- Paperback: 528 pages
- Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (August 17, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0375507256
- ISBN-13: 978-0375507250
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2,291 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,034 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Cloud Atlas: A Novel Paperback – August 17, 2004
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From 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From 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?"
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
Top customer reviews
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The structure of Cloud Atlas involves six nested stories, each covering a different time period and type of writing. Each story is only told halfway, starting with Adam Ewing's pacific travelogue in 1850, then going to Robert Frobisher's period piece in 1930's Europe, Luisa Rey's action thriller in 1973, Timothy Cavendish's 'ghastly ordeal' in the early 2000's, Somni's sci-fi stry from 2144. and Zachary's more mystic island life tale from the far future. Each of these stories is written wonderful prose, who infuses humor, suspense, and horror as the plot calls for. Once all six stories reach the halfway point, they are finished in reverse order.
All six of these stories are quite good in their own right. That isn't to say they don't have problems. The chief issue is pacing, with many of the stories feeling like they would have been better if given another 40 pages. Even with this, I would likely give each individual story a four-star rating, with my favorites earning a five on their own.
However, it is the interplay between the stories that really put Cloud Atlas over the top. Like the Bone Clocks, all of these stories take place in the same universe, and connections abound, some obvious, a fair few more subtle. Themes are developed across the entire read, and the end result is a thing of beauty. I would recommend this book to any reader.
But I gave it 4 stars because I was interested in all the stories and it clearly is well written. It really is a 5 star book but I only got 4 stars out of it.
This is a thinking person's book and story, and thus isn't for everyone. But the mastery of the writing is so highly evocative that you "see" the book as you read it. Incredibly deep characters, mesmerizing continuity of theme (which some might argue about, given that the book is written as segments contributing to a "writ large" story), the ability to make you laugh, cry and inevitably sigh, "yes."
I had never heard of David Mitchell before reading this book. But it only took me 500+ pages to realize what an important writer and artistic voice he is.
I am a strong supporter of public libraries, and have downloaded Kindle versions of books to determine if I will actually buy the book. In the case of Cloud Atlas, it was a no-brainer. I finished Cloud Atlas today and immediately downloaded "Ghostwritten" from my local library. I suspect it won't be long and my Kindle cloud will have all of his works in it.
If you think and therefore read, and read to think, Cloud Atlas will keep your mind whirling. It's a must-read piece of literature. It's a truly gripping story.
What is special about Cloud Atlas is it's ambition. It's complex and uses a twisting tale to illustrate the concept of universal truth through a conscious universe. Simply put... all things are connected thus "souls", people, frames of time, any experienced realities are connected to others. The winding story attempts to show some of the causality of such an idea, but mainly focuses on the lived lives as subjects.
The book has plenty of flaws. But for a complex sci fi story, I don't think there are many better.
It all came together again in the last scenario, which returned to the first situation, a riff on the nature of humankind, how we treat each other and where our appetite for power and privilege will take us if we let it. That part is truly haunting and will stay with me for a long time. And that part is what makes this a great book, worthy of reading again and again. Like "1984" or "Brave New World." They missed the mark in not giving this the Mann Booker prize.
Most recent customer reviews
mazing read the idea of two soios always meeting again in diff times always intrigued me i Believe in it an these charatcters stories are great