Decided to tackle my second book by David Mitchell after ‘Cloud Atlas’ which was a great idea because it was meaty, and now I’ve now got two more from the library lined up! The good part is that it was ultimately much more streamlined and easy to follow than ‘Cloud Atlas’ the bad part is it slacked off about half-way through in terms of character intensity and plot; and I’m not sure the ultimate conclusion was very satisfying.
I was very satisfied to begin with, it dives neatly into the life of fifteen year old Holly Sykes who is in the middle of a dramatic breakup with the boyfriend/fight with her mom/running away to teach everyone a lesson. Holly continues to be the main character as the years spin out from the 1980s to the 2040s, but the first quarter of the novel is only the first of two times we see the story through her eyes, which is too bad because she is hilarious and very spunky. By the time Holly’s story really gets interesting and she finds to her horror that her little brother went missing during the time she ran away – (kaput – we jump forward in time) the reader knows something is off with the whole fabric of ‘space and time’ as the Doctor would say.
Mitchell sticks to otherworldly themes that mix science-fiction with reincarnation (ish). Halfway through the book you know something definitely kooky is going on. Two factions appear to be battling through time and the fabric of reality, and really messing with Holly as they do it, but for what they fight for or which side is good or bad – sadly none of this is explained or capitalized on whatsoever until the very last section the book. It reminds me of a movie with great premise that rushes all the ‘reveals’ into the last ten minutes.
Mitchell is also very fond of the whole leaving off during the peak of a story and leaping forward in time into a new character’s shoes. Now that I’m used to this I didn’t mind so much, especially as the second character (who will be a familiar personality type to ‘Cloud Atlas’ readers) was the young and handsome British rake/sociopath, Hugo Lamb. This part of the story was so amusing that I informed my husband that even if this wasn’t amongst my favorite books ever read, David Mitchell is without a doubt one of the best and most talented authors out there, period.
Yet again reminiscent to a ‘Cloud Atlas’ character, and not so great for me was the third story told by a heavily disgruntled and aging best-selling author, who is really not enjoying seeing his popularity wane. This leads him to a lot of vindictive muttering and an action that he regrets the rest of his life. At this point I really wondered where the story was going and how this annoying guy fit in at all. It’s clear Mitchell has had some interesting run-ins in the literary circles, and these guys in the publishing industry are veritable sharks!
The fourth character is where it all goes down; finally, in a bizarre sci-fi spectacle – and it wraps up overall from [spoiler’s] point of view with a frightening look into our own world’s possible future. I won’t spoil any of those details.
I do stand by my assessment of the author and seeing as practically all Mitchell’s books are ‘short-listed for the Man-Booker Prize’ whatever that means, other people know it too. I just ran out of steam so here’s some sweet imagery with symbols from the book. Maybe someone on amazon will have a better review because I just scrolled through like 400 to get the product details, enjoy!