Run-on Sentence Summary
David Mitchell shows off his remarkable writing talent by weaving together six short stories into a book that is more than the sum of its parts, musing on human nature, destiny and the fate of humanity.
After getting strong recommendations from several people, I was excited to read this book. The books biggest feature is it’s unique structure. It is composed of six separate novellas, each of which is broken in half. You read the first half of each in sequence, and then finish each in the same order.
The stories are all distinct in their style and themes. In fact, it feels like they are written by different authors. They include an old school naval adventure, a cheesy modern thriller, dystopian science fiction, speculative future world building, and more. Mitchell really shows off his writing chops. Each story is entertaining and stands up well on its own, but it becomes something different when they are combined together.
Interestingly, each story is mentioned in the subsequent one. For instance, the first character’s journal cataloguing his adventures at sea is discovered holding up a table leg in the subsequent story. For each, the character doubts the veracity of the previous story, creating layers of legend within legend where you don’t know which tale is the “real” one and which are fiction.
To me, this book didn’t feel like the life-changing literary classic that some hail it as, but it is an extremely satisfying, well written novel that pulls off an ambitious goal.
“Sail to the Old World, tell ’em their imperial slaves’ rights are as inalienable as the Queen of Belgium’s! Oh, you’ll grow hoarse, poor & gray in caucuses! You’ll be spat on, shot at, lynched, pacified with medals, spurned by backwoodsmen! Crucified! Naïve, dreaming Adam. He who would do battle with the many-headed hydra of human nature must pay a world of pain & his family must pay it along with him! & only as you gasp your dying breath shall you understand, your life amounted to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean!” Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?”