Cloud Atlas has long been my favourite novel - it's an ingeniously-constructed, sweeping tale set across continents and centuries with such intricately planned character development and story-telling that I was convinced the author must be a genius. Since then, David Mitchell's stories have all told very different stories but introduced the pegs of what (I hope) will become some kind of future meganovel - characters cross over in minor and major ways, familiar locations are mentioned then tossed away, and an unusually specific sense of a different, familiar world is developing.
There's a thrill in reading these stories and triggering a memory of a previously met character or location - and a sense of reward when you start to tie up loose ends from other stories and join everything up in your mind. There's also a joy in these stories, which casually span dimensions and time, being firmly grounded in extremely familiar territory - his most recent novel The Bone Clocks kicks off in England in the early 80s; similarly the territory in his new book Slade House will be instantly familiar to Brits.
I managed to get my grubby hands on a proof copy of Slade House, which is based on the Twitter story that Mitchell published last year and builds on the same universe created in Cloud Atlas and fully fleshed out in The Bone Clocks (with cameos, of course, from characters in The Thousand of Autumns of Jacob de Zoet and probably others).
It's a slim story - almost like an extended Bone Clocks epilogue - but grabs you and pulls you in, and before you know it, it's over - but it's a great ride.
In the right conditions, every nine years, a tiny metal gate appears on Slade Alley (just round the corner from The Fox and Hounds pub) which can only be opened by a select few - the Right Sort, as the tweeted version of this story was called. What - and who - lurks behind the gate will be pleasingly recognisable by those who have devoured the much-longer The Bone Clocks, but will be equally fascinating to those who haven't dipped their toes into Mitchell's world. And that's the joy of his stories - you don't have to be in the know to like them and be gripped by them, but the true reward comes from delving in and fully exploring this wildly twisting universe he's creating - a universe that's grounded so firmly in our own and yet which takes us so far away from our normal lives.
When's the next one out?
Slade House is released in October.