Cloud Atlas

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Overview

"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, inveigles 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 ...
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Overview

"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, inveigles 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, 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 even end 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.

Finalist for the 2004 Man Booker Prize for Fiction

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Editorial Reviews

Jeff Turrentine
Hopscotching over centuries, Cloud Atlas likewise jumps in and out of half a dozen different styles, all of which display the author's astonishing talent for ventriloquism, and end up fitting together to make this a highly satisfying, and unusually thoughtful, addition to the expanding "puzzle book" genre.
The Washington Post
The New Yorker
Mitchell’s virtuosic novel presents six narratives that evoke an array of genres, from Melvillean high-seas drama to California noir and dystopian fantasy. There is a naïve clerk on a nineteenth-century Polynesian voyage; an aspiring composer who insinuates himself into the home of a syphilitic genius; a journalist investigating a nuclear plant; a publisher with a dangerous best-seller on his hands; and a cloned human being created for slave labor. These five stories are bisected and arranged around a sixth, the oral history of a post-apocalyptic island, which forms the heart of the novel. Only after this do the second halves of the stories fall into place, pulling the novel’s themes into focus: the ease with which one group enslaves another, and the constant rewriting of the past by those who control the present. Against such forces, Mitchell’s characters reveal a quiet tenacity. When the clerk is told that his life amounts to “no more than one drop in a limitless ocean,” he asks, “Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?”
Tom Bissell
To write a novel that resembles no other is a task that few writers ever feel prepared to essay. David Mitchell has written such a novel -- or almost has. In its need to render every kind of human experience, Cloud Atlas finds itself staring into the reflective waters of Joyce's Ulysses. Just as Joyce, in the scene that takes place in the cabman's shelter, found the hidden beauty of cliche-filled prose, so Mitchell does with his Luisa Rey story.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
At once audacious, dazzling, pretentious and infuriating, Mitchell's third novel weaves history, science, suspense, humor and pathos through six separate but loosely related narratives. Like Mitchell's previous works, Ghostwritten and number9dream (which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize), this latest foray relies on a kaleidoscopic plot structure that showcases the author's stylistic virtuosity. Each of the narratives is set in a different time and place, each is written in a different prose style, each is broken off mid-action and brought to conclusion in the second half of the book. Among the volume's most engaging story lines is a witty 1930s-era chronicle, via letters, of a young musician's effort to become an amanuensis for a renowned, blind composer and a hilarious account of a modern-day vanity publisher who is institutionalized by a stroke and plans a madcap escape in order to return to his literary empire (such as it is). Mitchell's ability to throw his voice may remind some readers of David Foster Wallace, though the intermittent hollowness of his ventriloquism frustrates. Still, readers who enjoy the "novel as puzzle" will find much to savor in this original and occasionally very entertaining work. Agent, Douglas Stewart. (Aug. 24) Forecast: Lots of buzz and a friendly paperback price will ensure strong sales, but like other fashionable tomes (think Pynchon's Mason & Dixon) Mitchell's novel may be more admired than read. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In what must rank among the year's more ambitious novels, Mitchell (Ghostwritten) presents six quasicliffhanger stories in six different time periods. Beginning with a mid-19th-century Pacific voyage, the book then vaults to an early 20th-century composer who cuckolds his mentor, a 1970s reporter pursued by hitmen when she joins forces with a company whistleblower, a put-upon editor trapped inside a home for the aged, a servant clone interrogated about her travels to the outside world, and, finally, a return to the Pacific, only centuries later in a post-civilization world. Got it? Now tie up the cliffhangers in reverse order, going backward in time. The stories have a loose connecting theme of pursuing freedom and justice, and Mitchell has a gift for creating fully realized worlds with a varied cast of characters. However, there are patches of rough sledding; while the clever construction serves to highlight the novel's big ideas, the continual interruptions may distance the average reader. After slogging through five half-stories, the author has the bravery (or foolishness?) to relate the sixth in an invented dialect for a long stretch. The book has received good press in the United Kingdom, but perhaps sensing a smaller audience, the U.S. publisher offers a trade paperback original at a "try me" price. Libraries may wish to do so for their more adventurous readers of literary fiction.-Marc Kloszewski, Indiana Free Lib., PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Great Britain's answer to Thomas Pynchon outdoes himself with this maddeningly intricate, improbably entertaining successor to Ghostwritten (2000) and Number9Dream (2002). Mitchell's latest consists of six narratives set in the historical and recent pasts and imagined futures, all interconnected whenever a later narrator encounters and absorbs the story that preceded his own. In the first, it's 1850 and American lawyer-adventurer Adam Ewing is exploring endangered primitive Pacific cultures (specifically, the Chatham Islands' native Moriori besieged by numerically superior Maori). In the second, "The Pacific Diary of Adam Ewing" falls (in 1931) into the hands of bisexual musician Robert Frobisher, who describes in letters to his collegiate lover Rufus Sixsmith his work as amanuensis to retired and blind Belgian composer Vivian Ayrs. Next, in 1975, sixtysomething Rufus is a nuclear scientist who opposes a powerful corporation's cover-up of the existence of an unsafe nuclear reactor: a story investigated by crusading reporter Luisa Rey. The fourth story (set in the 1980s) is Luisa's, told in a pulp potboiler submitted to vanity publisher Timothy Cavendish, who soon finds himself effectively imprisoned in a sinister old age home. Mitchell then moves to an indefinite future Korea, in which cloned "fabricants" serve as slaves to privileged "purebloods"-and fabricant Sonmi-451 enlists in a rebellion against her masters. The sixth story, told in its entirety before the novel doubles back and completes the preceding five (in reverse order), occurs in a farther future time, when Sonmi is a deity worshipped by peaceful "Valleymen"-one of whom, goatherd Zachry Bailey, relates the epic tale of hispeople's war with their oppressors, the murderous Kona tribe. Each of the six stories invents a world, and virtually invents a language to describe it, none more stunningly than does Zachry's narrative ("Sloosha's Crossin' and Ev'rythin' After"). Thus, in one of the most imaginative and rewarding novels in recent memory, the author unforgettably explores issues of exploitation, tyranny, slavery, and genocide. Sheer storytelling brilliance. Mitchell really is his generation's Pynchon. Agency: Curtis Brown
From the Publisher
Cloud Atlas is, obviously, a formidable creation. . . . Fellow novelists will find it hard not to heap . . . praise on David Mitchell, whose brilliance takes one’s breath away in a manner not unlike a first experience of Chartres or the Duomo.”
The Globe and Mail

Cloud Atlas is a head rush, both action-packed and chillingly ruminative.”
People

“Mitchell’s range is astonishing, moving effortlessly from elegant genre fiction to satire to high-end literary pyrotechnics….to Mitchell — prodigiously skilled and gloriously ambitious — I can only say, bravo!”
Toronto Star

Cloud Atlas imposes a dizzying series of milieus, characters and conflicts upon us . . . [and] feels like a doggedly expert gloss on various writers and modes.”
The New York Times

“Audacious, dazzling…. Readers who enjoy the 'novel as puzzle' will find much to savor in this original and occasionally very entertaining work.”
Publishers Weekly

“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, which are all one world, which is, in turn, enchanted by Mitchell’s spell-caster prose, our own.”
—Michael Chabon

Advance UK reviews for Cloud Atlas:

"the third novel from the genre-busting David Mitchell, author of Ghostwritten and the Booker-shortlisted Number9Dream is a remarkable book, made up of six resonating strands; the narrative reaches back into the 19th century, to colonialism and savagery in the Pacific islands, and forwards into a dark future, beyond the collapse of civilisation. It knits together science fiction, political thriller and historical pastiche with musical virtuosity and linguistic exuberance: there won't be a bigger, bolder novel next year."
—Justine Jordan, Guardian, Preview of 2004

"David Mitchell is by no means a complete unknown, but I shall be very surprised if his next book, the sprawling and ambitious Cloud Atlas doesn't propel him into the front rank of novelists. I only wish it had been there for this year's Man Booker judges to consider."
—D J Taylor, Independent, Preview of 2004

"A daunting talent, adept with the global canvas, and able to move from the technological to the spiritual with supernatural ease."
—Suzi Feay, Independent on Sunday, Preview of 2004

"Watch out for Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, a work of free-wheeling fantasy by a cutting-edge writer."
—David Robson, Sunday Telegraph, Preview of 2004

Praise for David Mitchell:
“Mitchell possesses an amazingly copious and eclectic imagination.”
—William Boyd

“[Ghostwritten is] one of the best first novels I’ve read for a long time. . . . I couldn’t put it down. . . . And it’s even better the second time.”
—A. S. Byatt

“Mitchell has a gift for fiction’s natural pleasures — intricate surprises, insidiously woven narratives, ingenious voices.”
The New York Times Book Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375507250
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/17/2004
  • Edition description: First U.S. Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 18,466
  • Product dimensions: 5.45 (w) x 8.42 (h) x 1.09 (d)

Meet the Author

David Mitchell

David Mitchell is the award-winning and bestselling author of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Black Swan Green, Cloud Atlas, Number9Dream, and Ghostwritten. Twice shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Mitchell was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time in 2007. With KA Yoshida, Mitchell co-translated from the Japanese the international bestselling memoir The Reason I Jump. He lives in Ireland with his wife and two children.

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Read an Excerpt

Thursday, 7th November—

Beyond the Indian hamlet, upon a forlorn strand, I happened on a trail of recent footprints. Through rotting kelp, sea cocoa-nuts & bamboo, the tracks led me to their maker, a White man, his trowzers & Pea-jacket rolled up, sporting a kempt beard & an outsized Beaver, shoveling & sifting the cindery sand with a teaspoon so intently that he noticed me only after I had hailed him from ten yards away. Thus it was, I made the acquaintance of Dr. Henry Goose, surgeon to the London nobility. His nationality was no surprise. If there be any eyrie so desolate, or isle so remote, that one may there resort unchallenged by an Englishman, ’tis not down on any map I ever saw.

Had the doctor misplaced anything on that dismal shore? Could I render assistance? Dr. Goose shook his head, knotted loose his ’kerchief & displayed its contents with clear pride. “Teeth, sir, are the enameled grails of the quest in hand. In days gone by this Arcadian strand was a cannibals’ banqueting hall, yes, where the strong engorged themselves on the weak. The teeth, they spat out, as you or I would expel cherry stones. But these base molars, sir, shall be transmuted to gold & how? An artisan of Piccadilly who fashions denture sets for the nobility pays handsomely for human gnashers. Do you know the price a quarter pound will earn, sir?”

I confessed I did not.

“Nor shall I enlighten you, sir, for ’tis a professional secret!” He tapped his nose. “Mr. Ewing, are you acquainted with Marchioness Grace of Mayfair? No? The better for you, for she is a corpse in petticoats. Five years have passed since this harridan besmirched my name, yes, with imputations that resulted in my being blackballed from Society.” Dr. Goose looked out to sea. “My peregrinations began in that dark hour.”

I expressed sympathy with the doctor’s plight.

“I thank you, sir, I thank you, but these ivories”—he shook his ’kerchief—“are my angels of redemption. Permit me to elucidate. The Marchioness wears dental fixtures fashioned by the afore- mentioned doctor. Next yuletide, just as that scented She-Donkey is addressing her Ambassadors’ Ball, I, Henry Goose, yes, I shall arise & declare to one & all that our hostess masticates with cannibals’ gnashers! Sir Hubert will challenge me, predictably, ‘Furnish your evidence,’ that boor shall roar, ‘or grant me satisfaction!’ I shall declare, ‘Evidence, Sir Hubert? Why, I gathered your mother’s teeth myself from the spittoon of the South Pacific! Here, sir, here are some of their fellows!’ & fling these very teeth into her tortoiseshell soup tureen & that, sir, that will grant me my satisfaction! The twittering wits will scald the icy Marchioness in their news sheets & by next season she shall be fortunate to receive an invitation to a Poorhouse Ball!”

In haste, I bade Henry Goose a good day. I fancy he is a Bedlamite.

Friday, 8th November—

In the rude shipyard beneath my window, work progresses on the jibboom, under Mr. Sykes’s directorship. Mr. Walker, Ocean Bay’s sole taverner, is also its principal timber merchant & he brags of his years as a master shipbuilder in Liverpool. (I am now versed enough in Antipodese etiquette to let such unlikely truths lie.) Mr. Sykes told me an entire week is needed to render the Prophet- ess “Bristol fashion.” Seven days holed up in the Musket seems a grim sentence, yet I recall the fangs of the banshee tempest & the mariners lost o’erboard & my present misfortune feels less acute.

I met Dr. Goose on the stairs this morning & we took breakfast together. He has lodged at the Musket since middle October after voyaging hither on a Brazilian merchantman, Namorados, from Feejee, where he practiced his arts in a mission. Now the doctor awaits a long-overdue Australian sealer, the Nellie, to convey him to Sydney. From the colony he will seek a position aboard a passenger ship for his native London.

My judgment of Dr. Goose was unjust & premature. One must be cynical as Diogenes to prosper in my profession, but cynicism can blind one to subtler virtues. The doctor has his eccentricities & recounts them gladly for a dram of Portuguese pisco (never to excess), but I vouchsafe he is the only other gentleman on this latitude east of Sydney & west of Valparaiso. I may even compose for him a letter of introduction for the Partridges in Sydney, for Dr. Goose & dear Fred are of the same cloth.

Poor weather precluding my morning outing, we yarned by the peat fire & the hours sped by like minutes. I spoke at length of Tilda & Jackson & also my fears of “gold fever” in San Francisco. Our conversation then voyaged from my hometown to my recent notarial duties in New South Wales, thence to Gibbon, Malthus & Godwin via Leeches & Locomotives. Attentive conversation is an emollient I lack sorely aboard the Prophetess & the doctor is a veritable polymath. Moreover, he possesses a handsome army of scrimshandered chessmen whom we shall keep busy until either the Prophetess’s departure or the Nellie’s arrival.

Saturday, 9th November—

Sunrise bright as a silver dollar. Our schooner still looks a woeful picture out in the Bay. An Indian war canoe is being careened on the shore. Henry & I struck out for “Banqueter’ s Beach” in holy-day mood, blithely saluting the maid who labors for Mr. Walker. The sullen miss was hanging laundry on a shrub & ignored us. She has a tinge of black blood & I fancy her mother is not far removed from the jungle breed.

As we passed below the Indian hamlet, a “humming” aroused our curiosity & we resolved to locate its source. The settlement is circumvallated by a stake fence, so decayed that one may gain ingress at a dozen places. A hairless bitch raised her head, but she was toothless & dying & did not bark. An outer ring of ponga huts (fashioned from branches, earthen walls & matted ceilings) groveled in the lees of “grandee” dwellings, wooden structures with carved lintel pieces & rudimentary porches. In the hub of this village, a public flogging was under way. Henry & I were the only two Whites present, but three castes of spectating Indians were demarked. The chieftain occupied his throne, in a feathered cloak, while the tattooed gentry & their womenfolk & children stood in attendance, numbering some thirty in total. The slaves, duskier & sootier than their nut-brown masters & less than half their number, squatted in the mud. Such inbred, bovine torpor! Pockmarked & pustular with haki-haki, these wretches watched the punishment, making no response but that bizarre, beelike “hum.” Empathy or condemnation, we knew not what the noise signified. The whip master was a Goliath whose physique would daunt any frontier prizefighter. Lizards mighty & small were tattooed over every inch of the savage’s musculature:—his pelt would fetch a fine price, though I should not be the man assigned to relieve him of it for all the pearls of O-hawaii! The piteous prisoner, hoarfrosted with many harsh years, was bound naked to an A-frame. His body shuddered with each excoriating lash, his back was a vellum of bloody runes, but his insensible face bespoke the serenity of a martyr already in the care of the Lord.

I confess, I swooned under each fall of the lash. Then a peculiar thing occurred. The beaten savage raised his slumped head, found my eye & shone me a look of uncanny, amicable knowing! As if a theatrical performer saw a long-lost friend in the Royal Box and, undetected by the audience, communicated his recognition. A tattooed “blackfella” approached us & flicked his nephrite dagger to indicate that we were unwelcome. I inquired after the nature of the prisoner’s crime. Henry put his arm around me. “Come, Adam, a wise man does not step betwixt the beast & his meat.”

Sunday, 10th November—

Mr. Boerhaave sat amidst his cabal of trusted ruffians like Lord Anaconda & his garter snakes. Their Sabbath “celebrations” downstairs had begun ere I had risen. I went in search of shaving water & found the tavern swilling with Tars awaiting their turn with those poor Indian girls whom Walker has ensnared in an impromptu bordello. (Rafael was not in the debauchers’ number.)

I do not break my Sabbath fast in a whorehouse. Henry’s sense of repulsion equaled to my own, so we forfeited breakfast (the maid was doubtless being pressed into alternative service) & set out for the chapel to worship with our fasts unbroken.

We had not gone two hundred yards when, to my consternation, I remembered this journal, lying on the table in my room at the Musket, visible to any drunken sailor who might break in. Fearful for its safety (& my own, were Mr. Boerhaave to get his hands on it), I retraced my steps to conceal it more artfully. Broad smirks greeted my return & I assumed I was “the devil being spoken of,” but I learned the true reason when I opened my door:—to wit, Mr. Boerhaave’s ursine buttocks astraddle his Blackamoor Goldilocks in my bed in flagrante delicto! Did that devil Dutchman apologize? Far from it! He judged himself the injured party & roared, “Get ye hence, Mr. Quillcock! or by God’s B——d, I shall snap your tricksy Yankee nib in two!”

I snatched my diary & clattered downstairs to a riotocracy of merriment & ridicule from the White savages there gathered. I remonstrated to Walker that I was paying for a private room & I expected it to remain private even during my absence, but that scoundrel merely offered a one-third discount on “a quarter-hour’s gallop on the comeliest filly in my stable!” Disgusted, I retorted that I was a husband & a father! & that I should rather die than abase my dignity & decency with any of his poxed whores! Walker swore to “decorate my eyes” if I called his own dear daughters “whores” again. One toothless garter snake jeered that if possessing a wife & a child was a single virtue, “Why, Mr. Ewing, I be ten times more virtuous than you be!” & an unseen hand emptied a tankard of sheog over my person. I withdrew ere the liquid was swapped for a more obdurate missile.

The chapel bell was summoning the God-fearing of Ocean Bay & I hurried thitherwards, where Henry waited, trying to forget the recent foulnesses witnessed at my lodgings. The chapel creaked like an old tub & its congregation numbered little more than the digits of two hands, but no traveler ever quenched his thirst at a desert oasis more thankfully than Henry & I gave worship this morning. The Lutheran founder has lain at rest in his chapel’s cemetery these ten winters past & no ordained successor has yet ventured to claim captaincy of the altar. Its denomination, therefore, is a “rattle bag” of Christian creeds. Biblical passages were read by that half of the congregation who know their let- ters & we joined in a hymn or two nominated by rota. The “steward” of this demotic flock, one Mr. D’Arnoq, stood beneath the modest cruciform & besought Henry & me to participate in likewise manner. Mindful of my own salvation from last week’s tempest, I nominated Luke ch. 8, “And they came to him, & awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then he arose, & rebuked the wind & the raging of the water: & they ceased, & there was a calm.”

Henry recited from Psalm the Eighth, in a voice as sonorous as any schooled dramatist: “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou has put all things under his feet: all sheep & oxen, yea & the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air & the fish of the sea & whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.”

No organist played a Magnificat but the wind in the flue chimney, no choir sang a Nunc Dimittis but the wuthering gulls, yet I fancy the Creator was not displeazed. We resembled more the Early Christians of Rome than any later Church encrusted with arcana & gemstones. Communal prayer followed. Parishioners prayed ad lib for the eradication of potato blight, mercy on a dead infant’s soul, blessing upon a new fishing boat, &c. Henry gave thanks for the hospitality shown us visitors by the Christians of Chatham Isle. I echoed these sentiments & sent a prayer for Tilda, Jackson & my father-in-law during my extended absence.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 398 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 399 Customer Reviews
  • 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.

    102 out of 116 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!

    47 out of 51 people found this review helpful.

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

    41 out of 47 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.

    28 out of 35 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.

    27 out of 31 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.

    22 out of 30 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.

    18 out of 37 people found this review helpful.

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  • 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!

    17 out of 42 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 18 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 20 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 33 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 10 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 12 people found this review helpful.

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