Customer Reviews for

Cloud Atlas

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

103 out of 117 people found this review helpful.

A Profusion of Allusions

Cloud Atlas is difficult to describe. It is hard to explain what the book is about, precisely. It is a book about what makes a story, and it is a book about what it means to be human. Ultimately, it is a book that forces the reader to question what is reality. It is...
Cloud Atlas is difficult to describe. It is hard to explain what the book is about, precisely. It is a book about what makes a story, and it is a book about what it means to be human. Ultimately, it is a book that forces the reader to question what is reality. It is a postmodern tour de force, laden with literary allusions. For example: Sonmi-451 is a clear reference to Bradbury's classic 'Fahrenheit 451', and her story parallels themes explored in '1984'. Similarly, Zachry's tale of Sloosha's Crossin' is much like Russell Hoban's 'Riddley Walker'. From Frobisher's letters, to Luisa's quest for truth... from Smith's journal and his final question at the end, 'Cloud Atlas' is a brilliant novel that intertwines stories and styles across centuries, continents, and cultures. The stories are relatable and terrifying, and all speak volumes about human nature and its relationship to stories. It is not a novel that you can say is 'about' something, in terms of plot. It's far more thematic. It's about humanity's relationship to one another, to stories, and its quest for truth and the definition of reality. An excellent read that blew me away.

posted by Anonymous on March 25, 2008

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Most Helpful Critical Review

20 out of 40 people found this review helpful.

Mr. Mitchell is too clever for his own good with regards to this book.


"Notice how people insert the "Mr." before sinking the blade in?" (Mitchell, Cloud Atlas, p. 137(ebook)).

I definitely get the sense that the author is clever and very skilled at writing. Unfortunately, Mr. Mitchell is too clever for his own good with regards to th...

"Notice how people insert the "Mr." before sinking the blade in?" (Mitchell, Cloud Atlas, p. 137(ebook)).

I definitely get the sense that the author is clever and very skilled at writing. Unfortunately, Mr. Mitchell is too clever for his own good with regards to this book.

One of the ideas that seems to be brought up by the book is the idea of reincarnation. In each of the six short stories that this book is made up of, one of the character's is marked as connected to the other stories. Quite literally infact, as that character always seems to have a comet shaped birth mark. These characters have vague memories of things that the other marked characters have experienced, like remembering a piece of music or visiting a specific place.

This element of the interweaving stories falls apart for me when in the first half of the fourth story, Mr. Michell effectively decides that the first three stories are fiction. Now don't get me wrong. I don't have problems with having a story within a story. And I know that fictional stories can be based on real things. But if you're going to do that, you need to be very good about making sure we know that's what you're doing. You don't get credit for exploring the idea of reincarnation when you decide that half of those lives never happened in your story's reality. In much the same way that one of Mr. Mitchell's characters calls a girl a dunce for believing Sherlock Holmes was a real person, I'm calling Mr. Mitchell an equal level of dunce for suggesting that people can be reincarnations of people that never existed in reality.

Add to that a plot twist in the fifth story that's so obvious it was done to death seven years before I was born, and the fact that the first and sixth stories are written with such a heavy (though arguably appropriate) dialect as to almost make them unreadable, and I would say I'm sorry I wasted time on this book.

posted by 10068023 on October 8, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2008

    A Profusion of Allusions

    Cloud Atlas is difficult to describe. It is hard to explain what the book is about, precisely. It is a book about what makes a story, and it is a book about what it means to be human. Ultimately, it is a book that forces the reader to question what is reality. It is a postmodern tour de force, laden with literary allusions. For example: Sonmi-451 is a clear reference to Bradbury's classic 'Fahrenheit 451', and her story parallels themes explored in '1984'. Similarly, Zachry's tale of Sloosha's Crossin' is much like Russell Hoban's 'Riddley Walker'. From Frobisher's letters, to Luisa's quest for truth... from Smith's journal and his final question at the end, 'Cloud Atlas' is a brilliant novel that intertwines stories and styles across centuries, continents, and cultures. The stories are relatable and terrifying, and all speak volumes about human nature and its relationship to stories. It is not a novel that you can say is 'about' something, in terms of plot. It's far more thematic. It's about humanity's relationship to one another, to stories, and its quest for truth and the definition of reality. An excellent read that blew me away.

    103 out of 117 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2012

    Very rarely have I encountered such a masterpiece of storytell

    Very rarely have I encountered such a masterpiece of storytelling.
    Each of the six stories is complete , yet is so tightly interwoven into
    the others that you simply can't put the book down. I can honestly say
    that I would not recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick and
    easy story. The allusions, the shifts in dialect, and the gallops across
    time periods and cultures require a level attention that the casual
    reader might find alarming. However, if you're a deep thinker and you
    want a book that will make you examine your connection to the past,
    present, and future, this is the book for you!

    48 out of 52 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2005

    For a little more effort, a great read

    Don't be frightened off by reviews citing the book's 'experimental' nature. While not perfect, in 'Cloud Atlas' Mitchell moves seemlessly from voice to voice and finds a way to make six very different narratives almost equally engaging. Yes, there is a momentary sense of frustration when moving from one truncated section to the next (one even ends mid-sentence), but it's easy to get past this once sucked into the next thread. Mitchell drops enough breadcrumbs in the first half of the book to imply a reward for enduring the interuptions, and indeed he delivers on several levels: the literal linking of the narratives (whether they be manuscripts or sci-fi holographs), the philosophical/spiritual implications of reincarnation or distant relation, the unfortunate consistency of human oppression, and the dependence of all fiction (including history) on what has been created before. A tad of environmental preachiness here and there where the narrative itself would have sufficed evinced a few sighs here, but none of consequence. And some of the homages may be mistaken for derivative writing (Melville, Orwell and Huxley foremost), but in fact they form the basis for a more profound relation than that between the six narratives themselves, as 'Cloud Atlas' itself admits to being admits to being another legend drawn from legends. Mitchell has used a technique similar to that of Italo Calvino in 'If on a Winter's Night a Traveler' and pushed it beyond creative novelty. He infuses the novel with a rational, integrated plot structure that, beyond giving the reader a feeling that in the end it all 'makes sense,' itself adds a deeper layer of meaning.

    42 out of 48 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 27, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Cloud Atlas

    There are books that just¿grab you by the throat and pick you up and slam you over the desk time and time again and leave you all disheveled, with a weird tingly feeling in the nether regions and the idea that you have just had your mind blown.<BR/><BR/>This is such a book. Or at least it was for me. Imagine taking Italo Calvino¿s ¿If on a winter¿s night a traveler¿ concept and actually wrapping it up. Those of you familiar with the Calvino novel know that he took essentially like¿ten stories and started telling them to you before it is somehow hopelessly interrupted and another story is started. Here, Mitchell writes what some people have referred to as a Russian Doll of a novel. You know those dolls you can open up at the middle and then there is another doll inside of it, and then you open that one up and HEY! another doll and then you open up that one and WTF!!! yet another doll and so forth? Yeah, this is sort of like that.<BR/><BR/>There are six stories, all of them spanning about a century and a half in history, maybe a little bit more. Six stories that may seem entirely unrelated, though, as you read into them, you begin to see just how tightly interwoven they all are. There are subtle references and some very overt ones, but part of the joy in this book is reading foreshadowing and not even knowing it because it applies to another story you have not even started.<BR/><BR/>The stories, even separated from the over all work are all very intriguing, each with its own challenges. Some thrilling, some amusing, some gripping, some outright wild, Mitchell switches gears on you better than an F-1 racer and he leaves you wanting more. Fortunately, unlike Calvino, he takes you to the end, and then bothers to come right back and give everything else a respectable wrap. The only thing is, the very first story, which takes place just before the turn of the 20th century, as are all of the other stories, is written in a era-specific fashion. Be prepared to learn a whole new vocabulary. I literally had to sit by the computer in this one and look stuff up. But after that, the language becomes a lot more familiar¿that is until you get to the stories that are told in the future and then even a dictionary won¿t help. A buy, hands down.

    29 out of 36 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2011

    One of my favorites

    Teen. A Very interesting premise of 6 stories nested in one another, all in a different genre. Intertwined stories going from the past to the near future, to the apocalyptic future - all detailing man's greed and how the selfish nature of humanity leads to a downfall. If you appreciate a variety of books, this one is a great read with strong characters and a sense of humanity underlying the stories.

    28 out of 32 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 8, 2012

    I came upon this book through the recommendation of a friend. He

    I came upon this book through the recommendation of a friend. He warned me that it would be unlike any novel I had read before, so I entered this story with excitement and curiosity. In Cloud Atlas, author David Mitchell has proved that he has the technical capabilities to write anything that his heart desires. A master of construction and dialect, Mitchell combines six separate stories into a fascinating novel that spans from the 19th century to a distant future.

    The novel begins with the story of Adam Ewing, an American notary who is on a ship, headed home. Presented as Ewing's personal journal, Mitchell wonderfully captures the voice of a homesick man, full of religious zeal. When a black, foreign stowaway is discovered on board, Ewing fights to keep the man away from the harm and racism of the captain and crew. When Adam begins to feel ill, his only friend on the boat, Dr. Henry Goose, begins to treat him for a &quot;poisonous worm&quot; living inside of him. With the threat of death, Ewing struggles to maintain his morality in the seemingly sinful environment of the ship.

    Abruptly, the novel jumps to the early 20th century with the letters of a young aspiring English composer, Robert Frobisher. He finds himself in Belgium, short of financial stability and a clear musical direction. He seeks out local composer Vyvyan Ayers, whose music he sees a revolutionary, to become a kind of understudy to the ailing composer. Ayers accepts the offer and begins to have Frobisher assist him in writing new music. Unfortunately, Robert finds himself in the middle of a forbidden affair, and begins to feel that Ayers is taking advantage of his own musical ideas.

    The story of young American journalist Luisa Rey, reads like a fast paced thriller. The year is 1975 and Luisa, who is struggling to overcome the shadow cast by her famous journalist father, believes she has found the story that will provide her with her big break. As she attempts to uncover the reported corruption of a local nuclear company, she finds herself entangled in a web of conspiracy, love, and murder.

    Timothy Cavendish is a sixty-something publisher who finds unexpected success after his client, a gangster who recently published his memoirs with Cavendish's company, murders a critic at a local event. The client, of course, is sent to jail, and the novel becomes a bestseller. With his newfound wealth, Timothy seems to be living the high life. When the brothers of his client attempt to violently persuade Cavendish to give them the money from their imprisoned brother's book, he flees the city. Unfortunately, he mistakes a nursing home for a hotel and finds himself unable to escape.

    Sonmi-451, a genetic fabricant, created to serve food in a fast food restaurant of the dystopian future, is being interviewed about her escape and rebellion of the established society. She tells of how she was able to leave the restaurant, and discover how she, and others like her, have been taken advantage of by the established society. As she amasses knowledge she was never supposed to posses, she begins to feel emotions and make human connections that were never intended to be possible.

    In the very distant future, we find Zachary, a primitive member of a tribe who is learning to face his fears in this strange world. After the death of his father and the capturing of his sibling, he blames himself for not preventing the attack. When a woman, a visitor from another group of people who seems to have more &quot;knowledge&quot; than Zachary's tribe, moves in with his family, he must face new threats to his tribe's beliefs and ways of life.

    The stories, except for the one about Zachary, are all interrupted in the middle, giving the novel a kind of ABCDEFEDCBA arc. Mitchell ties this all together by making each new character the witness, mostly through reading, of the previous character's story. I think that each character could also be interpreted as a reincarnation of the previous because they all seem to share a similar birth mark. With each story, the author adapts to a different style of narrative, making some of the tales read easier than others. Notably, the strong dialect of the middle character makes his story nearly impossible to comprehend. Despite his ingenious presentation and construction, I couldn't help but feeling a bit disappointed at this end of this. The novel can be such a chore to read, that I didn't feel that I got some revolutionary message at the end of this, otherwise, expertly crafted story. Despite being glad that I took the time to read this unique novel, I can't help but wonder if my time would have been better spent reading something with a deeper meaning.

    24 out of 32 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2012

    Mr. Mitchell is too clever for his own good with regards to this book.


    "Notice how people insert the "Mr." before sinking the blade in?" (Mitchell, Cloud Atlas, p. 137(ebook)).

    I definitely get the sense that the author is clever and very skilled at writing. Unfortunately, Mr. Mitchell is too clever for his own good with regards to this book.

    One of the ideas that seems to be brought up by the book is the idea of reincarnation. In each of the six short stories that this book is made up of, one of the character's is marked as connected to the other stories. Quite literally infact, as that character always seems to have a comet shaped birth mark. These characters have vague memories of things that the other marked characters have experienced, like remembering a piece of music or visiting a specific place.

    This element of the interweaving stories falls apart for me when in the first half of the fourth story, Mr. Michell effectively decides that the first three stories are fiction. Now don't get me wrong. I don't have problems with having a story within a story. And I know that fictional stories can be based on real things. But if you're going to do that, you need to be very good about making sure we know that's what you're doing. You don't get credit for exploring the idea of reincarnation when you decide that half of those lives never happened in your story's reality. In much the same way that one of Mr. Mitchell's characters calls a girl a dunce for believing Sherlock Holmes was a real person, I'm calling Mr. Mitchell an equal level of dunce for suggesting that people can be reincarnations of people that never existed in reality.

    Add to that a plot twist in the fifth story that's so obvious it was done to death seven years before I was born, and the fact that the first and sixth stories are written with such a heavy (though arguably appropriate) dialect as to almost make them unreadable, and I would say I'm sorry I wasted time on this book.

    20 out of 40 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2012

    Totally Missed

    I always finish a book. That said, I had to let this one go. It made absolutely no sense, and was so boring I could not stay awake while reading it. I decided no matter what the ending was, it was not worth all the agony to get there!

    18 out of 44 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2012

    A very smart and captivating read

    When you find a book that makes you feel like you have actually exercised your brain cells and maybe even generated some new ones, it is a gift. I loved the fact that I had to use the lookup feature on my Nook on occasion, as well as immerse myself in unfamiliar yet really fun language. I am a sucker for inter-connected stories and characters, and this book makes it all fit. I highly recommend Cloud Atlas and kept finding ways to sneak in pages here and there whenever I couldn't just curl up with it.

    This is not a quick, light, frothy read. It's an intelligent, meaty, ponder it later kind of novel.

    14 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 21, 2012

    Disappointed

    With the rave reviews I was expecting a lot. True - David Mitchell is a skilled writer and was able to showboat a depth of knowledge on a variety of topics. But I found myself wanting to skim and skip forward with the hope of establishing a deeper attachment to the plot(s). And I'm not a skimmer - I'm generally respectful of an authors style to the point of honoring a storytellers technique to the end. Not sure what to say except it was certainly unique in method, albeit confusing and consequently dull.

    12 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2011

    Coming from an English teacher ...

    This was recommended by a brilliant friend. It is by far one of the most amazing, creative, unforgettable books I have read of late. Read it.

    12 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2006

    How do you describe the indescribable?

    While away at a company retreat, I often felt speechless when my co-workers would come up to me and say 'Whats the book about?' After many attempts of describing 'Cloud Atlas' to an array of people, I eventually fell back to the most simplisitc answer and yet poignant description of the book. I sheephishly responded with a non-delibrate patronzing remark 'It's a Novel'. To fully understand Cloud Atlas, you have to fully engross yourself with the letters of a sinister Robert Frobrisher, you have to get inside Adam Smiths mind bending torture, you need to sit shotgun with one Luisa Rey, you need to escape with one insistent and hilarious brit, Timothy Cavendash. Serve and volley the grand scientific question of our age (cloning) with Sonmi, and to be whisked away with Zachary and Moreynmon on an epic adventure through the blue skies, filled with white clouds. This my dear friend is the only way to describe something so treasured as this ingenuis literature. And for all you Passing souls who passed through this journey already, well you know what I mean when ask 'How do you describe the indescibable?'

    9 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2012

    Awful book. Totally confusing.

    Don't bother reading this mess of a book. I'm sure there's a message in there somewhere--or the author thinks there is, but it's buried in dialects and language that are almost impossible to decipher. How anyone could have read this book and thought it would make a good movie is beyond me. I love to read an d always finish any book I start, but this was a struggle. Did not enjoy it. Felt it was a total waste of my time.

    8 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 3, 2012

    Couldn't finish it.

    I really regret paying the 12 bucks for this and i am considering calling B&N and asking for a refund or some sort of credit. this books is absolute crap and it looks like the movie is going to be crap too. It made no sense and could not finish it. I tried my best. got 30 pages in and said screw it.

    7 out of 34 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 15, 2012

    Phenomenal. Best book I read in 2011. Connects the past, present

    Phenomenal. Best book I read in 2011. Connects the past, present and future in unique way. A scary real fiction

    7 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A mindbending tour de force

    Like a rollicking seafaring yarn? Like a good detective story? Like a futuristic sci-fi tale? Good because they are all in this book plus three more genres. Don't get too comfortable, though, because the author switches from one to the next at critical plot points. At first this drove me crazy but after the third switch, I settled in and just enjoyed the ride. The sixth story proceeds without interruption. And then each story picks up again in reverse order until readers wind up back where we started. Each of the six stories is linked to the next and the writing throughout is stunning. I finished this book with great regret. All of the main characters are memorable and each story could stand on its own but I think about Sonmi-451, Zach'ry and Meronym often. Highly recommended.

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 29, 2012

    Not worth the effort

    i am an avid reader and when this book was selected by my book club I was excited to read "the book of the year". What a terrible disappointment! It was hard to get into and just when I did it would switch stories. I started to like it and wham, it started over. I made it to the end and just felt like I wasted a lot of time that could have been spent reading something good.

    5 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 19, 2012

    A true page turner, brilliant and exciting

    Cloud Atlas is made up of 6 stories and each one will have you wanting to read more. Just as you get into each story and the suspense builds, the next story begins and you have to wait until the story finishes at the end. This book is kind of an undertaking. It's definitely worth it, but it's a long book and the stories are very different. It also takes time to get into each story as it is set up and you get used to the characters. I think that while I enjoyed Cloud Atlas greatly, this particular of distinct stories covering the sands of time (i.e. Gods of Men) is not something I will partake in again. I tend not to like short stories because as soon as you get into the story, it seems to end abruptly - that is to say the endings can leave you shortchanged. Having said all that, this book will leave you wanting to find out what happens in each story and *incredibly* surprised at the turns of events.

    5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2008

    Style and Context

    Mitchell is a Shakespeare of style, which is one way to describe his dramatic uses of different writing styles that encapsulate the cultural periods and classes from which they emerge. Usually this correlation of style and context seem organic: for instance, readers assume that a certain eighteenth-century writer would naturally speak or write in a distinctive way. But when a plot travels across cultures and across historical periods and into imaginary futures, only a grand dramatist and a great intelligence can create styles that seem so natural to these fictional worlds. It's one thing to seem to reproduce letters written from Colonialist ship travels in the 19th-century Pacific. It's another skill entirely to create a post-Apocalyptic language for civilization's last remnants. Mature post-modernism, although not profound. Delightful.

    5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2012

    forced myself to read

    read the first 2 chapters and the last 2. the middle of the book is written strangely and I did not get the significance. was not for me.

    4 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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