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Thread: David Mitchell Universe

  1. #1
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    Default David Mitchell Universe

    That's the author not the guy out of Peep Show.
    Anyone read his books? I've read a few over the years and basically I've always enjoyed them to the extent that I will pick them up from a charity shop and like them but never been totally blown away by them. Anyway, this week I read Bone Clocks which is one of his later ones I guess and it suddenly hit me (or was revealed to me) that all the books are in the same universe, characters recur or you realise suddenly that someone is the grandchild of someone from a previous book... or, in fact, in Bone Clocks you realise that this character or that is the reincarnation of the immortal soul of another. I don't think I was being stupid not noticing this before in that many of the recurring characters are minor and I read the books years apart, but in Bone Clocks it's all made much more explicit. But anyway, OK, so far, so normal, that's all been done before I guess (Neal Stephenson to name one proponent), but what's fascinating about this is that now meeting an old character (or a relative of an old character) gives huge insights into the books you read before and in fact makes you realise that what you thought happened, what you took from the book - let's be honest here in fact - what did happen, is now not what happened. You have a new perspective, he's changed what happened. And in a sense it feels like a trick or like when they sort of re-write the canon in Star Wars or something but it's not quite that cos it all makes sense and it doesn't contradict what happened before, it changes it but consistently in ways that are hard to explain. I want to know if he really planned it from the first book he wrote however many years ago or if he devised it afterwords and how he managed to bring it all together - did he have loads of charts with timelines of all these people and where their grandparents would have been in 1684 from the first book? It's a huge technical achievement if nothing else, but more than that, this bending of the past without actual breaking is something I've never seen before, has anyone else done it?

  2. #2
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    Pynchon does it. There are multiple generations of families and recurring characters in his stuff. I can't think of an example of it changing the events of a previous novel though, just expanding on them and adding more depth to the universe.

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    Quote Originally Posted by version View Post
    Pynchon does it. There are multiple generations of families and recurring characters in his stuff. I can't think of an example of it changing the events of a previous novel though, just expanding on them and adding more depth to the universe.
    I'm maybe not explaining it will but what Mitchell does is different from Pynchon or Stephenson in the way it recasts previous events in a different light, it's hard to describe if you haven't read 'em though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sufi View Post
    interesting, that's something I've never read. It's still different though in that it's explicit whereas here if you don't pay attention you won't even notice it.

  6. #6
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    Apparently there's stuff in Gene Wolfe which changes the story if you notice it:

    Wolfe wrote in a letter, "My definition of a great story has nothing to do with 'a varied and interesting background.' It is: One that can be read with pleasure by a cultivated reader and reread with increasing pleasure." In that spirit, Wolfe also left subtle hints and lacunae that may never be explicitly referred to in the text. For example, a backyard full of morning glories is an intentional foreshadowing of events in Free Live Free, but is only apparent to a reader with a horticultural background, and a story-within-the-story provides a clue to understanding Peace.
    In the early part of the first novel, “The Shadow of the Torturer,” Severian is given more responsibility in the guild and finds himself in chambers he was once denied access to. In one, he sees a dusty and faded picture he describes as “an armored figure standing in a desolate landscape. It had no weapon, but held a staff bearing a strange, stiff banner.” Careful readers will realize this as a photograph of the first moon landing, but to Severian it merely evokes a deep nostalgia, as well as a desire to steal the picture and bring it outside, away from the stifling interior of the guild’s Citadel.

  7. #7
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    Interesting. But isn't that second one just an easter egg type thing?

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