number9dream – David Mitchell

April 1, 2010 § 30 Comments

Dreams are shores where the ocean of spirit meets the land of matter. Beaches where the yet-to-be, the once-were, the will-never-be may walk amid the still-are.

number9dream is the story about Eiji Miyake…

I genuinely don’t know what to say about this book. I want to say “in a nutshell”, but I can’t, because this isn’t one of those books that can be put in nutshells. It’s a crazy book, a story that brings you up the tallest buildings in Tokyo, and right down to the deepest darkest secrets of the Japanese Yakuza. It dwells in dreams, in virtual worlds, in a reality you pretty much wish wasn’t quite so real.

It starts with Eiji Miyake having arrived in big-city Tokyo from small-town Yakushima. He’s there on a quest: he wants to meet his father – a guy who’s never been in his life, and Eiji doesn’t even know his name. This mission is what brings him on all sorts of adventures and experiences: he gets mixed up with all the wrong people, makes all the wrong decisions, and goes ahead with plan after plan that were destined to fail.

Maybe the meaning of life lies in the act of looking for it.

Eiji Miyake is a guy with a dead twin sister he can never stop thinking about, an alcoholic mother who writes him letters whom he never really wants to see again, and a crush on this waitress with the most beautiful neck he has ever seen (reminds me of Murakami and his character’s obsession with ears…). Oh, and he’s got the world’s most extravagant imagination. I read through almost three quarters of the first chapter before I understood that some parts of the story were merely Eiji Miyake’s own imaginings that never really happened.

Parts of Anju are too bright, parts of Anju are so dark she isn’t even here.

Each chapter had a different theme, and almost a different method of story-telling. At the beginning of every chapter, it was like jumping into a different lake, some lukewarm, some at freezing temperature. At times it felt like groping in the dark, not really knowing where the story is taking you, until you’ve gone through half the chapter, some things start to make sense backwards.

It kept me on my toes, it really did. I felt like I couldn’t slack for even a little bit, I couldn’t let my senses get washed away along with the fast-moving plot. I had to have all my wits with me if I wanted to get to the end in one piece. Reading this was exhausting. Along the way, I had to stop between chapters, I had to tell myself, “Wait,” I had to give myself time to really think about what just happened. By the end of chapter 7, it looked like things were starting to resolve themselves, and I just heaved a sigh of relief. A little too early.

This was my first David Mitchell. He’s got four other books I’m meaning to read.

Rating: 4

* Note: He first got my attention when I read a review of Cloud Atlas at anothercookiecrumbles, where she mentioned he was ‘almost Murakami-esque’. Then I read Tony’s review of number9dream. They were right. There are some definite Murakami moments.


§ 30 Responses to number9dream – David Mitchell

  • Tony says:

    I got an e-mail today from the Book Depository telling me that my copy of his latest book was available and will be sent very soon! Of course, that means that I need to reread ‘Cloud Atlas’ and ‘Black Swan Green’ soon if I am to read all five in order 😉

  • savidgereads says:

    I didnt love Cloud Atlas but this book sounds absolutely wonderful. I secretly hope that at some point someone at my book group will choose a mitchell I havent read so I have a good reason to read him again. Great review, I am going to look for this in the library.

  • chasing bawa says:

    I found this books the hardest to get into because it was so different from Ghostwritten and Cloud Atlas. But once I got into it, it was indeed fast paced and brilliant.

    • Michelle says:

      Can I take that to mean that you enjoyed both Ghostwritten and Cloud Atlas? I saw Ghostwritten in the bookshop today, and was contemplating about buying it. I’ll see how it goes with Cloud Atlas first though.

  • Sasha says:

    A friend of mine lent me this book because it had been sitting on his shelf for about three years. And the book had actually been lent to him, haha. Mitchell is now sitting on my shelves, and glaring at me.

    Love your review. Mitchell gives me the heebiejeebies; I always feel like he’s going to be such a big commitment when I read him.

    • Michelle says:

      Haha, books just have a way of sitting and sitting on our shelves, don’t they?

      I think Mitchell’s style can be quite difficult to get into for some people. And you’re right about it being a big commitment, because like I said, the book just exhausted me. I was reading Ghostwritten at the bookshop today, and I just couldn’t do it, because just reading the first few pages, I knew I would have to actually sit down and be prepared for it in order to even know where the story’s going.

  • Aimee says:

    I loved parts of Cloud Atlas to death, and then other parts (stories) left me indifferent. He must love all different stories piled into one, because this one with its “different chapter, different theme” sounds similar in strategy. Funnily, one of the stories in the book reminded me of that movie “2046”, which strangely also had some Murukami moments to me. So yeah, I get the Murukami comparison, though David Mitchell when all facets combined seems to be entirely his own man.

    I have been meaning to reread Cloud Atlas, fer sure. Maybe then I’ll make my mind up.


  • JoV says:

    Deja Vu, deja Vu Michelle.

    2 days ago my manager loan me Mitchell’s “Ghostwritten”, so I’m going to read that first. My other colleague didn’t like “Cloud Atlas” so much though. Having heard Simon confirmed it, I might give it a skip.

    • Michelle says:

      Feels odd sometimes, doesn’t it, when books by certain authors just suddenly appear everywhere. Cloud Atlas seems to be the kind of book that splits people (which makes it even more interesting now). I wonder which side I’m going to be on?

  • mee says:

    A non-Japanese Murakami? 😛 To be honest I’m a bit skeptical, what with a white English man writing about Japanese. But that’s just a pet peeve of mine. (His wife is Japanese though!) I’ll be reading Cloud Atlas with Claire in November (my first Mitchell) so we’ll see 😉

    • Michelle says:

      To be honest, I think Mitchell pulled it off quite well in this book, the Japanese part. Though there was a definite English tone to it, it also felt quite real and Japanese-y in a way.

      • Tony says:

        I agree. I really felt Mitchell caught the nuances perfectly.

        Of course, I am English 😉

      • claire says:

        Michelle, when are you planning to read Cloud Atlas? Very soon? As Di mentions above, we’re doing November. I’d like to read them in order like Tony, but actually want to read his latest first because it appeals to me the most. So do you plan to read everything by Mitchell? I also read from Tony’s blog that he IS like Murakami.

        • Tony says:

          I have just started rereading ‘Cloud Atlas’, and I’m hoping to have a review out some time next week. I still have ‘Black Swan Green’ to reread before the new book though; and that new book is due to drop into my letter box any day now!

        • Michelle says:

          Great to know you’ve got his newest book. (I’m guessing you’d have already received it by the time I reply this comment..)

        • Michelle says:

          Thanks for the link Tony. Will be off to read your post soon.

        • Michelle says:

          I’m “planning” to read it rather soon. But then again, knowing how what I plan and what I actually end up doing don’t always match, I’m really not too sure now. But I definitely plan to read everything by Mitchell. He has the sort of style that feels like, the more you read him, the more you get what he might be trying to say, and you end up having the urge to re-read his books just to see what you’ve missed. (That’s saying all this after only reading ONE of his books, but that’s the kind of feeling he gives me. Much like Murakami.)

  • farmlanebooks says:

    I have read all of Mitchell’s books and love them all. I think this is the weakest so you are in for a treat with the rest – enjoy!

  • Nymeth says:

    I absolutely love those short quotes you included. I have yet to read any David Mitchell, but Black Swan Green is on my tbr pile. You’ve made me want to get to it sooner rather than later.

  • This was the first Mitchell I read, and absolutely loved it – so much more than Cloud Atlas. And, Cloud Atlas is fantastic.

    Am glad you loved it, and hope you’ll be reading more of his books soon. I know what you mean about stopping in between chapters, just to figure out what just happened. Felt I had to do that more oft’ towards the end… what a ride, this book is!

  • Cloud Alas remains my all-time favourite book – it is one that stays with you long after reading, I read it around 7 years ago and I still remember the story chapter by chapter ( or perhaps I should say, world by world)! Great review of number9dream. I must admit I haven’t picked up a David Mitchell book since reading Cloud Atlas, as I’m almost afraid it may be a let down from Cloud Atlas – this review is tempting me back 🙂

    • Michelle says:

      Thanks for dropping by.

      I’ve read a couple of pages of Cloud Atlas, but that was when I was in the bookshop, and really, Mitchell’s style of writing is such that I cannot just stand there and read it, and expect to understand fully what’s going on. He can be quite demanding of his readers, I would say. I quite enjoyed number9dream, and since you enjoyed Cloud Atlas, you might enjoy this one as well? I hope you do.

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