What’s It About: What do a 19th century explorer, a young composer, an elderly publisher, an eager journalist, a clone, and a post-apocalyptic indigenous tribesman have to do with one another? Um… I’m still figuring that one out actually.
Why: Crazy po-mo fiction? Check! Cool cover? Check! Movie coming out soon (with Ben Whishaw, may I add- otherwise it wouldn’t have made my radar)? Check!
Thoughts: Okay, so maybe I have figured out the “what’s it about” question. The story is formatted with all the narratives in chronological order, each interrupted halfway by the next narrative. Once we reach the middle (or is it the end?) the stories then resolve themselves, this time in backwards chronological order so we end at the same place we begin.
David Mitchell hasn’t been too subtle about the fact that the characters are reincarnations of the same soul. What’s less clear is what they have intrinsically in common, besides a weird birthmark and a knack for getting into trouble. What the book does explore rather well through the different characters and genres is humanity’s inevitable tendency towards oppression, which manifests itself in many representations. As the cyclical nature of the book suggests, both mental and physical oppression will forever be a part of the human climate.