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number1stupendous number2cherishable number3gripping number4aaargggh – Number9Dream by David Mitchell

A zodiac symbol on Chapter 5

So this is how I die, minutes after midnight on reclaimed land somewhere south of Tokyo bay. I sneeze, and the swelling in my right eye throbs and nearly ruptures. Sunday, 17th September. I cannot call my death unexpected. Not after the last twelve hours. Since Anju showed me what death was, I have glimpsed it waiting in trains, in elevators, on pharmacist’s shelves. Growing up, I saw it booming off the ocean rocks on Yakushima. Always at some distance. Now it has thrown off its disguise, as it does in nightmares. I am here, this is real. A waking nightmare from which I will never wake up. Splayed on my back, far from anyone who knows me, my life bar at zero. My body is racked and I am running a temperature as high as this bridge. The sky is spilling with stars, night flights and satellites. What a murky, gritty, pointless, unlikely, premature, snot-sprayed way to die it has been. One bad, sad gamble that was rigged from the beginning. Very nearly my last thought is that if this whole aimless story is to go on, God the vivisectionist is going to need a new monkey for his experiments. So many stars. What are they for?

That is the opening line of the most recent chapter that I finished, the fourth one, before I shot up from my bedding and turned this machine on. Wait, I ran to check if I still have cigarettes left. I needed a quick one to settle my nerves while waiting for the machine to boot up. I clicked Notepad, yes, I use Notepad and then just copy-paste everything. I open iTunes. I want to listen to Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in C Minor. After the first movement, I switched to Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major. Wait, I want Bach’s Concerto for Three Strings in D Major.

Okay, I am being incoherent. Number9Dream is Eiji Miyake’s hopeless search for his unknown father. So Eiji dies at the fourth chapter? Not so fast! That, the quotation above, is just one ounce of the lyrical suspense that the novel has to offer.

A background: Eiji Miyake’s mother was the lover of a rich business person. That’s all the information that we have about his father. His mother is, well, not good at being a mother, and it must have been distressing to sign the job contract with fraternal twins. You might be wondering where’s the twin sister? The name’s Anju. Go figure where she is by rereading the quotation above.

So Eiji’s mother resigns from her job after three years, hiring her mother, Eiji’s grandmother, to take over. We see snippets of the twins’ childhoods in the second chapter. And then we see Eiji prove himself a sexual being at the third chapter. And what of the first chapter?

It’s a comical and engaging cha-cha between Eiji’s ornate imagination and Tokyo’s tumultuously mundane realities. The first few pages disguised themselves as a sci-fi adventure, only to realize later, after a few helpings of air-reactive ink dissolving on paper, that we’ve been delightfully cheated. We don’t mind, because as always, Mitchell is a genius.

Now that my nerves are calm, I flip to the near end of the book. An innocent chapter page.



But wait. It can’t be that thin. It can’t be just a single leaf. Flipping over to get a glimpse, this is what I see:

...Last Page?

…Last Page?

What is Mitchell brewing? This is one of those times I wish I were a demonic speed reader with full powers of comprehension. I would love to take a vacation leave from work just to finish this book and find out the mystery behind the blank chapter. I am overreacting, but I cannot help overreacting with books that I am itching to mark with the amazing five stars.

I know you are thinking what I rabid fan-girl I am. But you have to read this! Or any book by Mitchell. I have a couple of bookish friends who would gladly attest to Mitchell’s talent. There’s the blogger of Fully Booked. Me who five-starred The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (a future must-read for me). There’s the blogger of Bookish Little Me who recently five-starred Cloud Atlas (my first encounter with Mitchell). There’s the blogger of Book Rhapsody who five-starred Black Swan Green.

Wait, that’s me. Okay, let me finish my dose of Bach and then I’ll ravenously continue to the fifth chapter.

Date Started: February 26, 2012. 06:15 PM. Book #10 of 2012.



  1. Let’s do a buddy read of ANY Mitchell book! So we can fan-girl togetheeerrrrrr.

    Gah! I hate that I can’t relate when you’re fan-girling like this, because I love Mitchell too!

    And I just abused the exclamation point in this comment, hahaha!


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