Released: January 1, 2004
A postmodern visionary who is also a master of styles of genres, David Mitchell combines flat-out adventure, a Nabokovian lore of puzzles, a keen eye for character, and a taste for mind-bending philosophical and scientific speculation in the tradition of Umberto Eco, Haruki Murakami, and Philip K. Dick. The result is brilliantly original fiction as profund as it is playful. Now in his new novel, David Mitchell explores with daring artistry fundamental questions of reality and identity.
Cloud Atlas begins in 1850 with Adam Ewing, an American notary voyaging from the Chatham Isles to his home in California. Along the way, Ewing is befriended by a physician, Dr. Goose, who begins to treat him for a rare species of brain parasite. . . .
Abruptly, the action jumps to Belgium in 1931, where Robert Frobisher, a disinherited bisexual composer, contrives his way into the household of an infirm maestro who has a beguiling wife and a nubile daughter. . . . From there we jump to the West Coast in the 1970s and a troubled reporter named Luisa Rey, who stumbles upon a web of corporate greed and murder that threatens to claim her life. . . . And onward, with dazzling virtuosity, to an inglorious present-day England; to a Korean superstate of the near future where neocapitalism has run amok; and, finally, to a postapocalyptic Iron Age Hawaii in the last days of history.
But the story doesn’t end even there. The narrative then boomerangs back through centuries and space, returning by the same route, in reverse, to its starting point. Along the way, Mitchell reveals how his disparate characters connect, how their fates intertwine, and how their souls drift across time like clouds across the sky.
As wild as a videogame, as mysterious as a Zen koan, Cloud Atlas is an unforgettable tour de force that, like its incomparable author, has transcended its cult classic status to become a worldwide phenomenon.
This is a very impressive book. I didn’t think it was quite as good as it was impressive, but I can’t deny it… I’m impressed.
The book is a number of short stories of which all but the last are interrupted in the middle. Once the last short story is finished, the book makes its way back through the end of the stories. As it turns out, all of the stories are somehow connected.
What impressed me the most about the book was how incredibly different, yet very well done, the short stories were. An unfortunate consequence of this was that I found myself liking some of the stories very much indeed, and getting a bit bored by others. The links between the stories are mostly rather clever and very well done, but become somewhat tenuous on a few occasions.
Overall, I really liked almost exactly four sixths of this book. And one of the sixths, a story set in a future dystopia, left me wanting much more.
I didn’t quite love this book, but I really liked it. It made me think about things, covering serious issues such as politics, religion, morals, and so on, but didn’t take itself too seriously, and also served up a bunch of good, irreverent, fun.