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May 2010
number9dream - David Mitchell - Sceptre, 2001
* * * *
I liked this book when I read it, but it's been a while now and it hasn't lingered in my memory quite as much as it should. Like Cloud Atlas, it showcases Mitchell's remarkable talent for different narrative styles and clever construction. The main story is a first-person narrative by Eiji Miyake, a shy young man who has come to Tokyo to locate the father he never knew. Each chapter intercuts here and now description with a narrative that is unreal in one way or other - in the first chapter, Eiji fantasises about getting past the fierce receptionist in the building where his father works, in the second he recounts a story from his early life, in the third he describes playing a video game, and so on. This technique allows Mitchell to squeeze in a Yakuza thriller, a folk tale and a military memoir without too much pain. The result is a dreamy portrait of Japan which bears more than a passing resemblance to the way that Dublin is depicted in Ulysses, with Eiji as the Leonard Bloom character. Unlike Joyce, however, Mitchell has an edit button which makes this a much more focused and enjoyable experience for the reader. It has some flaws - the characters speak modern demotic English which surely cannot reflect Japanese habits of speech and thought, the ending manages to be at once inconclusive and depressing, and, like Cloud Atlas, any profundities that it had to offer passed me by - but it’s a lot of fun.
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28 Sep 2005
Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell - Sceptre, 2004
* * * *
I thought that this was by far the most potentially interesting of the Booker nominees for 2004, so needless to say it didn't win. Which is a shame, for this book's unusual and daring construction is worth a prize in itself - it's nice to see someone daring to play original games with a novel's structure, and if the overall effect isn't entirely successful, it's not for want of trying.
Read more... )


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