The main storyline is told chronologically, but the author frequently mentions the outcome of future events (referring to 1985 as being one million years in the past). The most obvious example of this is the inclusion of an asterisk in front of a character's name if he or she will die before sunset.
The novel contains a large number of quotations from famous authors. They are related to the story itself and are functionally inserted through Mandarax, a fictional voice translator that is also able to provide quotations from literature and history. The following authors are quoted (in order of their appearance in the book): Anne Frank, Alfred Tennyson, Rudyard Kipling, John Masefield, William Cullen Bryant, Ambrose Bierce, Lord Byron, Noble Claggett, John Greenleaf Whittier, Benjamin Franklin, John Heywood, Cesare Bonesana Beccaria, Bertolt Brecht, Saint John, Charles Dickens, Isaac Watts, William Shakespeare, Plato, Robert Browning, Jean de La Fontaine, François Rabelais, Patrick R. Chalmers, Michel de Montaigne, Joseph Conrad, George William Curtis, Samuel Butler, T. S. Eliot, A. E. Housman, Oscar Hammerstein II, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles E. Carryl, Samuel Johnson, Thomas Carlyle, Edward Lear, Henry David Thoreau, Sophocles, Robert Frost, and Charles Darwin.