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Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Number9Dream by David Mitchell

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:

July 2, 2004

I have to preface this review by saying I've never heard John Lennon's song "#9 Dream", I've never read Murakami, and the closest I've been to Tokyo is watching "Lost in Translation", so there are probably a lot of little things I just didn't get because of my colossal ignorance.

After all that, you might wonder why I read the book in the first place. Well, I was at the bookstore with no idea what I wanted to read and this book was cheap (rescued from the bargain bin), a Booker Prize finalist, recommended to me by Amazon, and I enjoyed the first 20 pages in the store.

The story, if you don't already know, is about Eiji Miyake, country boy, marooned in Tokyo and searching for his long-lost father. The search gets him entangled with the yakuza (Japanese Mafia) and leads him to the love of his life. In the end, he does find his father, which also brings him closer to his mother and perhaps to reconciling the death of his twin sister. Along the way are daydreams, dreams, flashbacks, short stories, journals, a few letters/postcards, and a slew of dreams at the end. Some people say how annoying all the fantasies and such were, but I thought it was pretty clever, for a while. I even enjoyed the Goatwriter stories.

What I didn't like was when reality started to get as strange as fantasy with the whole silly yakuza plot. Other people may have thought it was cool and exciting, but it reminded me of a B-movie or one of those Japanese cartoons shown in America with badly-dubbed voices. In the end, the whole yakuza angle didn't amount to anything and like so much else of this book, I wonder if it was all just an elaborate fantasy.

Ai, the love interest, was far too perfect and maybe she was all a dream as well. Think about it, she's good-looking, talented, independent, kind, and understanding--everything a guy could want--and her only flaw is that she has diabetes. In the end, she just seemed too wonderful to exist in real life.

I put up with all the distractions from the main story, but by Part 8, even I was growing weary of constantly being buffeted from reality to fantasy, from past to present, and so forth. As I read the final part last night, I just wanted it to end, but Mitchell couldn't even provide me with that small amount of satisfaction. Instead, the book screeches to an abrupt halt that leaves me, as the reader, with far more questions than answers. It's the kind of prententious, flaunting style over common sense ending I should have expected. Other readers may have found it clever or amusing or charming or whatever; I just found it irritating.

There are some good things about this book. Despite all the interruptions, the B-movie plotlines, predictable plot twists like with the computer virus (who didn't see that coming?), and the need to tell us what brand of cigarette Eiji is smoking at any moment, the story is engaging and entertaining and Mitchell's writing is sound. You just have to be a certain type of reader who can put up with all the author's tricks and gimmicks, and by the end that wasn't me. As I said, I enjoyed most of this book, but after a while it wore me out.

So, if you've done all that stuff I mentioned at the beginning, then you'll want to read this book, because you'll understand it. Otherwise, I'd recommend not getting involved in Mitchell's tangled web.

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