|David Mitchell's second novel, Number9Dream, tells the story of Eiji Miyake, a young man negotiating a hypermodern and dangerous Tokyo to meet for the first time his secretive and powerful father. NaÃ¯ve and fresh from the Japanese countryside, Eiji encounters every obstacle imaginable in his quest, from his father's--and in-laws'--reluctance for the encounter to occur (Eiji is the bastard son) to fiery entanglements with yakuza (the Japanese mafia) to the overwhelming size and anonymity of Tokyo itself. |
The novel is cartoonish in that Eiji has a vivid and violent imagination that fills the book with daydreams. When not chain-smoking, forlorn Eiji wanders the city following vague or cryptic leads that invariably dead-end or land him back among yakuza. Mitchell (author of the critically acclaimed Ghostwritten) has a smart, eclectic writing style that seems foreign, and the novel is well paced, but the yakuza encounters are too cinematic, complete with unusual torture and pyrotechnics. Moreover, in addition to Eiji's daydreams, the last half of the book contains excerpts from the diaries of his great uncle's World War II naval heroics and bizarre short stories that Eiji reads while hiding--the latter of which make for tedious reading.
Number9Dream is crafted from too many disparate components; it does not seem to be a full expression, but an overly crowded one. Readers will sympathize with Eiji and his search, but in the end will wonder what effect, if any, all the extraneous forces had on him. The book provides many fun moments, but ultimately it doesn't really add up to the sum of its parts. --Michael Ferch