it and find myself chewing over the themes of the story or the narrator or the promise of where the novel was going. In the end, I have to say this is a very good and well-written novel that is maddening and thought-provoking and a little bit pretty.

The story is fairly simple: our narrator, Meg, struggles with her life. She's living with someone she thinks she might not love
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

I suppose if I'm being entirely truthful, a big part of why I was so profoundly disappointed with Scarlett Thomas' Our Tragic Universe was not from the quality of the book itself, but simply from a case of mistaken assumptions; namely, based on the whimsical jacket copy and exquisite production details (in
Marc Nash
Dec 13, 2015 Marc Nash rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have a real weakness for this author who won't be everyone's cup of tea. here she willfully writes a novel about narrative, but without much of one at its heart. A writer who doesn't do much writing, takes walks around the locale of Totnes, visits friends and all sorts of other procrastinating activity, while musing on the nature of fiction versus life. I know it doesn't sound much, but there are some fantastic insights in the book. There are studies of relationships here, failing relationship ...more
Steve Morris
Oh dear. I so wanted to enjoy this book. Scarlett Thomas's The End of Mr. Y is one of my all-time favourite books, yet this reads like some early precursor to that book.

This is a storyless story, and deliberately so. The story is wilfully, purposely, missing. Thomas is a lecturer on creative writing, and her protagonist Meg is also a writer who lectures on creative writing. Meg wants to write a storyless story - and so clearly does Scarlett. This novel speaks incessantly about story, plot, chara
Apr 23, 2014 Lisa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Finally reached the end of this book that can be summed up in two words - mind f**k!

 photo brain-explodes_zps3cc7f7ed.jpg

It is a true example of a storyless story! How can a book divide your own opinions so completely? At times I wanted to give it 4 stars but at others zero stars (more 0 than 4).

I think the best way is just to tell you what I liked and didn't like and then you can read it and join the debate of whether it works or doesn't. (This list is as confusing and as contradictory as the book itself - sorry about that).

David Hebblethwaite
Given that I rather disliked the two Scarlett Thomas novels I’d previously read (Bright Young Things and PopCo), you might reasonably wonder why I even contemplated reading a third. Curiosity, I suppose — I just wanted to see if I could find one that I liked. And, well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say I particularly liked Our Tragic Universe, but certainly I found it a more worthwhile read than those earlier novels.

Meg Carpenter is a struggling writer, trying (and largely failing) to make ends me
Jan 08, 2012 Alytha rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Finished Scarlett Thomas' latest novel, Our Tragic Universe.

I'm not actually sure whether I liked this novel. It's somewhere between a meta-fictional literary experiment about the nature of story and the storyless novel, and a heap of selfwankery pretentious crap.
On the one hand, the human relationships are quite nicely described, and enough weird and interesting things happen to keep you reading. On the other hand, the endless discussions that the characters have about literary theory, the natu
Jun 20, 2010 Leandra rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Our Tragic Universe is supposed to be another book in a series of books by Scarlett Thomas that poses questions about the universe, the end of time and the existance of man. Sadly, it fails spectacularly.

I've read both The End of Mr. Y and PopCo, and OTU just doesn't live up to the complexity of the first and the thoughtfulness and insight of our current world in the second.

The theme is inconcise - the book concerns itself with the end of the universe - an endless loop of events repeating them
Nov 01, 2013 Tuck rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kids-books, europa
gold foil cutesy/fancy cover: check. author has on a sexy velvet choker for her pic: check. philip pullman 2 word blurb, one being a definite article: check.
why didn't i like this? set in devonshire, with a MAP no less,a cool map, poor but scrappy meg, itinerant book reviewer and author/writer herownself gets sucked into a world of fairies, beasts, moors (heather type), fantastical books and characters.
i dunno, but maybe for me tooo magical and tooo real
a great dog in novel though, so one extr
Nov 11, 2015 Melda rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Kitapta resmen hiçbir şey olmadı... Halbuki çok ümitliydim.
Dec 04, 2012 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa by: Jade
After The End of Mr Y and now this, I'm becoming rather a fan of Scarlett Thomas. Always intelligent and original, reading and enjoying her books also has the additional bonus of making me feel quite clever at the time and (rather like Meg, this one's main character) I understand concepts I go cross-eyed over normally, even if I'll be buggered if I can explain them afterwards.

Set in a part of the world I'm very familiar with (in fact I passed Slapton's tank just this Saturday) and filled with i
Christopher James
I read fast. Too fast sometimes. I can devour books (and music and films..) to the extent that I don't always give them the attention they deserve. I blame the internet - now I can be selective I haven't read a crap book for ages, and there is always something else to look forward to.

A really good book, however, will slow me down. I like a book that makes me ponder, where I have to put it down for a few minutes to digest, and just make sure I got that bit right. If a book can do that a dozen ti
Oct 12, 2010 Sam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Scarlett Thomas comes through, at least for me, again with another exceptional book. If you've read some of her others and liked them, notably The End of Mr. y, and PopCo, you might really like this book. But you have to ask yourself first. What is it about the past books that you liked? Was it the story, the way the suspense was really well crafted? Or was it more the philosophy and ideas she played with in the novels?

If its the former, you might want to get this one from the library, if its th
Nov 28, 2010 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a complex novel. It doesn’t always read like one and you can get lulled into a false sense of security if you’re not careful. By ‘complex’ I mean ‘clever’ but it is also a hodgepodge. I mean that in the nicest possible way. There is just so much material in it and I’m not entirely convinced she manages to make all the disparate elements cohere but she has a damn good crack at it. This is, of course, based on a single read through. I suspect, had I the time and the inclination, then it wo ...more
Eileen Chavez
Sep 08, 2012 Eileen Chavez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This will really stay with me. It was engaging and entertaining, and I was surprised and disappointed to reach the end. Even a couple days later clues are coming back to me and I think, "So that's what that was!" Kind of a year in the life sort of story, rather than a telling of a particular series of events. In a nutshell I'd say it's about how the "magical" aspects of the universe, even thought the main character professes not to believe in them, shape her life, and how once she stops struggli ...more
Apr 05, 2015 Ebba rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book because I liked the cover, but it took me ages to finally read it. I'm actually very happy that I waited so long to read it because I don't think my younger self would have understood it. But now, at this time in my life, it was absolutely perfect.

This book has everything that I like. Going into this I didn't really know what it was about, and it's actually very hard to explain even after I've read it, but believe me when I say that it's amazing. The main character Meg is a wo
Adrian Fridge
Aug 19, 2015 Adrian Fridge rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
Two philosophy books jammed into a loose plot. Characters are paper thin and spend most of the ‘story’ venting to each other about either fiction writing or New Age. The actual philosophies are good in a meta way, but this can do without trying to pass for fiction.

I DNF’d at 53% when the main character finally achieves her goal, i.e. a sizable paycheck, and continues to slog along like nothing happened. I got bored by the immensely slow pace of the plot, and decided I have better things to do wi
The mind-fuck level was a little high for me here. Obviously, not on the level of, say The House of Leaves, but that is why I still love Scarlett Thomas. I really would love to meet her in person. I bet she would be fascinating to have coffee with. High tea with, I should say. The synopsis was a little misleading, as I do not feel it was really about Kelsey Newman's immortality thing/Omega Point regarding immortality/living forever. Apparently, his theory posits that at the end of time, all of u ...more
Jun 07, 2015 Jemma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-a-copy, 2015
In 'Our Tragic Universe', our main character Meg has a mismatched sort of life. She lives with her boyfriend Christopher who has no hope of getting a paid job and believes in an eco, unaffective life, not to mention his multitude of other issues. Their dog Bess keeps Meg company and gets her out of the damp, asthma-inducing house she shares with Christopher. Meg is also a writer with some published novels she's not particularly proud of, and a novel that just won't form into anything useful. She ...more
May 26, 2011 Ahalya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

When a writer begins to ask herself ‘what’s the point of writing anything’, you know she may never get back to writing again. There is something inherently so poisonous in the question ‘why’ that it strangulates all creativity, and all desire. Questioning the motive for spending lots of energy and time on putting down words on paper (or on any other activity, come to think of it), is the last stage of writer’s block and is something that can be cured only
Sep 04, 2012 Ali rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Had I been at any other point in my life, I would have hated this book. However, like Meg, I'm feeling a bit lost and aimless at the moment, and I think that is why it resonated with me. I liked Meg as a character, and I was much more interested in her life and friends than their meta, pretentious discussions they would have about storytelling, life, and the universe. I do not think that it is some eye-opening, clever, philosophical analysis of life, but I think the author was trying to achieve ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
"How do you survive the end of time? It is quite simple. By the time the universe is old enough and frail enough to collapse, humans will be able to do whatever they like with it...By then it'll just be a case of wheeling one decrepit planet to one side of the universe while another one pisses itself sadly in another galaxy. And all this while waiting for the final crunch, as everything becomes everything else as the universe begins its beautiful collapse, panting and sweating until all life arc ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Around the Year i...: Our Tragic Universe, by Scarlett Thomas 3 12 Apr 02, 2016 09:59AM  
  • Lights Out in Wonderland
  • Little Hands Clapping
  • Mobius Dick
  • Mr. Toppit
  • My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time
  • All Timelines Lead to Rome
  • The Friday Gospels
  • You Lost Me There
  • Becoming Kate
  • Cooking With Bones
  • Body of Knowledge
  • Die Herrlichkeit des Lebens
  • Behindlings (Thames Gateway, #2)
  • A Circle of Souls
  • Here Comes Your Man
  • Defensive Tactics (Defensive Tactics, #1)
  • Landed
  • Death's Last Run (Clare Vengel Undercover, #3)
Scarlett Thomas has taught English Literature at the University of Kent since 2004, and has previously taught at Dartmouth Community College, South East Essex College and the University of East London. She reviews books for the Literary Review, the Independent on Sunday, and Scotland on Sunday. She has written seven novels, including The End of Mr. Y and PopCo.

In 2001 she was named by The Independ
More about Scarlett Thomas...

Share This Book

“One of the paradoxes of writing is that when you write non-fiction everyone tries to prove that it's wrong, and when you publish fiction, everyone tries to see the truth in it.” 14 likes
“I erased the thought from my mind, but I couldn't undo the fact that I'd had the thought in the first place.” 12 likes
More quotes…