by David Mitchell
The second Mitchell novel I’ve read, after his monumental, first class text Cloud Atlas. This one is a vast step down, as it’s only good and offers nothing of the epic range, the immensly engaging personalities, the beautiful plot structure. It is good, however, showing a well paced novel that draws one in even into some rather complex and narratively twisted meta-forms. In no small part its value lies in the effective exploration of Japan it provides--it contains its critical moments, some of which were a little uncomfortable, but is overall a comlex understanding that delivers a good blend of intriguing people doing interesting and aesthetically substanative things. Yet, it’s continual lack of not being a great book in the lines of Cloud Atlas were an ongoing barrier, to the extent that it would have been easier in some ways if it had been flat out bad, as was I at times felt I wasn’t engaging with the text that was as much as the shadow of the book that I still hoped would burst from the pages in front of me. Another point of disorientation was that Cloud Atlas was, ultimately, science fiction while this work is mainstream, but features a fantasy story written and related by characters within the story. There are few things that can be more disorienting than being unsure if a book is operating in conventional worldbuilding or not, often it’s a creative tension, but here I believe it also inhibited my focus on the narrative somewhat.
Worse than: The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon
Better than: End of the World Blues by John Courtney Grimwood