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VINE VOICEon October 23, 2012
Okay, I do not always do well with the bestselling books, but friend insisted that I should read this one, because she loved it so much and I caved in.

I do admit that it took me a *very* long time to finish chapter one, I did not enjoy the story, the writing felt superb but boring, but I figured let me try again and again. So after few times I finished it and oh my goodness I loved what followed.

I do not get the criticism that the stories are connected by superficial connections like "birthmarks" only. Of course I cannot get into the writer's mind and know for sure whether he meant these stories to be one collection when he wrote them, BUT what I do see is plenty of unifying themes to tie this work together as one - exploration of different kinds of slavery of body and soul, corporative power, playing with the tropes of genre fiction in the literary manner. I thought the work does read as one story even if what we have is several stories.

Really loved how the writing changes from one story to another, truly the work of the master IMO.

That connects me to the only niggle I have - I really struggled with the writing in the centerpiece story. I am an ESL reader and phonetically described accent just gets to be hard to read for me.
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on January 22, 2013
If you've read the unabridged Les Miserables, you know that the book was very very thick (actually several books put together) and there is relatively little story. Victor Hugo saw great injustices in the French system and wanted to educate the public about it in hope of changing the system. Essentially, it's an in depth, lengthy political commentary with just enough of a story to hook people.

Cloud Atlas is about humanity and exploitation as well as the fight against being exploited. It loosely strings together stories over centuries and I think that it was very well done. I watched the film first and thought that was the most ambitious film I could remember seeing. It differs somewhat from the book, but as David Mitchell himself said, a movie shouldn't be an audio book with pictures. This is a film and a book that made me want to talk about it in depth with others who had also experienced it...and yet I don't want to give it away by saying too much. I recommend reading it and watching it for yourself.
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on December 29, 2012
This was another book club book and for once I actually finished the book. My favorite parts were the futuristic sections and especially future Hawaii after `The Fall'. I liked that best because I do a fair amount of reading into the ancient past and what is interesting to me is the cyclical fall of civilization and empires from cycles of plague and cosmic catastrophe that have happened in the past. It is bound to happen again whether in our lifetimes or not. So to read the authors take on how the future unfolded through the eyes and story of an inhabitant of Hawaii was most entertaining. I didn't catch the exact meaning the author was trying to portray with life connections and if I hadn't read about the book because of the movie then I would have been even more in the dark on this aspect. Overall, not bad for fiction and I'll eventually get around to reading another book by the author. Recommended.
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on September 5, 2014
The novel has many extremely intelligent, smart, witty, immensely quotable and memorable parts but fails to somehow click to the extent whatever was possibly envisaged.
The writing is awesome. We have a scholarly, master author who is writing for us all, including the pulp fiction readers, and is still absolutely literary in the most conservative way. His bold adventure with six different story styles is executed flawlessly. The prose is littered with nuggets of beautiful quotes. The author has that uncanny ability to make profound statements with the fewest of words. And as he shows, in wholly different "types" of English.
All the individual stories are also engaging. Characters develop differently, quickly and comprehensively. Their interactions keep the tales moving. And, all this while the author toys with a variety of wit, intrigue, drama or whatever else that takes his fancy.
And of course, the most remarkable aspect is the innovative ways the book connects six stories spanning a few eras. Yet, it is the same experiment that does not fulfil the promise. In the end, the connection is not only tenuous with far less deeper meaning (reincarnation? the same old human ways?) than generally believed but also superfluous. The weaknesses - at least to this reader - rise to the surface and bubble over in the reverse chronology when even the lose ties binding them vanish. In the second half, the author is mostly providing the climaxes to the tales. In other words, the mirrored half is largely for the stylistic innovation it brings rather than for any real difference it makes to the overall story.
In the end, here is an author who is likely to be a commanding writer of the era over the coming years but it is unlikely that Cloud Atlas will be his masterpiece.
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on March 15, 2015
Saw the movie and had to read the book. Then I topped it off by listening to the audio book and re-watching the movie. All were created with great care and I am glad I took the time to revel in this work of art.
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on May 28, 2013
I bought this book because I had seen the movie *The Cloud Atlas.* I wanted to read the book on which it was based. This is not that book! The movie was based on the book of the almost identical title by David Mitchell. Still haven't gotten around to reading that one. By the time I figured out that I was reading the wrong book, I was completely engrossed. This is a fascinating read about a little-known WWII initiative, some interesting characters, and a bit of Inuit spritiualism. One of the most enjoyable mistakes I've made in a long time.
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on February 10, 2012
Last night I finally finished `Cloud Atlas'. I say finally, because I started it over a month ago. My progress was initially good, whipping through nearly half of it over the course of a few days. Then my interest started to wane, Christmas and all its trappings arrived, and the book got put on hold. Once I settled down to finish it, nearly a month later, the pages turned easily enough, but I can see why my interest started to sputter out when it did.

Oh, that's not to say `Cloud Atlas' isn't a good book. It is; the writing is brilliant, the characters and settings and style are all vivid and engaging, the multiple genres are all well executed (although sometimes it seems an exercise in look-how-talented-I-am by the author. What can I say? He is very talented). I am entirely unsurprised to see it's been nominated for awards left, right, and centre. What this book lacks is an overarching plot. Call me old-fashioned, but I like a good plot in my books.

It makes me a little uneasy, confessing to this opinion. After all, who am I to criticise? If I'm insanely lucky I might one day write a book half as good as `Cloud Atlas'. And criticising something so obviously `literary' and `deep' probably marks me as someone too thick to `get it'.

Maybe there was a plot, maybe I just missed it. I probably would have felt less unsatisfied by this book if there'd been a description on it somewhere that read something like this:

"This book is a collection of loosely connected short-stories with common themes. The first half of the book comprises the first half of each short story, moving forward in chronological order. At the mid-point the second-half of the stories starts to unfold, moving backwards in time."

If I had known this was a book of short stories when I started it, I wouldn't have wasted so much time and energy waiting and searching for the overarching plot.

I did like the device of having to wait for the second half of the book to get the finale of each short story - it certainly heightened the suspense and anticipation. However, as I was convinced that the short stories would all converge in the second half of the book into one glorious climax, hopefully involving time-travel and reincarnation, I was a little taken aback when each story stayed distinct and the book thus ended with a fizzle rather than a bang.

My favourite short story would have to be the penultimate sci-fi flavoured one, featuring a world of 'fabricants' (human clones) who are slaves designed to fill menial service roles. I wish there had been a whole book about that world, rather than a single glimpse.

Overall, this is a very well-written book. If you like 'puzzles', good writing, 'literary' books and don't mind switching genres willy-nilly then this is probably one for you. If you're a fan of the more conventional tale, it may not be your cup of tea.
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on December 24, 2012
Cloud Atlas is the most amazing book I have read in years. I bought it after seeing the movie which is also amazing and so deserving of all the awards it isn't going to be nominated for. Following six stories taking place from the early 19th century to two times in the future, it is complex, well-constructed so you don't get lost in the complexity, and beautifully written in six very different styles and languages (all different versions of English so don't panic). I bought the book so that I can read it closely and follow threads through the six different stories. It will be with me a long, long time. I can't think of a book I would recommend more highly.
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on December 12, 2012
This book is an incredible achievement. A bold, clever, staggering work. Working through numerous times and genres, from the colonial to the post-apocalyptic, it explores ideas of humanity, fate, politics, philosophy, art and much more.

Mitchell's changing voice in each part is flawless. His writing is on another level.

To be fair, the sci-fi/post apoc sections are not great compared to some truly great SF out there, and the noir detective thriller section seems to drag on with a few too many double-crosses, but in the greater scheme of things, they do contribute to a bold and inventive novel.

The story of Timothy Cavendish was brilliant - the first half is the scariest horror story I've read in ages. The ridiculous conclusion is hilarious.

The Frobisher letters are just amazing. The voice and the character are superbly drawn. The Cavendish and Frobisher parts are definitely my favourite stories.

A great book.
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on March 10, 2014
In the wake of the movie, reviews of this amazing novel seem to fall into two categories -- those who bought the book because they loved the film (and generally hated the book) and those who saw the film because they loved the book (and generally hated the film).

The film is a fine achievement, somehow approximating in some distant way to this sprawling, bewildering, endlessly surprising novel, but ambitious as it is, it only ever achieves an approximation. The book is far more than just a concatenation of adventures, and the film cannot even begin to adumbrate the delight David Mitchell takes (and offers the reader) in linguistic fireworks.

The story is told in many voices, stretching from the past into the remote future. Almost all the narrators are unreliable, either because they are too naive to know what they are really describing, or because they are deliberately obscuring the truth for their own purposes.

This requires the reader to interpret, fill in the gaps, undertake detective work, turn back to check details, read passages again -- in short, participate actively in the glorious linguistic and narrative flights which Mitchell leads us on.

And when I say "many voices," that means English in a dazzling variety of dialects.

If you think you would enjoy reading something as stimulating as this, then don't hesitate, buy now.

If you are expecting to sit back and be entertained by mere sci-fi, you may be disappointed. But buy it anyhow.
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