Rating - Read
Number9dream tells the story of Eiji Miyake, a nineteen year old Japanese village boy, who comes to big-city Tokyo in search of his father. Back in her youth, his mother had been the mistress of a rich man and had ended up abandoned, with twins and an allowance. Eiji and his now-dead sister Anju were brought up by their maternal grandmother, his mother being too unstable to raise kids. As he approaches his 20th birthday, Eiji decides to find who his father is.
Eiji knows practically nothing about his father and starts the search from the building occupied by the lawyer who handles his father’s affairs. As Eiji moves along in his search, he gets involved in all sorts of experiences. He gets a job and a place to stay. He gets mixed up with the Japanese mafia equivalent, Yakuza. He moves to another job. He finds a girlfriend. He experiences the kindness of part-strangers. As the book nears its end, Eiji moves towards embracing his reality as best as he can
The book by itself is a largely neat read. Eiji’s experiences take you through various aspects of Japanese society and boy is that country interesting! The book’s selling point is however not meant to be its storytelling alone but also its structure. Like its famous cousin, Cloud Atlas, this book also follows an interesting structure but does not pull it off quite as well. Each chapter in the book alternates between Eiji’s primary goal and some other event happening to Eiji in his mind or in reality. For instance, the first chapter jumps between Eiji’s imagination of how he meets his father in rather bizarre circumstances, and his actual confinement to a coffee house, too scared to even enter the building in which his father’s lawyer is located. The chapter on the mafia was my favourite, loaded with Kill Bill-style imagery.
This is one of those books where you go with the flow and let the author lead you between the various strands, enjoying each strand for its imagination.
If you are new to David Mitchell, I would strong recommend you start off with Cloud Atlas. Then, you can come back to this one. I dithered between a ‘Read’ and a ‘Read if you have the time’ rating but decided the entertainment value is adequate to give it the benefit of doubt and move it to ‘Read’.