- Paperback: 528 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Canada; First edition (Aug. 17 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0676974945
- ISBN-13: 978-0676974942
- Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2.7 x 21.4 cm
- Shipping Weight: 612 g
- Average Customer Review: 69 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #108,951 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Cloud Atlas Paperback – Aug 17 2004
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It's hard not to become ensnared by words beginning with the letter B, when attempting to describe Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell's third novel. It's a big book, for start, bold in scope and execution--a bravura literary performance, possibly. (Let's steer clear of breathtaking for now.) Then, of course, Mitchell was among Granta's Best of Young British Novelists and his second novel number9dreamwas shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Characters with birthmarks in the shape of comets are a motif; as are boats. Oh and one of the six narratives strands of the book--where coincidentally Robert Frobisher, a young composer, dreams up "a sextet for overlapping soloists" entitled Cloud Atlas--is set in Belgium, not far from Bruges. (See what I mean?)
Structured rather akin to a Chinese puzzle or a set of Matrioshka dolls, there are dazzling shifts in genre and voice and the stories leak into each other with incidents and people being passed on like batons in a relay race. The 19th-century journals of an American notary in the Pacific that open the novel are subsequently unearthed 80 years later on by Frobisher in the library of the ageing, syphilitic maestro he's trying to fleece. Frobisher's waspish letters to his old Cambridge crony, Rufus Sexsmith, in turn surface when Rufus, (by the 1970s a leading nuclear scientist) is murdered. A novelistic account of the journalist Luisa Rey's investigation into Rufus' death finds its way to Timothy Cavendish, a London vanity publisher with an author who has an ingenious method of silencing a snide reviewer. And in a near-dystopian Blade Runner-esque future, a genetically engineered fast food waitress sees a movie based on Cavendish's unfortunate internment in a Hull retirement home. (Cavendish himself wonders how a director called Lars might wish to tackle his plight). All this is less tricky than it sounds, only the lone "Zachary" chapter, told in Pacific Islander dialect (all "dingos'n'ravens", "brekker" and "f'llowin'"s) is an exercise in style too far. Not all the threads quite connect but nonetheless Mitchell binds them into a quite spellbinding rumination on human nature, power, oppression, race, colonialism and consumerism. --Travis Elborough
#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER
FINALIST FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE
LONGLISTED FOR THE INTERNATIONAL IMPAC DUBLIN LITERARY AWARD
A Times (UK) Best Book of the Decade
A New York Times Notable Book
A Globe and Mail 100 Best Book
Longlisted for the IMPAC Award
“[David] Mitchell is, clearly, a genius. He writes as though at the helm of some perpetual dream machine, can evidently do anything, and his ambition is written in magma across this novel’s every page.” The New York Times Book Review
“One of those how-the-holy-hell-did-he-do-it? modern classics that no doubt is—and should be—read by any student of contemporary literature.” Dave Eggers
“Wildly entertaining...a head rush, both action-packed and chillingly ruminative.” People
“The novel as series of nested dolls or Chinese boxes, a puzzle-book, and yet—not just dazzling, amusing, or clever but heartbreaking and passionate, too. I’ve never read anything quite like it, and I’m grateful to have lived, for a while, in all its many worlds.” Michael Chabon
“Cloud Atlas ought to make [Mitchell] famous on both sides of the Atlantic as a writer whose fearlessness is matched by his talent.” The Washington Post Book World
“Thrilling.... One of the biggest joys in Cloud Atlas is watching Mitchell sashay from genre to genre without a hitch in his dance step.” Boston Sunday Globe
“Grand and elaborate...[Mitchell] creates a world and language at once foreign and strange, yet strikingly familiar and intimate.” Los Angeles Times
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1. Cloud Atlas is written as a series of short stories, each set in a different time period and location. Each is written in a completely different style. All except for the sixth one are cut off mid-way through and then completed in reverse order.
2. The six stories progress through the ages of civilization from tribal to modern day to a future society that is technologically advanced but completely dystopian to a post-apocalyptic world (which is essentially back to the tribal beginning).
3. Each of the six stories appear in some form in the succeeding story, as letters, novels, films, music, etc.
4. The protagonist in each story is conveniently identified with a comet shaped mole on their shoulder. SPOILER ALERT- They are in fact all reincarnations of each other.
5.The theme of this book is Exploitation of Man by Mankind and does Civilization really make one civilized?
I loved this book! I loved the different characters and the different writing styles that the author used in each of the six stories. Each character and the situation they find themselves in are very different, but each is amazingly well done.
I loved each of the individual stories! They were excellent on their own, but woven into a novel they come together to illustrate Mitchell's theme. Which is man's basic drive to exploit those around him, through every age and every civilization, over and over again.
This is an extremely creative and orginal book and I wholeheartedly recommend it!
“Cloud Atlas” is comprised with six different stories, each of which except the sixth is punctured in the middle with the subsequent one, only to be returned to in the inverse order later on. The book has a form of one-dimensional nested Russian-doll. This is a very clever and technically challenging narrative structure, and with the right kind of material it could have been a real masterpiece. However, in the end I didn’t find this working out all that well. First of all, the stories are VERY loosely related to each other. Their tenuous connection relies more on insinuations, allusions, off-narrative developments, and certain stratagems (reincarnation?) that are never fully and explicitly developed and feel more like deus ex machina ploys than organic plot developments. Furthermore, it was really hard for me to get into most of these stories, with an exception of maybe one and a half of them. They seemed contrived, and it was not easy to start carrying for a whole new set of characters every forty pages or so. And once I did, the stories abruptly broke off, oftentimes at some of the most interesting points. By the time I returned to them, I had mostly forgotten what they were about in the first place, and cared even less about “what happens next.”
Finally, there is the whole issue of language. Mitchell is definitely very skillful writer, and for the most part pulls off very convincingly various narrative viewpoints, styles, and dialects. This works very well as an exercise in writing skills, but as a novel meant to be read by a wide audience I find this approach verging on overbearing and pretentious. A turn of phrase or an idiosyncratic narrative voice would be forgivable in Melville, but not so much with a contemporary writer pretending to be Melville. It was also very hard to follow some of these stories because of their linguistic peculiarities, particularly the one written in Hawaiian pidgin.
I was also unimpressed with the moralizing and dystopian aspects of this book. Many of the themes were explored with much more conviction and credibility in works that were ostensibly far less ambitious in their scope. (“Never Let Me Go” comes to mind for instance, as well as a handful of sci-fi movies.)
This is certainly a very ambitious and technically sophisticated book, but it overreaches and fails to deliver on the level of pure plot development. It took me really long time to actually go through this book, much longer than for any other literary science fiction book I have read in a long time. Parts of it are interesting and thought-provoking, but as a whole it left me very much underwhelmed.
the book is made up of 6 almost unreadable shot stories. the first story is unreadable because it's full of dead language. the last story is unreadable because it's full of made up language. some of the middle stories had moments. not that i finished any of them, as all the stories are finished in the second half.
this is the kind of book people pretend to like to appear smart, but actually reading it is void of joy. i like reading books that are fun to read.
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