David Mitchell – Number9Dream


Although really difficult to read at times, as the book continuously drifts between fantasy and reality, this book was thoroughly enjoyable. While it’s the first book I’ve read by Mitchell, it definitely won’t be the last.

The book kicks off in a cafe in Tokyo where nineteen year old Eiji Miyake introduces himself, and the quest he’s on: to find his father, a man he’s never met, a man whose name he doesn’t know, and a man who has always been a mystery to him. The start itself entices you to read on:

It is a simple matter. I know your name, and you knew mine once upon a time: Eiji Miyake. Yes, that Eiji Miyake. We are both busy people, Ms. Kato, so why not cut the small talk? I am in Tokyo to find my father. You know his name and his address. And you are going to give me both. Right now. Or something like that. A galaxy of cream unribbons in my coffee cup, and the background chatter pulls into focus. My first morning in Tokyo, and I am already getting ahead of myself.

As the story unfolds, we are informed of the people Eiji meets in the city, the people he befriends – some who betray him, and some who continue to be helpful towards him. Throughout the narrative, he reflects on his past: his dead twin sister, and his alcoholic mother who had a brief, almost non-existent role, in his childhood.

The title inspired from Lennon’s 1974 song: #9 Dream (So long ago, was it in a dream, was it just a dream? I know, yes I know. Seemed so very real, it seemed so real to me), the book traces his adventures in Tokyo, as he gets involved with what seems to be the Tokyo equivalent of the mafia (Yakusa), meets a girl who, for the first time, almost makes him forget his dead sister for long intervals, and gets in touch with a man who claims to be his grandfather, who provides Eiji with a diary from his days as a kaiten pilot during World War II. He absconds to the house of his boss’s sister, and reads anthropomorphic short stories written by her; finds an alternate reality in roleplaying video games and contemplates whether his father is a politician, a member of the Yakusa or a doctor. If that’s not enough drama, his estranged mother tries to get back in touch with him, and the new wife of his father threatens him.

The book is fast-paced, interesting, and draws you in. There are characters you love, characters you hate, disturbing scenes you can vividly imagine in your head (e.g. when he goes bowling with a man who promises him information about his father), and all this mingled in with the overactive imagination of the author. Sometimes, you aren’t sure if what you’re reading is real, or just a dream, and sometimes, you just end up hoping it’s dream…

Overall, for me, a 7/10.

4 Responses to “David Mitchell – Number9Dream”

  1. That opening line does a great job of setting a hook, doesn’t it? That hook is so firmly planted, the later mixing and mangling together of fantasy and reality couldn’t shake it loose. Mitchell is very, very good at what he does.

    I would have rated the book about the same. 7 out of 10 seems right. I would not go lower, but I might rate in an 8 by next week.

    • I spent some time contemplating between the 7 and 8 rating, and then went with 7. I think I blamed the one less point on being confused by some scenes – were they real, or just a dream.

      Mitchell is awesome though, and I can’t wait to read more of his works. In fact, your post has inspired me to read Ghostwritten as well.

  2. It’s funny that the mystery of scenes being either dream or real makes it a less good book for you! I would think that it is a strong point :)

    Love your review! But I also love all Mitchell’s books :) I am looking forward to his next, which will be set in Deshima (and is due next year). He is also working on a libretto for an opera in remembrance of a fireworks disaster that took place in The Netherlands almost 10 years ago. Tickets are already in da house ;)

    • I haven’t read anything else by Mitchell although I have a couple of his books on my shelf at the moment.

      I found the whole reality/dream thing quite confusing, and I almost lost track of what was part of the plot, and what wasn’t. I did love the way the book opened though, despite it being a dream sequence. And, I was convinced that the bowling alley scene was a dream, but…

      Thanks for the news on the new book – didn’t know about that! Are you going to see that, then?

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