Customer Review

485 of 512 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A profound page-turner, September 25, 2004
This review is from: Cloud Atlas: A Novel (Paperback)
Cloud Atlas is a series of six interlocked tales - encompassing a wide array of eras, locales, and genres -in which the protagonist in each story is impacted in some significant manner by the tale told in the preceding section (or the following section, as the book's tales wind out in reverse order in the second half).

So...the stories we tell, and the sense we make of things, have meaning. I'm not sure if Mitchell intended this a straightforward(ish) reincarnation tale, or if the larger theme has something to do with the idea that the stories we tell survive us, perhaps at least partially define what it means to be human, or enable us to retain some vestige of humanity in the face of forces (imperialism, slavery, corportization, or just our own worst impulses) designed to strip that away. The centerpiece of the book does take place in a future world in which civilization has been literally reduced to the ability to remember, and relay that rememberance forward in a sort of verbal folklore.

This is a good, moving, well-written, and entertaining book. One's patience for it is probably dependent on one's degree of exposure to genre fiction - I think someone approaching this from the perspective of classic "literary fiction" might find it off-putting - part of the fun here is the manner in which Mitchell plays with the tropes and cliche of various genres (sci-fi, hardboiled crime fiction, belles lettres, etc) across the six tales. That said, there's lots of "high literary" enjoyment to be had here - the writing is stellar, and there's lots of good thematic linkage (boats, bridges, musical themes, etc.) that add quite a bit of depth.

I would also like to dispel the notion that this is a "difficult" book in the style of David Foster Wallace, Thomas Pynchon, etc. It is just extraordinarily fun to read. The novel's overarching themes are challenging and profound, but it is also a page-turner of the highest order, and in that sense a real celebration of the various genres it exploits and parodies. Highly recommended.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 7, 2011 11:39:07 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 7, 2011 11:56:08 AM PDT
Did anyone else find peculiarities in the American edition? Such as the words "airplanes" (p.160) and "canceled" (p.168) used by a fictional Briton in a book by an Englishman? Have the publishers mucked the spelling about?

And you don't get to Dover from Victoria Station via Sussex (pp.44-46)...

Posted on Jul 27, 2012 4:27:14 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 27, 2012 4:28:36 PM PDT
I don't really understand why you would use DFW as an example of "difficult". Pynchon I get, I've tried and failed to read Gravity's Rainbow on more than one occasion, and even with the aid of companion book to explain it I can't make it very far. But other than being long, I don't find anything about Infinite Jest to be at all hard to understand, follow, or read. I've bought something like a half-dozen copies to give to friends, and those that haven't been put off by the length have had no problem at all reading (and loving) it. I guess The Broom of the System would fall in this category, but then, no one thinks of his first novel when they talk about him.

It's a minor nit, and I like your review, but I guess I just wouldn't want anyone to be put off reading IJ by the notion that it's somehow difficult to read.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 20, 2012 4:36:59 PM PDT
There is some black patois in the Infinite Jest that I simply could not get through. And I live in Chicago, not exactly removed from urban talk. I don't know what DFW was doing but the spelling or something was impossible to read and, frankly, since I was no getting much else from the book, this caused me to quit reading. Before you dismiss me as some kind of middle-American, easy-reading Grisham lover, I adored Cloud Atlas and didn't find this difficult reading at all. So, I don't know, I guess, it's all a matter of taste when it comes to DFW, btw.

Posted on Mar 8, 2014 7:21:04 PM PST
Many thanks to the original reviewer, S. BUSH. This is one of the two reviews that convinced me to read Cloud Atlas, and I am heartily glad I did.
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S. Bush
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Location: Austin, Texas USA

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