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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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 August 18, 2012

    Enchanting meditative frightening

    An excellent book unlike any other i have ever read.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 17, 2012

    best book i have ever read

    best book i have ever read

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 7, 2012

    Most unusual and highly entertaining!

    Here is a collection of vaguely linked stories that come together in a universal truth. Absolutely enthralling!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 14, 2012

    Amazing and Indescribable

    I haven't ever read anything that I enjoyed so much, both as philosophy and as a novel. I'm not sure I can even describe it, but I loved it. I finished it, then immediately turned back to the first page to read it again, I liked it that much.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 19, 2011

    Amazing

    Quite possibly the best thing i've ever read. A how to manual for writing with balls. Read it.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 15, 2011

    Not for the faint of heart-

    This story is probably for more advanced readers. I LOVED it, but if you're not a "literary" reader-that is, you haven't read books from different time periods, it'll be hard to identify with the shifting language. This book deserves to be read twice. The stories are so interesting and can pretty much stand on their own. This is the second book I've read by David Mitchell and I can't wait to explore the rest of his novels.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2008

    I would consider this one of my all time favorites

    This book caught my attention from the NPR summer recommendations. I was greatly surprise and delighted by this book. As captivating as this book was, it is hard to discuss exactly what its about. I think those without an open mind or those with pre-determined ideas about what a book should be would not enjoy this, however those with a sense of wonder and curosity about humanity and interconnectiveness would find this a great read.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2013

    What begins as mundane journal entries, turns to a collection of

    What begins as mundane journal entries, turns to a collection of letters received by a lover, then to a third-person narrative about
    a woman in the 1970s. Then, onto another time and another life, and so on. (I admit, I was so confused when the journal entries
    stopped mid-sentence, I thought I had a misprinted copy of the book in my hands! But I kept reading, and then it made sense.)

    Written as a palindrome covering many centuries, the book begins in the 1870s and moves through to the far-distant dystopian future.
    This portion of the book takes place in the 23rd or 24th century, after the human race has all but destroyed the planet, and tells the story
    of an isolated island people. Their language and culture has deteriorated to a point where they've returned to a highly tribal way of life.
    Then the book begins a descent back to the 1870s.

    Each seemingly-unconnected story tells of a life that was in some way impacted by the previous. (How they are connected become clear
    by the third chapter, actually.) When I describe it to friends, I always say, &quot;up until the middle of the book, it seems to be just stating facts,
    telling parts of stories about people reincarnated in lives, until you start to understand how the past lives influenced a chain of events that
    affected the current lives.&quot;

    In the final chapter, I understood how a simple act of kindness could ripple through time and affect other lives. Each character has the
    choice to be kind or to be selfish. To love, or to be selfish. 

    This book is about unconditional love transcending time and space, and being a force for change at the microcosmic level. It also covers
    politics, environmental impact, social justice, compassion, consumerism. There is a lovely parallel drawn to factory farming in the chapter 
    about futuristic Korea, where genentically-modified people (or Fabricants) are a slave race.

    This book is gorgeous and gritty. It's thoughtful, deep, and spiritual.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2013

    A must for all who wonder about the next life or the last...

    A miracle of fiction

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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