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David Mitchell's second novel, number9dream, uses a similar episodic format to his brilliant but fragmentary debut Ghostwritten to create a more coherent and assured narrative that is part detective, part coming-of-age, story. Eiji Miyake, 20, naïve and wholly loveable, encounters a frantic, exotic world when he comes to Tokyo from his small island home to find the father he has never met.
Pin-stripped drones, a lip-pierced hairdresser, midday drunks ... Not a single person is standing still ... a thousand faces per minute ... oven-hot ... ready to buckle under the weight of cloud at any moment.Eiji is a dreamer, a Billy Liar for the Cyberpunk generation. His fantasies structure this frenetic kaleidoscopic narrative, conducting the reader on an exhilarating, disorientating tour of metropolis and mind. One minute Eiji is contending with arcade-game cybourgs, the next caught up in a Blue Velvet-type nightmare with real-life (perhaps) gangsters: "dragged into a turf war between wolves with rabies". So what was crazed and charming becomes dangerous and gripping.
This exotica and cyber-unreality allow more traditional novelistic concerns--a boy's coming of age, the exploration of ethical responsibilities or the great human universals of love and duty--to creep up unobtrusively. Pretty soon the realisation dawns: this isn't just fun, this isn't just clever, this is a great, perhaps a very great, novel. A Joycean delight in language and parody combines with affectionate characterisation and an impressive narrative control to make number9dream an extraordinary and rewarding experience. --Robert Mighall --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
A young Japanese man's quest to find his estranged parents throws him into a bizarre world of mobsters, dream villains and cyber-tricksters in Mitchell's second novel (after Ghostwritten), a hyperactive, erratic sprawl of a book that begins when narrator Eiji Miyake finds himself out on his own after his twin sister, Anju, dies: his alcoholic mother had had a nervous breakdown and left her two children with their grandmother when they were very young, and they have never met their father. Miyake makes the move from rural Japan to Tokyo to stake out the company where his father is a powerful executive. But his search lands him in a nebulous yet dangerous game of cat-and-mouse with an equally powerful Japanese mobster who uses Miyake's need to find his parents to kidnap and threaten him in a series of malevolent and nearly inexplicable scenes. The most coherent sequence in the narrative takes place when Miyake is contacted by his grandfather, a former seaman who gives Miyake his diary, a poignant account of his stint on a submarine in the final days of WWII, as the Japanese frantically scrambled to deploy a new undersea warhead. Miyake eventually manages to meet his parents, but those potentially affecting scenes are overwhelmed and overshadowed by Mitchell's relentless tendency to spin out futuristic, over-the-top scenarios in which Miyake is whisked away into strange settings and then abused as if he were the hero in a deadly video game. Mitchell showed considerable promise in his highly acclaimed debut, but his sophomore effort is so chaotic that it will test even the most diligent and devoted reader. (Feb. 26)Forecast: Rave reviews from the British press, a Booker Prize nomination and a five-city author tour will give this challenging novel a needed boost.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to the Hardcover edition. See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The story itself, a complex tale of an illegitimate country boy going to Tokyo in search of his father, is interesting enough. Mitchell is most confident in his prose when delving into a side story concerning the yakuza, the Japanese crime syndicate his father obviously rubs shoulders with. But unfortunately our lead character is, quite literally, an avid dreamer. These weird dreams, constantly sprinkled throughout the novel, detract rather than enhance the story. Haruki Murakami is the expert in weaving surreal elements into his novels. David Mitchell fails, quite badly.
However all is not lost. There are vignettes within this overly complex novel which are actually quite interesting, and often the characterizations and the prose work very well. David Mitchell also captures the feeling of frenetic Tokyo quite convincingly. With better editting Number9Dream could have been quite a decent read.
Bottom line: Murakami fans will be appalled at this derivative material by Mitchell. Certainly not a terrible novel, but one has to wonder why Number9Dream was nominated for the Booker Prize?
Nine different parts of "number9dream" are like disparate edges of the human life in the modern world, they supersede one another: a mixture of sci-fi story with hero's vindictive dreams, sentimental flashbacks of hero's early life with his late beloved twin sister, a dive into erotical nightlife of the modern megapolis, a Yakuza story, a dystopian fantasy with excellent verbal tightrope-walking (which, I believe, played a substantial role in novel's shortlisting for the Booker Prize 2001), meditation about recent Japanese history and meaning of human existence, reiteration of some previous elements with noticeable mob tints, an apokalyptic denouement designed as a secession of dreams, and - silence. Having in mind such genre and wordy diversity every reader can find in the novel something to enjoy or ponder over (personally I prefer Goatwriter's language-twisting Study of Tales and historico-philosophical Kai Ten). Though the book consists of such different parts, it has sufficiently strict plot which joins the kaleidoscope of its separate parts in a kind of bildungsroman, the author of which tries to put eternal questions of human existence using postmodern literary gamut of the 21st century.
Yet the book has some weak points.Read more ›
Contrary to what has been suggested our hero has no clue who his father is nor where he can be located. We are exposed to this fact through a mind numbing series of daydreams fueled by caffeine and every cigarette brand you care to name. It's difficult to explain just how disjointed this book is. Through a good portion of the book when a storyline starts to unfold we are treated to the experiences of a sentient goat, chicken, and a prehistoric sidekick. Nothing wrong with sentient chickens, but when the chicken in distress is picked up by God on a surfboard, no amount of labeling can legitimize this book. Post modern, surreal, or my favorite, Dickensian coming of age all are just word bytes to cover over the substance that isn't there.
The other rationale used for books like this is that the references, metaphors, etc are so subtle that if the book does not appeal to the reader, the reader is the one who is lacking. There are some heavy handed clichés that are tossed about including a phone call from a customer to a computer help center that everyone has either been told or has read before.
A final word on the goat, this fellow is not only sentient, he is a writer, hence his name goatwriter.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Okay, I realise (judging from some of the other reviews) that this novel will NOT appeal to everyone, but I thought it was brilliant. I loved the "manga" quality. Read morePublished on July 5 2008 by Canuck Baritone
First of all, most of the other reviewers comments are true, even the comments of those who hated the book. Read morePublished on May 4 2002 by Mark Delaney
Number9Dream is a story from David Mitchell (who is also known for his bestseller Ghostwritten). It takes place in Japan and is about a 20 year old "man of the world", Eiji Miyake. Read morePublished on March 27 2002 by Joseph Sanchez
The scope of David Mitchell's imagination is astounding. This book moves through the unreal realm of video games, the horror of mafia retribution, the futility of war and the... Read morePublished on Feb. 23 2002
I am a great fan of Haruki Murakami, and was very impressed by David Mitchell's first novel "Ghostwritten" which managed to combine the magic of Murakami's modern Japan with a... Read morePublished on Feb. 20 2002 by D. Pritchard