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Authors: David Mitchell

Number9Dream

NUMBER9DREAM
David Mitchell
SCEPTRE
About the Author
David Mitchell’s first novel,
Ghostwritten
, was published in 1999 when it won the
Mail on Sunday
/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and was shortlisted for the
Guardian
First Book Award.
number9dream
, his second, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize as well as the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and in 2003 he was chosen as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists. His third novel,
Cloud Atlas
, won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the South Bank Show Literature Prize, and the Best Literary Fiction and the Richard & Judy Best Read of the Year categories in the British Book Awards. It was shortlisted for a further six awards including the Man Booker Prize and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.
Born in 1969, David Mitchell grew up in Worcestershire. After graduating from Kent University, he spent several years teaching in Japan, and now lives in Ireland with his wife and two children.
‘Spellbinding . . . makes me hopeful about the future of British fiction.’ Boyd Tonkin,
Independent
Books of the Year
‘The wonderfully energetic prose is constantly entertaining, filled with daring imaginative stunts and the crackling rhythms of the digital age. Borrowing from films, comics and video games as much as from literature, Mitchell’s Tokyo is a deliciously confusing virtual reality, a maze of bewildering information. Most impressive of all, though, is the fact that when you reach the end, wondering if it was all just a dream, you don’t feel cheated in the least.’ Jerome Boyd Maunsell,
Evening Standard

Ghostwritten
’s range of voices was astonishing. Each narrator revealed anew the author’s dexterity and his ability to imagine lives. His second novel is more ambitious and more impressive . . . the main plot drives one urgently onwards, and Mitchell’s delight in his inventiveness is infectious . . . Above all, this is a writer high on his own power.’ Victoria Lane,
Daily Telegraph
‘Exceptional’ Mary Wakefield,
Literary Review
‘Following the success of his first novel,
Ghostwritten,
David Mitchell has redoubled his efforts and come up with a second book that is even more dazzling.’ Matt Thorne,
Independent on Sunday

Ghostwritten
was described by A S Byatt as “one of the best first novels I have read”. Generally speaking, the second novel confronts two pitfalls: rehashing the first novel or eliminating all trace of it for fear of rehashing it. In
number9dream
, Mitchell negotiates both dangers, retaining what is best of
Ghostwritten
and creating an original and in many ways more complex work.’ Shomit Dutta,
Times Literary Supplement
‘The external action of the novel is always engaging. But such is Mitchell’s beautifully precise style that he can make inaction just as pleasurable . . . The prose bespeaks a kind of observational rapture that offers the smell of Tokyo streets or even the movements of a cockroach as tiny, cherishable shards.’ Steven Poole,
Guardian
‘If you like your reality sliced, diced and then turned inside out David Mitchell’s dangerously addictive second novel will explode your brain with its labyrinthine possibilities. Nothing is as it seems in this future dystopia that combines elements of
The Matrix
(sub-levels of reality, mind games, beautiful, balletic violence) with the bleak, rain-drenched cyber-chic of
Bladerunner
 . . . a brave novel, all the more admirable for his ability to push back the boundaries of the imagination.’ Andrew Davies,
Big Issue
‘Mitchell catches the multicoloured atmosphere of Tokyo brilliantly – from its lubricious demi-monde of pink love-hotels and sex emporia, to the boardrooms where the high-level
yakuza
plan murderous operations around mahogany tables . . . He is a wonderfully amphibious writer, happy in all manner of elements, and seems able to produce an endless parade of interesting characters.’ Robert MacFarlane,
Observer
‘He is a very energised and original sentence architect who elevates the steaming, fizzing city of Tokyo into a city of the imagination . . . a gifted and unusual writer’ Russell Celyn Jones,
The Times
‘The diversity and sheer pace of the narrative sets it well apart from most contemporary British fiction and Mitchell is an original with a flair for fantasy . . . an enjoyable performance oozing panache, this cosmopolitan and fresh odyssey engages and entertains’ Eileen Battersby,
Irish Times
‘Captures aspects of modern Japan with a compelling authenticity and beauty’ Juliet Hindell,
Daily Telegraph
NUMBER9DREAM
David Mitchell
SCEPTRE
Copyright © 2001 by David Mitchell
The right of David Mitchell to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
13
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library
Epub ISBN 978 1 84456 884 0
Book ISBN 0 340 74797 8
Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
A division of Hodder Headline
338 Euston Road
London NW1 3BH
for Keiko
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Jocasta Brownlee, A. S. Byatt, Emma Garman, James Hofman, Jan Montefiore, Lawrence Norfolk, Ian Paten, Alasdair Oliver, Jonathan Pegg, Mike Shaw, Carole Welch, Ian Willey, Hiroaki Yoshida.
Noburu Ogawa, curator of Kaiten Memorial Museum at Tokuyama, provided valuable information regarding kaiten torpedos and their pilots. For technical data I also consulted
Suicide Squads
by Richard O’Neill (Salamander Books 1999). Any errors are my own handiwork.
‘It is so much simpler to bury reality than it is to dispose of dreams.’
Don Delillo,
Americana
One
PANOPTICON
‘It is a simple matter. I know your name, and you knew mine, once upon a time: Eiji Miyake. Yes,
that
Eiji Miyake. We are both busy people, Ms Kato, so why not cut the small talk? I am in Tokyo to find my father. You know his name and you know his address. And you are going to give me both. Right
now
.’ Or something like that. A galaxy of cream unribbons in my coffee cup, and the background chatter pulls into focus. My first morning in Tokyo, and I am already getting ahead of myself. The Jupiter Café sloshes with lunch-hour laughter, Friday plottings, clinking saucers. Drones bark into mobile phones. She-drones hitch up sagging voices to sound more feminine. Coffee, seafood sandwiches, detergent, steam. I have an across-the-street view of the PanOpticon’s main entrance. Quite a sight, this zirconium gothic skyscraper. Its upper floors are hidden by clouds. Under its tight-fitting lid Tokyo steams –34°C with 86% humidity. A big Panasonic display says so. Tokyo is so close up you cannot always see it. No distances. Everything is over your head – dentists, kindergartens, dance studios. Even the roads and walkways are up on murky stilts. Venice with the water drained away. Reflected airplanes climb over mirrored buildings. I always thought Kagoshima was huge, but you could lose it down a side alley in Shinjuku. I light a cigarette – Kool, the brand chosen by a biker ahead of me in the queue – and watch the traffic and passers-by on the intersection between Omekaido Avenue and Kita Street. Pin-striped drones, a lip-pierced hairdresser, midday drunks, child-laden housewives. Not a single person is standing still. Rivers, snowstorms, traffic, bytes, generations, a thousand faces per minute. Yakushima is a thousand minutes per face. All of these people with their boxes of memories labelled ‘Parents’. Good shots, bad shots, frightening figures, tender pictures, fuzzy angles, scratched negatives – it doesn’t matter, they know who ushered them on to Earth. Akiko Kato, I am waiting. Jupiter Café is the nearest lunch place to PanOpticon. It would be so much simpler if you would just drop by here for a sandwich and a coffee. I will recognize you, introduce myself, and persuade you that natural justice is on my side. How do daydreams translate into reality? I sigh. Not very well, not every often. I will have to storm your fortress in order to get what I want. Not good. A building as huge as the PanOpticon probably has other exits, and its own restaurants. You are probably an empress by now with slaves to fetch your meals. Who says you even eat lunch? Maybe a human heart for breakfast tides you over until suppertime. I entomb my Kool in the remains of its ancestors, and resolve to end my stake-out when I finish this coffee. I’m coming in to get you, Akiko Kato. Three waitresses staff Jupiter Café. One – the boss – is as brittle as an imperial dowager who poisoned her husband with misery, one has a braying donkey voice, and the third is turned away from me, but she has the most perfect neck in all creation. Dowager is telling Donkey about her hairdresser’s latest failed marriage. ‘When his wife fails to measure up to his fantasies, he throws her overboard.’ The waitress with the perfect neck is serving a life sentence at the sink. Are Dowager and Donkey cold-shouldering her, or is she cold-shouldering them? Level by level, the PanOpticon disappears – the clouds are down to the eighteenth floor. The fog descends farther when I look away. I calculate the number of days I have been alive on a paper serviette – 7,290, including four leap years. The clock says five to one, and the drones drain away from Jupiter Café. I guess they are afraid they’ll get restructured if one o’clock finds them anywhere but their striplit cubicles. My coffee cup stands empty in a moat of slops. Right. When the hour hand touches one, I’m going into the PanOpticon. I admit I’m nervous. Nervous is cool. A recruitment officer for the Self-Defence Forces came to my high school last year, and said that no fighting unit wants people who are immune to fear – soldiers who don’t feel fear get their platoon killed in the first five minutes on the battlefield. A good soldier controls and uses his fear to sharpen his senses. One more coffee? No. One more Kool, to sharpen my senses.
The clock touches half-past one – my deadline died. My ashtray is brimming over. I shake my cigarette box – down to my last one. The clouds are down to the PanOpticon’s ninth floor. Akiko Kato gazes through her air-conned office suite window into fog. Can she sense me, as I sense her? Can she tell that today is one of those life-changing days? One final, final, final cigarette: then my assault begins before ‘nervous’ becomes ‘spineless’. An old man was in Jupiter Café when I arrived. He hasn’t stopped playing his vidboy. He is identical to Lao Tzu from my school textbook – bald, nutty, bearded. Other customers arrive, order, drink and eat up, and leave within minutes. Decades’ worth. But Lao Tzu stays put. The waitresses must imagine my girlfriend has stood me up, or else I am a psycho waiting to stalk them home. A muzak version of ‘Imagine’ comes on and John Lennon wakes up in his tomb, appalled. It is vile beyond belief. Even the traitors who recorded this horror hated it. Two pregnant women enter and order iced lemon teas. Lao Tzu coughs a cough of no return, and dabs phlegm off his vidboy screen with his shirtsleeve. I drag smoke down deep and trickle it out through my nostrils. What Tokyo needs is a good flooding to clean it up. Mandolineering gondoliers punting down Ginza. ‘Mind you,’ continues Dowager to Donkey, ‘his wives are such grasping, mincing little creatures, they deserve everything they get. When
you
marry be sure to select a husband whose dreams are exactly the same size as your own.’ I sip my coffee foam. My mug rim has traces of lipstick. I construct a legal case to argue that sipping from this part of the bowl constitutes a kiss with a stranger. That would increase my tally of kissed girls to three, still less than the national average. I look around the Jupiter Café for a potential kissee, and settle on the waitress of the living, wise, moonlit viola neck. A tendril of hair has fallen loose, and brushes her nape. It tickles. I compare the fuchsia pink on the mug with the pink of her lipstick. Circumstantial evidence, at any distance. Who knows how many times the cup has been dishwashed, fusing the lipstick atoms with the porcelain molecules? And a sophisticated Tokyoite like her has enough admirers to fill a pocket computer. Case dismissed. Lao Tzu growls at his vidboy. ‘Blasted, blasted,
blasted
bioborgs. Every blasted time.’ I sup my dregs and put on my baseball cap. Time to go and find my maker.
PanOpticon’s lobby – cavernous as the belly of a stone whale – swallows me whole. Arrows in the floorpads sense my feet, and guide me to a vacant reception booth. A door hisses shut behind me, sealing subterranean blackness. A tracer light scans me from head to foot, blipping over the barcode on my ID panel. An amber spotlight comes on, and my reflection stares back. I certainly look the part. Overalls, baseball cap, toolbox and clipboard. An ice maiden appears on the screen before me. She is blemishlessly, symmetrically beautiful.
SECURITY
glows on her lapel badge. ‘State your name,’ she intones, ‘and business.’ I wonder how human she is. These are days when computers humanize and humans computerize. I play the overawed yokel. ‘Afternoon. My name is Ran Sogabe. I’m a Goldfish Pal.’
She frowns. Excellent. She’s only human. ‘Goldfish Pal?’
‘Not seen our ad, ma’am?’ I sing a jingle. ‘We cater for our finny friends—’
‘Why are you requesting access to PanOpticon?’
I act puzzled. ‘I service Osugi and Kosugi’s aquarium, ma’am.’

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