The narrative turns back to young Belk's career as a bomb disposal specialist during the war. When Belk witnesses a bizarre balloon explosive kill several soldiers at Fort Cronkhite outside of San Francisco, he is summarily shipped to Alaska to join a top secret military unit dedicated to uncovering the mystery of what turn out to be Japanese balloon bombs (Callanan based this story on an actual Japanese program that was largely covered up by the US government during the war). Belk's commanding officer, Captain Gurley--a cross between Conrad's Colonel Kurz and Melville's Ahab--is a disgraced former OSS man with a Princeton pedigree and an artificial leg. The leg is a permanent reminder of his failure to defuse his first balloon bomb, and it fuels an obsession to discover and collect all such bombs in the future. In possession of a captured leather-bound atlas filled with maps and neat Japanese script, Gurley is also convinced that the Japanese are about to launch far more deadly cargo on the balloons, perhaps spies or plague virus. Meanwhile, Belk and Gurley become embroiled in an explosive love triangle with the local fortune teller, Lily, a woman with an uncanny ability to read people's lives but unable to understand her own destructive passions or escape her demons.
In unfolding this complicated story, Callan manages to keep the development of Belk, Lily, and Gurney in an almost perfect balance with the telling of a well-paced and compelling war-time narrative. Callanan enriches the novel with details of 1940s bomb disposal procedures and provides a thorough anatomy of Japanese balloon bombs. He also establishes Alaska--a place seemingly caught between American and Yup'ik culture--as a space for American magical realism, where spirit animals and Catholic mysticism can cohabitate. As a first effort, The Cloud Atlas is all silver lining. --Patrick O'Kelley --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
I think this is a good book if you like this genre. I was just badly informed. I thought this was a book with suspense and action (I mean, it is about defusing mysterious balloon... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Emme
The book, like so many I've tried to read, is extremely well written. It takes the reader to Alaska, the Alaska of the 1940's, torn by war but still inescapably a frozen wasteland. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Debbie
I bought it bcs I was looking at the other Cloud Atlas. I'm glad I did. Beautiful poetic prose, but not heavy handed. A really enjoyable read.Published 6 months ago by Mark S Novak
While the book explores an interesting and often unknown topic with the backdrop of an Alaskan war time love triangle, it often becomes muddled and confusing in detail and... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Geoff Plantagenet
If you did not see this film in a theater it is best seen on a large (70" or better?) TV with a nice snifter of brandy or, perhaps, a cup of your favorite tea or coffee. Read morePublished 7 months ago by David N
Like many others here I was aiming for the David Mitchell book but I am happy to have stumbled across this gem. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Miss Moon
I enjoyed this book. I usually use library books but this book was in demand and I wanted more than 2 weeks to finish it. Much better than the movie, of course!Published 8 months ago by dancinmypants
Interest bgook. Actually read it because I wanted to watch the movie, but heard it would be better to read the book firsdt, so... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Kermit