number9dream is a Far Eastern, detective/family chronicle, road-movie-of-the-mind. The summer is almost over and Eiji Miyake, his twentieth birthday looming, arrives in Tokyo with a mission – to find the father he has never met. number9dream follows Eiji on a search that leads through the seething city’s underworld, lost property offices, video arcades and his own imaginings, dreams, mother’s letters and memories. His journeys lead him back to the rainy island of Yakshima, where everything that matters to Eiji began and ended.
As usual with Mitchell, I was blown away by his powers of imagination and wordplay. This man has a prodigious talent. Number9Dream feels like a rollercoaster ride through Mitchells imagination, the trouble is sometimes you really want it to slow down so you can appreciate the view. The premise of the story is simple, country boy Eiji seeks for his unknown father in Tokyo. However the telling of the story is far from simple. Each chapter has multiple narratives, so in the first chapter for example we alternate between Eiji's reality and his Bladerunner-type fantasys. The novel was most successful for me when I was compelled equally by both alternating narratives. The Yakuza chapter "Unclaimed Land" was electrifying, (death by bowling ball !?). However I really struggled with the Goatwriter section in "Study of Tales". Some sections I wished could be a whole other novel, - the WWII Kai Ten pilot for example. The final chapter left me rather perplexed - but this was never a novel I expected to have a clear cut resolution.
Overall I felt this novel was too much like a string of short stories, albeit with a strong central character. Just when I felt the story was gathering speed we would digress and lose some momentum.
I agree with other reviewers, this work is not as strong as Cloudatlas and probably not the best introduction to Mitchell. However there is a lot in here to enjoy. It is a book that warrants a second reading to pick up all the little nuances.
I now need to read Ghostwritten to complete the Mitchell oeuvre. I would also like to get some more Murakami under my belt.