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Showing 1-10 of 76 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 142 reviews
on August 22, 2016
It hasn't taken long for David Mitchell to establish himself as one of my all-time favorite authors. Heck, within a few minutes of starting Cloud Atlas, I knew I was reading something wholly unlike anything else I'd ever read, and within an hour, I knew this was one of the most astonishing pieces of writing I'd ever experience. And with each new book of his I read, I find myself more and more in awe of his talent. The world-building and history of Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, the intricate plotting of The Bone Clocks, the clever narration swerves of Ghostwritten, and the surprisingly effective horror of Slade House - each one leaves me awed, and immersed in an incredible world, and reluctant to leave, and even more convinced of Mitchell's greatness.

And now, I come to number9dream, convinced I'm finally starting to get a handle on Mitchell...only to be surprised and floored and moved and impressed all over again.

At first glance, it would be easy to feel like this is less ambitious Mitchell. After all, there's only a single narrator this time, a single through plotline, and largely a single setting. This is the story of Eije Miyake, a young Japanese man who has ventured to Tokyo in an effort to discover who his father is. And as the book opens, we start with Eije, about to head into a business he's been watching to uncover the truth...

...and without warning, Mitchell starts letting this book evolve and transform in front of our very eyes. Before we know it, this theoretically simple tale of parentage has become part action movie, part storytelling exercise, part Yakuza gang war tale, part tender romance, part slice of life, part World War II saga, part fantasy saga...and that's not even part of it. And all while he's juggling all of these pieces, Mitchell keeps us moving, letting Eije's journey be the focus of the book, not only narratively but, more importantly, emotionally.

In lesser hands, number9dream would be a mess. It's a picaresque, episodic novel taken to extremes, where every chapter could easily be from a different work entirely. One chapter constantly devolves into daydreams without us noticing, snaps back to reality, and then repeats the cycle; another turns into an insane, over-the-top Yakuza gore film. One chapter may be a painful childhood memory; another becomes a plunge into the world of computer hacking. Sometimes, we're immersed in the life in the back offices of a Tokyo rail station; other times, we see the nightlife that wanders in and out of a video store; still others, we find ourselves in imagined movie theaters, or reading books within our own book. In short, it's much of the metafictional, twisty work that Mitchell loves, but all filtered through a single perspective. But instead of being bewildering or exhausting, it all becomes a joy, giving us a book that's incredibly unpredictable, bursting with life and ideas, evolving in front of our eyes constantly, and all the while spinning a quietly moving saga out of all of these individual events that alone could be whole novels unto themselves.

In short, number9dream is impossible to summarize, and to do so would be to rip away the joys of the book. As with all the best novels, the joy here is the journey, not the destination, and every time I picked back up number9dream, I lost myself in its intricate, rich, imaginative world, whether it was all real, daydreamed, written, imagined, or just observed. I found myself deeply moved and engaged by the sweet, subtle romance at the book's core, one that surprised me as it evolved and developed. I loved the ongoing revelations about Eije's father and mother, which were more grounded than I expected, but no less moving, and maybe even more so. I laughed at Mitchell's audacity as the book spiraled in wild directions, only to drop them later, and the sheer richness of his world, which is packed with more stories, voices, and ideas than some authors can manage in a lifetime, much less one book.

Is it flawless? It's almost flawless - can that count? There's those final few paragraphs, which end the book in such an odd, discordant way, one that left me a bit disappointed at both its abruptness and the unsatisfying way to end it all...and yet, it's a choice Mitchell made, and one that's perhaps underlined by the book's final chapter, which implies nothing if not our own choice as to what happens next. And maybe that's better than anything he could ever write. Or maybe he'll catch up with Eije decades on down the road. Whatever the case, number9dream is a joy, and yet another masterpiece from an author whose works have yet to leave me anything but in awe.
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on October 24, 2015
OK, so I was slow to relate the book to the song. John Lennon without the Beatles was only John Lennon. "Number9Dream" is the third David Mitchell book that I've read, and it won't be the last. I have this gnawing feeling, though, that the book suffers from problems in editing, and for that reason lacks the coherence of other seemingly disconnected works by the author that are in fact well stitched together though not in a conventional way. The fantasy sequences don't always connect, and when they seem to knock up against the tide of the book, it is disturbing. Some fit in very well and leave the reader hanging and wanting more. Others I just didn't grasp. I suspect that part of the difficulty is that I have yet to go back and listen to the eponymous song to fill in the background information that I am missing.

This is clearly an early work of a writer destined to become a commanding voice of his generation. The roots of "Cloud Atlas" are evident to someone who has read the later book first. The literary games in the more recent book are delicious. I felt like I was on a zoom flume sliding and speeding through "Cloud Atlas". "Number9Dream" is a bumpier ride. It is an important book in the Mitchell cannon precisely because of its weaknesses. The seeds of greatness are clearly there. Even with the broken sidewalk feeling that occasionally occurs as one trips through the "plot", it is a worthwhile, intelligent and enjoyable read. I look forward to the latest novel, to be released next week. I can't imagine the book that surpasses "Jacob de Zoet", one of the most gripping books that I have ever read.

Read them all.
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on July 29, 2016
I\The beginning of the book confused me at first, but once I got into the second section, I was hooked. As Eiji's character developed, I became more involved in the story. The Yakuza entanglement seemed a little far-fetched, and had me thinking that maybe his father had a connection to them, too, but that was not to be. I have read several other Mitchell novels, so I kept expecting the main characters to die...but the only one who did was predictable. The ending was interesting. I thought perhaps I had missed something, but after reading some other reviews, I see I did not.

I enjoyed the use of repetition: waking up and not knowing where he was, dreams, letters. I also liked the interconnectedness of the characters, especially his work relations and friends. Even the Yakuza had some interesting ties.

To me, the novel is about search for meaning, which is as individual as the reviews of this book. In the end, Eiji finds it, though not where he expected.With that in mind, the ending suits.
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on March 1, 2017
Great novel, full of shocking grit, superb writing, imagery that lasts long after you set it down for the night. David Mitchell's writing is exceptional. I've read everything he has written, and they are all worth the time and energy needed to tramp through his worldview. Great stuff.
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on July 20, 2017
Why hasn't Quentin Tarantino made a movie of this wonderful book? It has everything: yakuza behaving very badly, nightmares abound, gore galore. The bowling alley scene alone would send this movie into stratospheric financial returns. Movie possibilities aside, the book is a phenomenal read. Mitchell's language is on a level of its own. The story is a wild ride with even a completely sweet burgeoning love between two of the main characters. Mitchell uses words the way the best abstract expressionist painters used paint. Read it twice. it's as good the second time through. Magic.
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on October 8, 2016
I am a huge fan of David Mitchell. This one was a little "out there". I almost stopped reading it but out of my love for this author's works, I stuck with it. I am so glad I did! This novel will take you to so many places. A lot of them won't make sense at the time. However, they somehow all do at the end. My opinion is that if this is your first time reading David Mitchell, start with Cloud Atlas. Come back to this one after you get a few of his other titles under your belt. Veteran Mitchell fans, you will love it ( although it may take you until the last 50 pages to get you there)!
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on April 25, 2017
3.5 rounded up. Similar to Haruki Murakami in a lot of ways. Loved the narrative and characters. Descriptive but lacking in a climax. Random ending with no real closure left much to be desired.
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VINE VOICEon January 15, 2015
The title of my review comes from May Pang's commentary on the "Number 9 Dream" by John Lennon that lends Mitchell's book its title, but the description seems appropriate for Mitchell's work as well. Like a dream, this work flutters and dips, blurs and comes into focus ... attempts to interpret it likely say as much about the reader as it does the author. Like Cloud Atlas, which I would contend remains Mitchell's masterpiece to this day, this is a highly imaginative, clever work that takes the reader on a wild and enjoyable ride. Unlike Cloud Atlas, the writing is not as tight and borders on the juvenile at times, the pace is inconsistent, and the characters are not as well developed or interesting. Similar to sections of Ghostwritten, swaths of Number9Dream feel derivative (his infatuation with Murakami Haruki is quite clear; there are many nods to The Wind-up Bird Chronicle in particular, and Eiji himself is reminiscent of a Murakami "Boku" protagonist). Mitchell's choice of Japan as a setting is not surprising given his background there, but I've always thought that while he gets the details about Japan right (to the point that some parts might be frustrating and confusing for readers not familiar with Japan), he doesn't get the characters right ... Mitchell's Japanese people (both here and in other works like Thousand Autumns) just don't quite talk, act, or think like Japanese people ... or, to be fair, any people, really. One would like to call it quirky, but setting the tale in Japan just seems a bit indulgent ... considering how talented Mitchell is at creating the settings for his novels--I'd argue he's at his best in Cloud Atlas and Black Swan Green--I've always found it odd that he's always slightly off when it comes to Japan. At best, his Japanese people come off as Englishmen masquerading as Japanese.

That said, while it's easy to focus on the negatives, this is an oddly charming page-turner. The first part of the book was fast-paced, bordering on frenetic, but Mitchell settles down about a third of the way through and finds a more suitable pace and is better able to find his own voice as the novel progresses. Like a dream, at the end of the day, I don't know that there's anything necessarily profound here, but it still makes for an interesting story and some of his ruminations on the nature of dreams, loneliness, belonging, and love are interesting and provoke some thought. While I'd say the good parts of Number9Dream outweigh the bad, the gigantic leap that Mitchell is able to make from this novel to his next, Cloud Atlas, is striking. Mitchell is truly a talented and unique voice; having read his extant works, I look forward to seeing where he goes in the future.
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on January 3, 2015
Here is the general flow of these 401 pages:
"THIS happened! And then THIS happened! And then THIS HAPPENED! And then guess what? THIS happened!" Half those things are real, half are dreamed, and I don't care about any of them.

I quit reading this book three or four times out of boredom and frustration. When every few pages brings a major new event or detail, nothing seems major or important. It was only sheer stubbornness that finally got me through to the end. I had hoped that there might be some payoff then, but it continued its same relentless, inundating rhythm right to the end.

Mitchell is such a hyped author that I WANT to like him. I keep reading how great "The Bone Clocks" is, but I don't think I can bring myself to give him another chance.

What am I missing?
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on January 23, 2016
The writing is excellent. What I found somewhat off-putting was how it kept jumping back and forth between past, present, and future, and between reality and dreams, and I'm not even sure any scene was beyond the dream. I think not. Despite the confusion, David Mitchell got deep into the heart of the main character and the story held my attention from beginning to the less than satisfying ending.
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