by David Mitchell
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Number9Dream by David Mitchell

By the New York Times bestselling author of The Bone Clocks and Cloud Atlas | Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize

“A novel as accomplished as anything being written.”Newsweek

Number9Dream is the international literary sensation from a writer with astonishing range and imaginative energy—an intoxicating ride through Tokyo’s dark underworlds and the even more mysterious landscapes of our collective dreams.

David Mitchell follows his eerily precocious, globe-striding first novel, Ghostwritten, with a work that is in its way even more ambitious. In outward form, Number9Dream is a Dickensian coming-of-age journey: Young dreamer Eiji Miyake, from remote rural Japan, thrust out on his own by his sister’s death and his mother’s breakdown, comes to Tokyo in pursuit of the father who abandoned him. Stumbling around this strange, awesome city, he trips over and crosses—through a hidden destiny or just monstrously bad luck—a number of its secret power centers. Suddenly, the riddle of his father’s identity becomes just one of the increasingly urgent questions Eiji must answer. Why is the line between the world of his experiences and the world of his dreams so blurry? Why do so many horrible things keep happening to him? What is it about the number 9? To answer these questions, and ultimately to come to terms with his inheritance, Eiji must somehow acquire an insight into the workings of history and fate that would be rare in anyone, much less in a boy from out of town with a price on his head and less than the cost of a Beatles disc to his name.

Praise for Number9Dream
“Delirious—a grand blur of overwhelming sensation.”Entertainment Weekly
“To call Mitchell’s book a simple quest novel . . is like calling Don DeLillo’s Underworld the story of a missing baseball.”The New York Times Book Review
Number9Dream, with its propulsive energy, its Joycean eruption of language and playfulness, represents further confirmation that David Mitchell should be counted among the top young novelists working today.”San Francisco Chronicle
“Mitchell’s new novel has been described as a cross between Don DeLillo and William Gibson, and although that’s a perfectly serviceable cocktail-party formula, it doesn’t do justice to this odd, fitfully compelling work.”The New Yorker
“Leaping with ease from surrealist fables to a teenage coming-of-age story and then spinning back to Yakuza gangster battles and World War II–era kamikaze diaries, Mitchell is an aerial freestyle ski-jumper of fiction. Somehow, after performing feats of literary gymnastics, he manages to stick the landing.”The Seattle Post-Intelligencer

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781588362155
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/18/2007
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 312,769
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

David Mitchell is the award-winning and bestselling author of The Bone Clocks, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Black Swan Green, Cloud Atlas, Number9Dream, and Ghostwritten. Twice shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Mitchell was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time in 2007. With KA Yoshida, Mitchell translated from the Japanese the internationally bestselling memoir The Reason I Jump. He lives in Ireland with his wife and two children.

From the Hardcover edition.

Read an Excerpt



"We are both busy people, so let's cut the small talk. You already know my name, or at least you knew it, once upon a time. Eiji Miyake. Yes, Ms. Kato, that Eiji Miyake. Why am I here in Tokyo? Think about it. I am here to find out who my father is. And why you, Ms. Kato? You know his name and you know his address. I never threaten anyone. But I am telling you that you are going to give me the information I want. Right now."

Or something like that. A galaxy of cream unribbons in my coffee cup, and the background chatter pulls into focus. My very first morning in Tokyo, and already I am getting ahead of myself. Jupiter Cafe sloshes with lunch-hour laughter, Friday plottings, clinking saucers. Drones bark into cell phones, she-drones hitch up sagging voices to sound more feminine. Steam bears coffee, seafood rolls, detergent. I have a fine across-the-street view of PanOpticon's main entrance. Quite a sight, this zirconium gothic skyscraper. Its upper floors are hidden by cloud, and so is the real Akiko Kato. City weather is a mystery. Under its tight lid, Tokyo swelters at 34°C in 86 percent humidity--a big panasonic display says so. Tokyo is too close up to see, sometimes. There are no distances and everything is above your head--dentists, kindergartens, dance studios. Even the roads and walkways are up on murky stilts. An evil-twin Venice with all the water drained away. Reflected airplanes climb over mirrored buildings. I always thought Kagoshima was huge, but you could lose it down a single side alley in Shinjuku. I light a cigarette--I am smoking Kools today, the brand chosen by a biker with hair dyed blackcurrant in the line ahead of me--and watch the traffic and passersby on the intersection between Omekaido Avenue and Kita Street. City office drones, lip-pierced hairdressers, midday drunks. Nobody is standing still. Rivers, snowstorms, traffic, bytes, generations, a thousand faces per minute. Back on Yakushima you might get a thousand minutes per face. Crowds make me thoughtful. All these people have boxes of memories labeled "Father," "Dad," "Pa." Whatever. Photogenic pix, shots in poor light, scary figures, tender poses, fuzzy angles, scratched negatives--it makes no difference. Unlike me, they know who it was who ushered them into the world. Crowds make me too thoughtful.

Ms. Kato! Come down to Jupiter Cafe! It would be so much simpler. You drop by for a seafood roll and a coffee; I recognize you instantly, of course, introduce myself, admit coyly that I was hoping to bump into you here; we discuss the matter at hand--we are two grown-ups now--and you will see that natural justice is on my side. I sigh aloud, and sense my neighbor hide him-or-herself deeper behind his-or-her barrier of newspaper. How do you smuggle daydreams into reality? My careful plan seems far-fetched. A building as vast as PanOpticon surely has many other exits. It must have its own restaurants, to spare its employees the hassle of descending to ground level. Who says you even eat lunch, Ms. Kato? Maybe your slaves bring you a human heart to tide you over until suppertime. I entomb my Kool in the innards of its ancestors and resolve to end my stakeout when I finish this coffee. Hear that, Akiko Kato? I am coming in to get you.

Three waitresses staff Jupiter Cafe this lunchtime. Waitress One--the boss--is a brittle imperial dowager who poisoned her husband. Waitress Two, a corn-on-the-cob face with a braying donkey voice, is Waitress One thirty years ago. Waitress Three is turned away right now, but her hair is up and I can see she has the most perfect neck on Earth. I mean it. A syndicate of love poets could not describe how smooth and curved this neck is. Soft as a peeled egg. Dowager is telling Donkey--and half Jupiter Cafe by default--about her hairdresser's latest failed marriage. "When his wives don't measure up to his fantasies, that's when he tosses them overboard." She has an industrial-diamond voice. The waitress with the perfect neck is serving a life sentence at the sink with a scrubber and sponge in lieu of a ball and chain. The atmosphere is hostile in here. Are Dowager and Donkey cold-shouldering her, or is she cold-shouldering them?

Hot fog is now down to the ninth story of PanOpticon. I decide to calculate the number of days I have lived. It comes to 7,286. I add four leap years. The clock says 12:51. Suddenly most of the drones in the cafe get to their feet and flock away. Are they afraid that if one o'clock finds them anywhere except their fluorescent-lit cubicles, their companies will have an ideal excuse to Restructure them? I watch lots of them enter PanOpticon, and toy with the idea of coming back tomorrow and stealing an ID tag. No. Simple is good. I strike PanOpticon today. At the stroke of one o'clock. My coffee cup stands empty in its moat of slops. I admit I am nervous. Nervous is cool. A recruitment officer for the Self-Defense Forces came to my high school--my old high school, I should say--and said that no worthwhile fighting unit wants members who are immune to fear. In combat, soldiers who are blind and brave inevitably get their platoon wiped out. An effective soldier controls his fear, and uses it to sharpen his senses. It sounded so easy. Another coffee, Eiji? No, thanks, Eiji, but I will smoke one final Kool. To sharpen my senses.

I catch the clock changing from 13:31 to 13:32. Yeah, I know, my deadline died. My ashtray brimmeth over. I shake my box of Kools. Only two left. The fog is down to the sixth story. I imagine Akiko Kato gazing through her air-conned executive-office-suite window--it is high, high up, above the fog even, maybe. The sunshine is stellar up there. Can she sense me, as I sense her? Did she wake up this morning knowing that today is one of those life-altering days? One final, final, final cigarette before "nervous" becomes "spineless." The only other customer in Jupiter Cafe who has stayed as long as me is an old man. He is plugged into a vidboy. His fingers twitch as he fires plasma bolts into the digital distance. He is identical to the ink-brush portrait of Lao Tzu in my classics textbook. I mean it. Bald, nutty, bearded. Other customers arrive, order, pay, drink, eat, use the bathroom, and go. Decades' worth every quarter-hour. Only Lao Tzu and I endure. The waitresses must be thinking my girlfriend has stood me up. Or that I am a psycho on the prowl for a female to stalk. A Muzak version of "Imagine" comes on and John Lennon wakes up in his tomb, appalled. It is sugary beyond belief, full of flowery flutes. Even the musical prostitutes who recorded this horror hated it. Two pregnant women enter, order lemon tea, and discuss what kinds of fathers their husbands will become. "Not ideal, maybe," I want to lean over and tell them, "but it could be worse. Want to hear my life story?" Lao Tzu coughs a cough of no return, and dabs the phlegm off his vidboy screen. I drag smoke down deep and trickle it out through my nostrils. I never expected Tokyo to be this dirty. It needs a good flooding to clean it up. Mandolineering gondoliers punting down Ginza. "Mind you," continues Dowager to Donkey, "his wives are such grasping, mincing creatures! They want to play the la-di-da company president's wife. I tell my hairdresser this: When you search for a spouse, pick somebody whose dreams are exactly the same size as yours. But does he listen, the brainless ape? Of course not! What would an old woman know about these things?" I inhale the foam from my new coffee. My cup has lipstick traces. I construct a legal case to prove that touching the lipstick with my own lips constitutes a kiss. That would increase my tally of kissed girls to three. Surely, less than the national average for a young male of my years. I think I want to forget the first two girls. I know they have already forgotten me. So I look around Jupiter Cafe for a suitable owner of painted lips. I settle on the waitress with the living, wise, moonlit, viola neck. She is still working through the mountain range of dirty cups and dishes. A tendril of hair has fallen loose. It tickles her nape. Lucky hair! I try to compare the fuchsia color on the cup to her lips, but I cannot see her face properly. My case is shaky. Besides, this lipstick is half-fused with the porcelain atoms. It might have been washed many times. Jupiter Cafe is not the last word in luxury teahouses. My imagination is my worst enemy--no, that is not true, but the comfort it gives is never warmer than tepid. The waitress is a sophisticated Tokyoite. She has enough rich, fashion-conscious, virile admirers to fill a laptop computer. Case dismissed. Lao Tzu growls at his vidboy. "Damn, damn, damn bioborgs! Every damn time!" I drink my dregs, put on my baseball cap, and stare at PanOpticon. Time to locate my maker.

PanOpticon's lobby is as cavernous as the belly of some futuristic robo-behemoth. Which is a fair description of the whole PanOpticon organism, only Tokyo moves around it instead of it needing to move around Tokyo. Arrows in the floorpads sense my feet and guide me to a vacant reception booth. I fake boredom. Changes in heart rate may trigger suspicion. A door hisses shut behind me. The blackness is subterranean. A tracer scans me from head to toe, blipping over the bar code on my ID tag. An amber spotlight flicks on, and my reflection stares back from the black glass. I certainly look the part. Overalls, baseball cap, toolbox, clipboard. I adjust my hair and pretend to admire myself. "State your name and business," intones an ice-maiden voice. I wonder how human she is. These days computers humanize and humans computerize and you never know. I pretend to lose my cool slightly, stare at the ceiling, and act the overawed yokel. "Uh . . . Afternoon, madam. Ran Sogabe is my name. I came to do the fish, see."


"No, I came quite alone."

"What is the name of your company? Your employer?" I hear irritation--excellent, my interviewer is only a human.

"Finny Friends. Inc."

"Finny Friends?"

"Inc. Haven't you seen our vidscreen ad? 'If your finny friends are feeling down, don't despair, don't you frown! A brand-new service is in town! If your--'"

"Why are you requesting access to PanOpticon?"

I act puzzled. "I service fish for the Ministry of Law."

"Which partners?"

"Osugi and Kosugi."

"Osugi and Bosugi."

She is inexperienced. I check my clipboard. "Right." Let me in, Ice Maiden. Someone as dumb as me can't be a threat to anyone.

"I am scanning some curious objects in your toolbox."

Now I act proud. "Newly imported from Germany, madam, or might it be mademoiselle? May I present to you the ionic fluorocarb popper! Doubtless a lady of your education is already well aware that the key to a successful marine environment is pH stability. Finny Friends, Inc., is the first aquaculturist practice in Japan to utilize this little wonder. If time permits, perhaps you would allow me to--"

"Place your right hand on the pad in front of you."

"I hope this is going to tickle."

"That is your left hand."

"Beg your pardon."

A brief eternity passes before a green authorized light blinks.

"And your access code?"

Ice Maiden is thorough. I scrunch my eyes. "Let me see: 313-636-969."

"Your access code is valid . . ." So it should be--I paid the finest freelance hacker in the city three months' salary for those nine digits. ". . . for the month of July. We are now in August."

That scuzzy bum hacker. "Uh . . . weird." I scratch my crotch to buy time. "That was the access number encoded and received from--" I glance at my clipboard "--Ms. Akiko Kato. They don't come much higher up than her."

"Your access code is invalid."

I puff out my cheeks. "If you say so, if you say so. Pity, though. When Ms. Kato wants to know why her Okinawan silverspines--priceless, for all intents and purposes, now they are on the near-extinct list--are belly-up dead on the surface, I'll just have to refer her to you. Oh, well. What did you say your name was?" I pose with my pen.

Ice Maiden hardens. "Check your access codes and return tomorrow."

I shake my head, amused. "If only saving silverspines from asphyxiation were that simple! Do you have any idea how many finny friends I got on my turf? Obviously not. In the old days, we had more give and take, but now we run to an hour-by-hour time frame. Even as I stand here I got ninety angelfish at the Metropolitan gasping for a gill scour. Now. Your name? This is just so we don't get sued and I am not the one who loses my job."

Ice Maiden hesitates.

"Look," I say, "why not call Ms Kato's secretary?"

"I already did. You are expected tomorrow. Not today."

"Tomorrow?" I will electrocute my freelance hacker, very slowly. "Of course I was expected tomorrow. But the Minister for Fish issued an industry-wide warning last night. Aquatic gill-and-mouth ebola has entered the country. The Cubans are to blame, apparently. The spores, traveling down air ducts, enter tanks, lodge in brain tissue, and puff up the fish until they literally explode. Innards everywhere. The scientists are working on a cure, but until then--"

Ice Maiden finally cracks. "Ancillary authorization granted, Mr. Sogabe. From this booth proceed to the elevator, which will take you to the eighty-first floor. You must leave PanOpticon within sixty minutes, and follow the sensor arrows at all times, or Security will not be held responsible for any injuries."

"Level eighty-one, Mr. Sogabe," announces the elevator. "I look forward to serving you again." The doors open and for a moment I think I am in a virtual rainforest. Pots, ferns, and plants half-conceal the reception desk. An aviary of vidphones trills. A woman puts down a spray mister and peers at me from behind a hyacinth as high as herself. "Security told me Mr. Sogabe was coming. Who are you?"

"Let me guess! Kazuyo? Kazuyo. Am I right?"

"No. I'm Fubuki. But who--"

"Ms. Fubuki! Of course! No wonder Ran calls you his PanOpticon Delight!"

"Who are you and what do you want?"

I act a young man driven by flattery failure into digging a deeper pit. "Uh, I'm Ran's--I mean Mr. Sogabe's--apprentice. Joji. Don't tell me he never mentioned me! I do Harajuku normally, but I'm covering Mr. Sogabe's Shinjuku clients too this month on account of his, uh . . ." I look left and right, and whisper, ". . . genital malaria."

Her face falls. "I beg your pardon?"

From the Hardcover edition.

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Number9Dream 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
“Dreams are shores where the ocean of spirit meets the land of matter. Beaches where the yet-to-be, the once-were, the will-never-be may walk amid the still-are” number9dream is the second novel by British author, David Mitchell. Nineteen-year-old Eiji Miyake arrives in Tokyo looking for his father, a man he has never met, a man whose name he does not even know. He has a letter from a lawyer warning him not to try to find his father, so his first move is to stake out the lawyer’s office from a café opposite, the Jupiter Café, where works a girl with the most beautiful neck in the world. So begins another foray into the world of David Mitchell, one that takes the reader on an interesting (and occasionally, slightly bizarre) journey. As Eiji moves from the café to the Lost Property Office of Ueno station to a game parlour to an unfinished development on reclaimed land to a safe house to a video shop to a pizza shop to a mountain retreat, he also moves in and out of danger and encounters quite a cast of (often quirky) individuals. Claude Debussy and John Lennon play significant roles, as do the Yakuza organised crime syndicate, an overabundance of cigarettes, some seriously weird pizza recipes, a cat, an absent mother and a dead twin sister. Mitchell manages to seamlessly include the journal of a WW2 Kaiten pilot, scenes from a surreal black and white movie, a fantastic tale starring a stuttering goatwriter, a hen and a Pithecanthropus, an account of sex slavery and organ theft, and, of course, quite a few dreams. The number nine and its elements, unsurprisingly, feature heavily but in quite a subtle way. As with all of Mitchell’s novels, there are characters who appear in earlier and later books. Mitchell’s characters, for all their oddities, are appealing; their dialogue and Eiji’s inner monologue provide plenty of humour; and they manage to express some insightful observations: “Weird. All these people like my mother paying counsellors and clinics to reattach them to reality; all these people like me paying Sony and Sega to reattach us to unreality” and “Maybe the truest difference between people is exactly this: how they see why they are here” also “Maybe the meaning of life lies in looking for it”. The (perhaps) abrupt ending that leaves things very much “up in the air” may not be to every reader’s taste, but the characters, plot and prose more than compensate, especially the delightful feast of rhyme, alliteration and incredibly clever wordplay of the goatwriter piece. An excellent read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the best book i've ever read! It has everything needful to be no1 bestseller! GREAT! I can stronly recommend #9dream!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I stopped reading part way in. Too jumbled. A "modern" book where I can't tell what the point is. But then I came back to it. Gradually a story sorted itself out, one that kept me going to the end. The end itself is an irksome cliffhanger.
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Excellent characterization. Universal themes. Conflicts with which all can identify. Challenging enough that it does not give you everything in one reading.
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FocoProject More than 1 year ago
There are books that hook you, grip you and will not let you go until you finish them and this one is one of those, falling in the category of Mitchell¿s Cloud Atlas and Atwood¿s Oryx & Crake, and though thematically they are different, they all have that engrossing quality to them. Needless to say, I am quickly becoming a David Mitchell fan, who has batted two out of two for me with amazing skill.

Like Cloud Atlas, Number 9 Dream was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize, unlike Cloud Atlas, this book is a lot more accessible, with a straight forward storyline that does employ a number of flashbacks and side stories to set itself up, but done in a way that is easy to follow and rather entertaining.

Based in japan, Number 9 Dream tells the story of Eiji Miyake, a young man of twenty with an overactive imagination that is determined to find his father, whom he has never met, in Tokyo. Having suffered enough as far as his family life goes, Eiji is sure that finding his father will be the first step to a better life, or at least a life that he will have an easier time understanding. However, what the young aspiring soccer player and country boy does not know, is that in his search for father, he will be tugged into the ruthless underbelly of Tokyo in a way that will change his life forever, not to mention his point of view in the meaning of family.

Mitchell impresses, with a voice that is clearly in control, characters that are unique, believable and interesting, though they may or may not be likable. Throughout the novel the author does a magnificent job balancing, suspense, thrills, fantasies and humor. If anything, this book ended up reminding me of my experience reading Catche in the Rye, and that is a tremendous compliment.

There is one minor plot point which I found too convenient and given the complexity and the multiple layers that Mitchell operates in, it sticks out like a sore thumb, which is unfortunate because it could have easily been changed to make it less obvious (for those wondering, I am speaking of Suga¿s gift). Outside of that, this is a fully entertaining read that keeps you hooked through the entirety of the read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the first book by David Mitchell I've read, and I know I'm going to read Ghostwritten and all that may follow. This chronicles Eiji Miyake and his twisted life. Mitchell did a great job intertwining many different stories within one book, while holding your attention the WHOLE way through. Spectacular reveries, mini-stories, and journals fill the pages along with Eiji's own life story. You won't regret reading this.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Fantastic, in all senses of the word. As in Ghostwritten, Mitchell's smooth metaphors and unique observations constantly make you stop and think. This novel, like his first, hints at "a world within the world," as Delillo would say, and probably cannot be understood in a single reading. But it can be enjoyed for its touching and powerful story, with or without grasping the eerie subtext. His many allusions to Murakami are a bit more overt than in Ghostwritten -- he even has his lead character reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, with a key reference to a situation in that novel, and he uses the title of a John Lennon song for this book, as Murakami did with Norwegian Wood. Share this with friends. I can't wait for his next one.