Galloping down the home stretch of this astonishing book, I find I don’t want to get to the end of it – so I stop to take a breather and bang the keyboard on this.
It is rare to find a story that literally takes your breath away. I am reminded of how I felt when I read Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, any of Iain Banks’ stories or Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. I have reread the latter at least a dozen times and I expect I will do the same with this amazing story, if I live that long. The first thing is going to be to find a disc of the movie – no – scratch that, the first thing will be to finish the book.
To say that a story is gargantuan in scope, that it spans space and time, yet ties an intimate cast of characters together even though they have never met – well – you sort of start to get the idea.
From the 1840s South Pacific Chatham Islands to a savage and tender vision of a post-apocalyptic Hawaii with the last remnants of civilisation quickly and quietly fading, a manipulative composer in tween-war Belgium, a 1970s California investigative reporter, a cloned waitress ‘fabricant’, suddenly sentient in a far-future corporate Korea and a badly beset vanity publisher in modern London, the story twists and twines and eventually like Ourobouros takes us back to its beginnings (for that is clearly where we are heading even though I am not there yet).
There has been lots of debate about what its about – Roger Ebert’s review of the movie is indicative of the sort of confusion it has engendered. And who else but the Wachowski brothers or siblings or whatever they are, creators of the Matrix (Larry and Andy or Lana and Andy), could try to find a cinematic solution to this extraordinary literary puzzle? I will have to see this movie but first I will have to finish this book, and probably read as much of Mitchell’s other work as I can find.
Whatever it is about – the critics all seem to think it is about the universal human thirst for power – I don’t care. I think it may also be about love and loyalty and dedication and trust and the mysterious truth that emanates from the center of all, but really I don’t care. What is is really about is a stunning vision, a wholly original literary approach and a triumphant exercise in storytelling.
As my late paternal Grandma might have said: “Enough already, enjoy“.