Ghostwritten, one of David Mitchell’s earlier books, is about the nature of fate and the strange interconnections between people and events in the modern world. In this unusual novel, Mitchell illustrates his points through the narrations of nine different characters, who at first seem only vaguely connected.
The novel begins with the crazed Quasar, a member of a religious cult who has fled to Okinawa after placing poisonous bombs in the Tokyo subway. As his sect falls apart, he waits for word and instructions from his leader, His Serendipity.
In Tokyo, Satoru, a teenage employee of a record store, falls in love with a pretty customer. In Hong King, Neal Brose, a financier who has conducted some shady business with a mysterious Russian, is letting his life fall apart after his wife leaves him.
In China, an old lady lives through the various upheavals of the 20th century while she tries to keep her tea shop on a sacred mountain from being destroyed, again. In Mongolia, an entity that can move from one human being to another tries to find out what it is and where it came from.
In Russia, Margarita Latumsky, a woman who has made her way in life by seducing powerful men and has landed a job at the Hermitage, is plotting with her gangster boyfriend to steal a Delacroix. In London, Marco Chance is a drummer, ghostwriter, and womanizer whose day isn’t going very well.
Mo Muntervary is a world-famous physicist who returns home to a remote Irish island after fleeing from the CIA for several months. Her decision to stop running has fateful results. Finally, Bat Segundo is a late-night DJ in New York who begins getting annual phone calls from the mysterious Zookeeper.
As these characters pursue their own activities and thoughts in a way that seems completely organic to their natures, Mitchell slowly and skillfully weaves their stories into a dystopian nightmare that works in actual events from the late 1990’s, when the book was written.
I am continually amazed by Mitchell’s imagination and intellect and his ability to write novels that are completely engrossing. Although not every technique he uses is completely successful–for example, there are real and metaphorical ghosts in the novel (in addition to the entity, whatever it is)–his approaches are all still interesting. Ghostwritten reminds me a bit of one of his later books, Cloud Atlas, which I admire very much.