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By the New York Times bestselling author of The Bone Clocks | Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize

A postmodern visionary and one of the leading voices in twenty-first-century fiction, David Mitchell combines flat-out adventure, a Nabokovian love of puzzles, a keen eye for character, and a taste for mind-bending, philosophical and scientific speculation in the tradition of Umberto Eco, Haruki Murakami, and Philip K. Dick. The result is brilliantly original fiction as profound as it is playful. In this groundbreaking novel, an influential favorite among a new generation of writers, Mitchell explores with daring artistry fundamental questions of reality and identity.

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, contrives 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, with dazzling virtuosity, 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 end even 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.

As wild as a videogame, as mysterious as a Zen koan, Cloud Atlas is an unforgettable tour de force that, like its incomparable author, has transcended its cult classic status to become a worldwide phenomenon.

Praise for Cloud Atlas
 
“[David] Mitchell is, clearly, a genius. He writes as though at the helm of some perpetual dream machine, can evidently do anything, and his ambition is written in magma across this novel’s every page.”The New York Times Book Review
 
“One of those how-the-holy-hell-did-he-do-it? modern classics that no doubt is—and should be—read by any student of contemporary literature.”—Dave Eggers
 
“Wildly entertaining . . . a head rush, both action-packed and chillingly ruminative.”People
 
“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.”—Michael Chabon
 
Cloud Atlas ought to make [Mitchell] famous on both sides of the Atlantic as a writer whose fearlessness is matched by his talent.”The Washington Post Book World
 
“Thrilling . . . One of the biggest joys in Cloud Atlas is watching Mitchell sashay from genre to genre without a hitch in his dance step.”Boston Sunday Globe
 
“Grand and elaborate . . . [Mitchell] creates a world and language at once foreign and strange, yet strikingly familiar and intimate.”Los Angeles Times


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Published: Random House Publishing Group on
ISBN: 9780307373571
List price: $22.95
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Book drags on. The stories are pretty good, but the last one kept dragging on and on. The movie looks more interesting than the book!
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kind of brilliant, kind of irritating. Very amusing set pieces in places, but the conceit and his showoffy cleverness got really tiresome. Since then I read 2 more of his books--I'd heard he was so brilliant I thought I'd give him another chance. I don't disagree that he's brilliant, but I also find him annoying and too much into his cleverly constructed chinese boxes. His other books they were all similar in that way, so I am now officially DONE with David MItchell!more
Wonderful, but got a little didactic and moralistic at the end. Mitchell achieves a lot of what I think Atwood was going for in The Blind Assassin at least as far the structure and denouement. Time is a coil.more
Falls ever-so-slightly shy of the magnum opus for which I feel that he was aiming.Mitchell does a great job of getting inside the head of an exceptional variety of characters and imagining and portraying ancient, new, and imagined societies and situations in gripping detail.The pieces don't fit together quite as well as I wish they did, but I still recommend this book highly to all, and will probably read it for a third time in another ten years.more
recommended for: those who enjoy reading different genres and thought provoking booksThis book takes a very dim view of human history and of human beings, although in each story challenges to this viewpoint do happen.This book consists of what I thought of as 6 novellas or long short stories. They’re all interconnected into one big novel. The first five stories, all in chronological order, are told in part and after the sixth and final story, the rest of the book goes backward and finishes up the first five tales to their conclusions, so that story one starts and finishes the book. Even though the stories have overlap, they all each stand on their own and are self-contained.story 1: Adam Ewing = historical fictionstory 2: Robert Frosbisher = historical fictionstory 3: Luisa Rey = a “basically in modern times” detective pulp fictionstory 4: Timothy Cavendish = a “basically in modern times” farcestory 5: Sonmi-451 = speculative fictionstory 6: Zach’ry and Meronym = speculative fictionMy favorite stories were 5 and 4 and 1. I liked 2 also. Number 3 was okay. Number 6 was difficult for me to get through, but I admit it added to the whole, in fact was the crux of the story I suppose.Not only do the genres of the stories vary, but the style of writing for each differs greatly too.One of the characters in each of the six stories has an identical birthmark. I think the author was conveying that they were all reincarnations of each other. So, one might argue this entire book is speculative fiction, or a spiritual book perhaps.I don’t believe in reincarnation; I looked at the commonality of the birthmark in a very different way. I think of it as representing the human nature and how it doesn’t change over time and circumstances.In these stories, the world shown is a predatory world. There are exceptions but overall human tyranny, especially of “the other” is shown. Many horrors of the human condition are depicted, as is the dismal record (and proposed future) of humanity. What these six stories show, better than a single story could, is how humans are doomed to repeat themselves. Their plight is shown in a very bleak way. Luckily, each story also shows exceptions to that rule, times when people have acted in an exemplary manner.I found this book fascinating and not as depressing as its content would suggest. Books such as this, that use some gimmick, often make me feel stupid because I feel as though I’m missing some of the cleverness. Perhaps I did here, but I did not get confused by the stories or characters as I was afraid I would.Overall, I really enjoyed this book, except for story 6 which, for me, was mostly a chore to get through, that despite that it was a central and necessary portion of the book.I am glad that I finally read this. It had been on my to-read list for 3 1/2 years.more
Cloud Atlas is a collection of six seemingly unrelated vignettes, beginning with the story of an American Notary Public (apparently quite a prestigious position for the era) in the 19th century South Pacific seas. The stories proceed chronologically through the present day and into a post-apocalyptic future set in Hawaii. At that point, they reverse, revisit and complete the previously told stories.The technique used in the novel is certainly interesting, and given the proper set of stories and linchpins, could have been intriguing. However, the stories are, in fact, not related in any way and only tied together by the loosest of references. Therefore, what we have are six short stories (novellas) which are split in two. The absence of a unifying theme or common element actually works against the enjoyment of the stories. For example, the first story, involving the sea voyaging American Notary Public proceeds for roughly 40 pages before ending mid-sentence. Four hundred pages later it takes up again mid-sentence. With the exception of the final two stories, which are begun and finished relatively close together because of the nature of the serpentine order, the reader is tasked to recall the names, locations and fact situations that existed and were then abandoned hundreds of pages earlier.I found the stories themselves to be quite well written and enjoyable. The fifth, focusing on a dystopian Korean society in the not distant future, featuring a sub class of manufactured drones, some of which are attaining increased sentience, to be brilliant. The final vignette, set in post-apocalyptic Hawaii, I found to be irritating, due to the pidgin English employed. It is as if nuclear Armageddon will somehow convert the survivors into back woods hillbillies as it relates to the English language.In any event, the stories were entertaining and at times compelling. The technique used by the author detracted from my enjoyment of the work, and given the absence of any unifying element, raises the question of what he hoped to achieve, other than originality. My advice is to read the first half of the first story, and when it switches to story number two, go to the back of the book and find where the story continues. Read each story in its entirety, chronologically. I cannot imagine what would be forfeited using such a strategy, and you’ll enjoy the first three or four stories more fully.more
I really enjoyed Cloud Atlas. I knew about the 'matrushka doll' plot beforehand, which helped: if I hadn't, I'd probably have found it frustrating, which is partly what keeps me from giving the book five stars. The structure is a little gimmicky, but patience with it is rewarding, ultimately, I think. My favourite story was undoubtedly Sonmi's. My favourite feature of the book was the use of period-appropriate language -- the way each piece seemed to belong perfectly to the world it illustrated: Sonmi and the branding, Zachry's corrupted but recognisable language... It did render it hard to read, particularly in Sloosha's Crossin', but I loved the attempt at following language-change. I liked the interconnectedness of each story, and trying to follow the parallels. I think this is probably best read with that in mind, knowing what to expect, otherwise it'd be very frustrating -- no conclusions anywhere.

I found this quite slow, actually, thinking about it. Normally I'd devour books, but this was quite hard to just devour. Worth taking the time over, though.more
If you've read other reviews, then you know the way the book is constructed: six narratives in different times and places from the 19th century through a post-apocalyptic future spin out from the earliest to the latest and then back down again. As author Mitchell explains it, the construct is an attempt to illustrate what it would look like if a mirror were placed at the end of a book and you continued into a second half that took you back to the beginning.So the question is, how do the individual stories stand up, and do the connections work and enhance the overall storyline? For me, the individual stories were variable. The first, featuring Adam Ewing, a San Francisco lawyer on a difficult 19th-century ocean journey that shows him the evils of slavery and oppression of native people by colonizers, is overly earnest and, in its second part, marred by an unbelievable plot twist.After the first part of the Ewing story, it's a pleasure to move on to the tart comedy of the 1930s tale of Robert Frobisher, a ne'er-do-well young musician with an omnivore's sexual tastes. Then there's an unexpected jump to a crusading journalist in 1970s California named Luisa Rey. This story is written in a thriller style, as Luisa attempts to uncover corporate wrongdoing at a nuclear power plant.Back to acerbic comedy, British style, as we move to the 1990s and Tim Cavendish, a struggling publisher whose life is transformed when one of his authors commits a spectacular public murder. The fifth and sixth stories are completely different; one set in a 22nd-century authoritarian corporate-controlled state (apparently Korea) where people live to consume and all real and practical work is performed by replicants, and the other in a far future post-apocalyptic Hawaii, where the same evils of slavery and oppression from the Adam Ewing story seem to be beginning yet again.While there is some intriguing storytelling, the preachiness is often annoying and the messaging downright ham-fisted. Corporations, materialism, racism: all bad; thanks, got it. Is that all there is? Well, no. There is also a vague suggestion that the protagonist in each story is a transmuted soul from the previous tale(s). But this theme isn't developed and its point is never made clear. Is it that souls can change over time? Well, maybe so, if you believe in reincarnation, but nothing is made of this. So the connections between the stories end up being tenuous and not particularly compelling. Each storyline just evaporates into the next. The connection ends up being Mitchell's oft-repeated lesson that human beings' natural striving makes us civilized, but ultimately destroys us. For me, that was a lukewarm proposition to float these stories on.I had a bigger problem with the bad guys in the book. I'll try to talk about that without being spoiler-y. In sum, the bad guys are just too over the top and do things that don't make any sense in their context. A man is imprisoned and abused in a nursing home in a fashion that is inexplicable if the operators wanted to stay out of prison, let alone keep operating. Executives in a corporation go on a killing spree to avoid a story coming out, but they go after their multiple targets in spectacularly sloppy and attention-getting ways. Another bad buy decides to fleece a victim without knowing what assets the victim is carrying. That would be fine if the fleecing was a quickie job, but this one requires a dangerous journey, a lengthy time period and risky methodology. These aspects of the plot required way too much of a suspension of disbelief and made serious stories just seem silly.The expectations built in round one of each of the six stories were dashed by each story's round two, and the letdown feeling just increased with each successive resolution.more
I am not sure what I think. Initially, I loved it. Then, I really didn't like it. Then, thinking about the book made me irritable. Then, Thinking about the book made me feel like a totally less than evolved reader. Then, I loved it again. The reading wasn't as challenging as I thought it would be - given all the ink spilled about this book, but the playing with style, particularly during the mid-portion of the book, was enough to make one feel wobbly and unsure. 3.5 stars for now but I will continue to think on this story.more
reads like a mash up of calvino, orwell, and asimov. unbelievably, deeply, satisfying! political, philosophical, suspenseful, grand, epic, and then some! became a little too preachy during the last few pages for my taste, but even that couldn't overshadow my fun :) i wont be watching the movie ;Pmore
This is a very impressive book. I didn't think it was quite as good as it was impressive, but I can't deny it... I'm impressed.The book is a number of short stories of which all but the last are interrupted in the middle. Once the last short story is finished, the book makes its way back through the end of the stories. As it turns out, all of the stories are somehow connected.What impressed me the most about the book was how incredibly different, yet very well done, the short stories were. An unfortunate consequence of this was that I found myself liking some of the stories very much indeed, and getting a bit bored by others. The links between the stories are mostly rather clever and very well done, but become somewhat tenuous on a few occasions.Overall, I really liked almost exactly four sixths of this book. And one of the sixths, a story set in a future dystopia, left me wanting much more.I didn't quite love this book, but I really liked it. It made me think about things, covering serious issues such as politics, religion, morals, and so on, but didn't take itself too seriously, and also served up a bunch of good, irreverent, fun.more
Cloud Atlas's six 'nested' stories represent an interesting experiment in narrative form, and some parts of the book are enjoyable. I was amused by the Timothy Cavendish elder-rogue segments, and the Somni sci-fi story was competently executed, if derivative. But some of the book's other stories are rather flat, and I thought David Mitchell worked far too hard to shove his writerly virtuosity in his readers' faces. Yes, yes, very clever structure, David, but might I suggest in this case the book's parts are less than their sum? That is, Cloud Atlas's overarching concept overshadows the actual execution of its constituent stories. As I progressed through the book's movements, I found myself constantly wondering if I would be bothering with reading the story at hand if it were not interlinked with the others; my answer was generally 'no'. And since this is quite a long book, I find it difficult to recommend wholeheartedly; it's asking too much of the reader to plow through frequently mediocre storytelling in order to experience what is in essence a fairly straightforward narrative trick.more
I could probably turn out pages on how great this book was, and I may at some other time, but the gist would be that this book is both dazzlingly clever and dazzlingly human. It doesn't lose the characters for the structure, or the plot for the themes. It's a really, really good book that was also really, really fun to read, and that doesn't happen too often.more
This is one of the most ambitious books I've read in recent memory. The plot is built like a Russian doll -- subplots nested within subplots, in a very methodical way. Each subplot happens in a different period, and the writer really differentiates the language well, writing in a different register for each period.

This is an engaging read. It's got some historical fiction, some Sci-Fi, and lots of political commentary. Somewhere near the end it starts feeling just a tad didactic and too direct, but I still enjoyed it.more
Reading this after seeing the movie is .. weird. Some segments were used nearly unaltered in the film, and some were extensively adapted to fit the demands of the screen. I tended to enjoy the latter more in this book. Particularly the parts in Neo Seoul and Hawaii. After the brilliant cutting and interplay between story lines in the movie, the simple nesting in the book is a let down. Enjoyed the movie more, and I don't say that often.more
Ok, so i just come fresh from book club where we discussed this book. It seems like general opinion was how Mitchell mastered the different styles and also having 6 "stories" into one. To me this wasn't so amazing after having rea da lot of hispanic and latinamerican writers, which use this kind of narrative a lot.
So here's my opinion, he could have done SO much better and it seemed like a rewrite of "Brave New World" mixed with a little bit of "Treasure Island". He tries to be subtle about the topics he chooses, like religion, slavery, society, rape, sexual preferences and so on, but it's so very obvious that you can't take those away and have a story. Reading it was a bit of deja vú, with a little bit of "this is new... and just too long and boring". The parts that weren't a remix of older books, were a bit boring and a bit less cohesive with the rest of the story.
Long read, overall too much considering the content and the whole "I've read this with different character names elsewhere" feeling. Haven't seen the movie so I can't say "skip reading it and just watch the movie". I did like the stories as kind of stand alone, but the weaving and the pushing on the recurring topics was tiring. Maybe I'll read it again in a few years and like it better, from what I'm told, you find new things, yet I was surprised many had not seen all that I had seen (book club), I guess it's just that I'm used to this kind of writing and plot twists, so I know what to look for.more
This book kicks my ass. I love it. David Mitchell is that guy who is able to take all of that airy-fairy po-mo jargon and marry it with actual story to produce something worthwhile. The premise behind the book sounds pretentious as all heck, but, to me at least, it isn’t that at all. Mitchell just tells six, count ‘em six, great stories with real panache. This makes _Cloud Atlas_ sound more like a short story collection than a true novel, but Mitchell pulls off making this both by having all of the stories nested within each other, both structurally and temporally, with backwards and forwards references to each other throughout. It really is an impressive achievement.

On top of that is the fact that there is something here for just about everyone, the novel starts off with a couple of stories that could be classed as historical fiction, moves into a murder mystery, changes to tragic farce, and then ventures into pre and post-apocalyptic sci-fi. Some stories are better than others, but they are all well worth reading. Despite the differences between each of the stories there is an overall thematic arc of how horrible people can be to each other mingled with the hope we are still able to experience in the midst of this that Mitchell is playing with and he manages to find a wide variety of ways in which to explore it. He is able to pack the novel with tragedy, action, humour and thoughtfulness.

Details on the stories follow. I'm not sure how much these descriptions might give away important details to new readers, so I've marked them as spoilers just in case. We start off with the first person narration of a hapless notary in the South Pacific of the 1850’s who is caught in the snares of an unscrupulous con-man. This then moves to the story of a libertine composer in the early twentieth century who reads the account of the notary in a manuscript and is himself writing letters to a friend and former lover about his misadventures as amanuensis to an older composer as he is on the run from creditors. We then switch to the ‘novelisation’ of an investigative reporter trying to ferret out corporate greed and corruption at the instigation of the afore-mentioned friend and lover of the young composer who is now an old man. This in turn becomes the manuscript that lands on the desk of a vanity publisher on the run from his mob creditors as he falls into the clutches of an asylum-like old age home. His story becomes a cautionary tale seen in film by a near-future slave clone in Korea who testifies at her own execution. This then becomes a holographic relic held by a tribe of post-apocalyptic survivors in a Riddley Walker-like tale of hope and oppression.

Each tale, except for the central/final one, is cut in half only to continue where it left off in the latter part of the book. It’s an impressive structural achievement that is made more impressive by the thematic and narrative hooks that link all of these tales together. All in all I highly recommend this book. It manages to be both entertaining and enlightening in just about equal measure and never loses its sense of story in the name of literary tricks regardless of the obvious care with which it was designed.
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This seems to be a book that the reader either loves or hates. This is the impression I get from reading the reviews. I guess I missed the point of the book because 3/4 of the way through I gave up. This is a rare thing for me, to get so far into a book and then put it down saying 'No More'!more
Cloud Atlas is David Mitchell's third book. It follows a similar pattern to his book Ghostwritten (which I read last year). Cloud Atlas is a series of stories, each narrated by a distinct invidial living in a different place and time. Each of the sections of the book is some kind of retelling - a diary, letter, interviews, a movie, etc. Each of the stories intersect each other in an obvious way (and a not quite so obvious way that I can't reveal without giving away the book.)

The book begins with the Diary of Adam Ewing, an American notary living in the Chatham isles in the mid-1800s. Then we skip to Belgium in the 1920s with a series of letters from Robert Frobisher, a bi-sexual composer, to his friend Rufus Sixsmith. The third part is the story of Louisa Rey, a reporter in the 1970s who stumbles across problems with a nuclear reactors in Buenas Yerba, California. From there, the story takes us to Timothy Cavendish living in Britian in the present time. The next story is from Somni-495, a fabricant living in Korea in the not-so-distant future. Her story is in the form of an "orison", a sort of last testimony of her life set aside for the historical record. The final installment is told by Zachary Bailey, a member of the nine valleys in Hawaii. This is the more distant future, after the fall of humanity.

Each of the stories is interrupted by the next, once even in mid-sentence. Then, once the reader reached Zachary's future, the stories move backwards again, picking up where each one left off, and finishing them all.

The most interesting part of this book is reading the stories as they move back through time. This is a novel that can be enjoyed on a superficial level and on a much deeper level. It's easy to see the ways that the stories show each of the steps that humanity takes in order to come to that final conclusion. You could say that Cloud Atlas is really just one story of all of humanity.

The toughest part in this novel is probably Zachary's story, only because the author writes in a dialect for the entire part. Once I got used to it, the reading went faster, but getting used to it took some time. Overall, I found Ghostwritten to be more eloquently written, but the ways that the stories intersect in this book are far more complicated and fascinating.more
 One of the best books I've read this year.
It's a series of 6 short(ish) stories that are interlinked - each book finds the previous one, by some means. However they don't follow in order, the stories are nested. Imagine 6 books open at random pages, all stacked on on top of the other, this book takes that format. So the first story, Ewing's pacific voyage is the first book started and the last to be finished. It's a really inventive way of telling a story and it works. I think it works better than just 6 stories presented in a conventional manner would. I particularly like the way that the second half of each story is introduced at the end of the previous story. It takes some skill as a writer to be able to write 6 very different stories and make them all have a distinct voice. The tales are all told in a journal, letter, aural account form, so it is a very personal telling. The narrators, journal writers and story tellers are all quite convincing and the detail is captivating.
The stories have a number of themes, as well as the physical link between them. There's the nature of the rise and fall of civilisation, as well as what is civilisation in the first place, the nature of belief and how that feeds into civilisation - it's telling that in this book belief and civilisation seem to rise and fall in reverse of each other. Then there's the way that they mention the same places again and again, as history criss-crosses the globe.
One of those books that will stay with me for sometime after I've finished it.more
La prima volta che ho sentito la Boheme per intero - non solo le arie famose - a teatro mi sono accorta dei rimandi musicali che legano tutta l'opera, cambiano ritmo, emozioni, personaggi, ma ci sono sempre alcuni elementi musicali che collegano tutto. Cloud Atlas è così, come una sinfonia, costituita da sei storie differenti per tema, registro letterario e ambientazione, ma ci sono alcuni elementi che collegano le storie che appartengono a un'unica grande opera, a un sestetto di voci soliste.
Cloud Atlas è anche un esercizio di stile dell'autore che si confronta con generi letterari diversi (distopico, post apocalittico, thriller, romanzo epistolare, moderno e ottocentesco di viaggio) adattando il linguaggio (molto faticosi da seguire il primo e l'ultimo racconto).
Oltre ai tratti che rimandano alla possibile reincarnazione dei protagonisti ci sono altri momenti di legame, preveggenze di storie che seguiranno ("The waitresses all had the same face. The food was soap, the only drink was cups of lather.", "Soylent green is made of people" e così via).
Un esercizio anche per il lettore che da una parte viene lasciato sempre sul più bello e dall'altra è intrigato a scoprire nuovi riferimenti, nuovi rimandi tra le storie per ricostruire l'intera sinfonia.

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The first time I listened to the whole Boheme - not only the most famous arias - in a theatre I noticed the musical elements that link the whole opera; rhythm, emotions, characters may change but there is always a musical structure that links everithing. Cloud Atlas is like this, like a symphony made of six different stories, six different themes, literary registry and setting but they all contain something that merge all in a unique symphony of six solo artists voices.
Cloud Atlas is a style exercise of the author dealing with different literary genres (dystopia, post apocalyptic, thriller, epistolary novel, modern and nineteenth-century ones) adapting the language used (the former and the last stories were the most difficult to me).
Other than the elements remanding to a possible reincarnation of the characters there are other linking hints, precognition of things that will happen ("The waitresses all had the same face. The food was soap, the only drink was cups of lather.", "Soylent green is made of people" and so on).
It's an exercise also for the reader who is always left at the turning event of each story and wants to find other references between the six narrations to combine the whole musical piece.more

(DISCLAIMER: This review was my knee-jerk reaction right after reading the book. Since then my admiration for CA has diminished. I will let the original review stay as it is. I disown this review though.)

WOW. With my vocab-deficit, I can't find the perfect word to express how reading Cloud Atlas felt. I will put spectacular as a placeholder. It has been quite some time since I read something this exciting.

So. The thing about Cloud Atlas is that everything explaining the central theme of the novel is embedded, in very clear words, within the novel, but rather in-conspicuously. Mitchell does not try to expound his theory anywhere, he does not hold a laser pointer attracting the reader's attention to the heart of the matter.
I can easily pull out a couple of quotes from the novel, which would perfectly summarize what, for me, is the essence of the book. Most of those quotes appear to be just another thing that one of the characters said. Seen within the scope of the individual stories where these quotes appear, they wouldn't amount to much. It is only when you look at the complete map that Mitchell has laid out, that they begin to be meaningful. However, unless the reader has already developed a vague understanding of what Mitchell is trying to tell us, one could walk by those sentences/dialogues unsuspectingly. You need to know what you are looking for, to be able to notice them. And figuring this out makes the reading experience entirely wonderful and intellectually engaging. Which is why I am refraining from including any quotes giving away the theme.

I suppose everyone has already heard enough about how Cloud Atlas consists of six different stories and how it is structured in an innovative manner. These six stories are very different from each other, yet they belong very much together. Mitchell connects these stories in various ways and at multiple levels. There are some direct connections which Mitchell spells out for everyone. He even mentions a few things which mirror the form of the novel itself. Then the stories are sprinkled with numerous subtle hints which give one delight if discovered, but do not take away much if not. And at last there are connections at a conceptual level which bind and unify the entire thing.

Sadly, an undiscerning reader may not notice much going on beyond the structure of the novel and perhaps label it as gimmicky. One of the characters in the novel itself brings up the question about whether this form is revolutionary or gimmicky, with respect to a musical composition that he is writing. In my opinion, the form is well justified and does a marvelous job at putting the point across. However, this form itself could also be held responsible for obfuscating the main point by diverting a reader's attention.

Each of the six stories is largely plot-driven. As Mitchell moves from one time period to another, the story's setting, tone, language, characterization etc. changes drastically. There are authors who sound the same in their different novels. And here we have Mitchell who sounds like six different authors within one novel. Each story can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone novella. But the whole is definitely more than the sum of the parts, by an astonishing amount.more
I had much higher hopes for this book, but it just didn't pan out. I get it, we're all connected and we succeed or fail together, but I just don't get the hype. Not sorry I read it, just not going to run and buy Thousand Autumns or any of his other works.more
This book has been... interesting for me. I heard it was an odd movie, based on a book, so I picked up the book. When I read the jacket, I discovered I had already read a book by this author, and since I liked his writing, I was mollified.

And then Cloud Atlas happened, and it took me a little while to figure out what was going on. I should have spoiled myself to make it easier.

It’s 6 novellas/stories that take place in an interesting nested structure. These stories were linked, through some sort of reincarnation, themes, and by each being aware of the previous in different ways. It was incredibly interesting, I just couldn’t get into it.

All of the stories take place here (here = Earth), but all through different times. So it’s “us” just not the “now” us.

The first story, the Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing takes place in the distant past, he keeps a journal and this story collides with...

Letters from Zedelghem, which takes place in 1930s Belgium, is presented in the form of letters from Robert Frobisher to his lover Rufus Sixsmith. Frobisher finds Adam Ewing’s journal. And then...

Half-lifes, an elderly Sixsmith, now a nuclear engineer in the 70s helps Luisa Rey, an investigative reporter uncover the truths regarding a new nuclear power plant. She finds Frobisher’s letters and buys the Cloud Atlas Sextet, his only published work.

The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish covers what happens to a publisher, who gets “stuck” in a nursing home, while reading Half-Lives for publication.

An Orison of Somni-451 takes place in the not-so-distant future in Seoul, Korea. This was one of my favorite stories, because it’s very dystopian. Corporations have taken over, and this story is about Somni becomes on of the first fully “ascended” (read: human souled) clones, and what happens. She watches “disneys” including the Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish.

Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After happens in the far distant post-apocalyptic future on Hawaii. It’s a very primitive society, trying to survive, and this was probably my least favorite story.

I like the writing, I loved the two dystopian/PA stories. I liked the linkage, but I just could not get attached to any of the characters. Watching the “how”s of the development and crash of society, the butterfly wings causing typhoons is interesting, but sometimes it was like an anvil to the face.

So I want to rate this as an amazing book, but I just didn’t really feel it. I think that this book would probably benefit from multiple readings, but I don’t care enough to reread this one.more
Extraordinary book. Quite mind boggling and vast in concept. One small quibble - I would have liked a bit more linkage between the stories and tidying up at the end.more
A collection of six seemingly disparate stories move forward then backward through time, revealing a connection through the repetition of an uneven power structure. Rather than end with hopeless inaction, however, Mitchell concludes with a call for ceaseless defiance of inequalities despite the monumental struggle therein contained.

This 500 page book is a lengthy and ocationally tedious read, but the novel's form and Mitchell's seamless transition between literary genres in each of the six stories offer welcome refreshment, and each story delivers an engaging plot despite the many parallels between them.more
So I downloaded this after Laini Taylor threw a fit over the movie trailer, because I thought, "Laini Taylor knows a good story when she sees it." And I did enjoy most of the stories in this uniquely structured book. The book tells six stories, a sextet of interwoven solos the book suggests. Half of the first, half of the second, and so on until it descends in reverse order.I failed to enjoy this quite as much as I might otherwise have in the beginning because I spent a lot of time trying to make something concrete out of the connections between the individuals in the stories. This was a mistake both because I found the building and waning through history of the society in the stories to be much more fruitful in the end, and because you really don't see that much of the individual connections until the book is in descent. Also, I found the sixth story to be terribly slow and it is large and connected right in the center.But I did finally relax and let the connections wash through without grabbing at them, and I did find the world building to be wonderful, and the settings to be just right. I did appreciate the whole thing in the end, and even like the people. Stories 2,3,5 were my favorites, and when I had to part from them, I wanted to get back to them quickly.more
Hot ziggity, what a book!

Stories upon stories, thoughts and layers, intertwined - I'm gushing. I don't think I can write a coherent review just yet. I'll come back later.

EDIT (3/26/2012): After about 9 months of being lazybusy, I've had my thoughts gestate long enough to write something. Here goes.

Cloud Atlas consists of some six stories, each set in a different time, place, with different characters, and a wholly different writing style. The 19th century section is peppered with 'ye's and 'oughts' and archaic language, the 20th century segments are each wonderful for their dialect and setting, the future segments portray a corpo-state dystopia and the slow burning embers of humanity after an apocalypse. Everything flows. The distant threads of lives cross and intertwine after the centuries, and plot lines become untangled only at the very end, in some cases.

This may be a bit hard to read simply due to the fact that so much is going on. It will be a stretch for the average reader, but it is more than worth it.

The circling epicycles of history and humanity, dazzling writing, and sincere storytelling. If I could get more stuff like this, I would be a very happy reader.more
A large part of the variety found in clouds relates directly to the altitude of the cloud. Cirrus clouds can be found above 18,000 feet; Stratus under 6,500; Alto between 6,500 an 18,000. Within these groups, there are different types. Cirrostratus clouds, part of the Cirrus family, are thin, covering much of the sky; they often indicate that rain or snow is coming. Cirrocumbulus are also a part of the Cirrus family, but they appear as rows of white puffs. They occur during times of cold weather. Outside of the three groups are other clouds, Cumulus, Cumulonimbus, Mammatus, et cetera; each has its own unique appearance and reason for being.

Knowing how each particular type of cloud is formed does little for me than fill my mind with information that makes me feel self-important. Sure, I can be aware of when it might rain or know which way a storm is blowing, but day in and out, cloud identification helps me little. That doesn't mean I appreciate clouds any less: the beauty and power of clouds; the joy in connecting their shapes to my favorite furry animals. I love clouds, even when I don't understand them.

I feel much the same way about David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas. There is power in these stories. Each is so unique that it is difficult not to stand in awe at Mitchell's raw talent. Whether he's writing a journal as an eighteenth century notary aboard an ocean vessel, the letters of a priggish English composer, a suspenseful tale of corruption and the journalist who uncovers it, the vain musings of a publisher with a belief that he is akin to Randle Patrick McMurphy, the interview of a clone guilty for her rebellion against a capitalist totalitarian government, or the post-apocalyptic oral stories of adventure by a primitive tribesman, Mitchell writes perfectly. One minute Mitchell's writing mirrors Melville, the next Margaret Atwood or a more literate Tom Clancy, then Toni Morrison.

Mitchell's talent is clear, but what his aim was is not so transparent. The thread that connects these stories is often thin. Regardless, this makes them no less intriguing. Even the many stories that move slowly are entertaining in their own unique way.

Cloud Atlas was an exceptional read. The stories were a delight and the characters worth every minute of my time. I would like to have had a more clear intent of Mitchell's purpose; there's no denying the author is clever—perhaps too clever—but that doesn't make up for the lack of connection.

Cloud Altas is the kind of novel that takes determination and patience, but it doesn't require complete understanding. Sometimes it's okay to just sit back and be mystified by it all. And sometimes the greatest joys in life can come from the simple things, like finding a cloud in the shape of an enormous bunny.more
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Reviews

Book drags on. The stories are pretty good, but the last one kept dragging on and on. The movie looks more interesting than the book!
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kind of brilliant, kind of irritating. Very amusing set pieces in places, but the conceit and his showoffy cleverness got really tiresome. Since then I read 2 more of his books--I'd heard he was so brilliant I thought I'd give him another chance. I don't disagree that he's brilliant, but I also find him annoying and too much into his cleverly constructed chinese boxes. His other books they were all similar in that way, so I am now officially DONE with David MItchell!more
Wonderful, but got a little didactic and moralistic at the end. Mitchell achieves a lot of what I think Atwood was going for in The Blind Assassin at least as far the structure and denouement. Time is a coil.more
Falls ever-so-slightly shy of the magnum opus for which I feel that he was aiming.Mitchell does a great job of getting inside the head of an exceptional variety of characters and imagining and portraying ancient, new, and imagined societies and situations in gripping detail.The pieces don't fit together quite as well as I wish they did, but I still recommend this book highly to all, and will probably read it for a third time in another ten years.more
recommended for: those who enjoy reading different genres and thought provoking booksThis book takes a very dim view of human history and of human beings, although in each story challenges to this viewpoint do happen.This book consists of what I thought of as 6 novellas or long short stories. They’re all interconnected into one big novel. The first five stories, all in chronological order, are told in part and after the sixth and final story, the rest of the book goes backward and finishes up the first five tales to their conclusions, so that story one starts and finishes the book. Even though the stories have overlap, they all each stand on their own and are self-contained.story 1: Adam Ewing = historical fictionstory 2: Robert Frosbisher = historical fictionstory 3: Luisa Rey = a “basically in modern times” detective pulp fictionstory 4: Timothy Cavendish = a “basically in modern times” farcestory 5: Sonmi-451 = speculative fictionstory 6: Zach’ry and Meronym = speculative fictionMy favorite stories were 5 and 4 and 1. I liked 2 also. Number 3 was okay. Number 6 was difficult for me to get through, but I admit it added to the whole, in fact was the crux of the story I suppose.Not only do the genres of the stories vary, but the style of writing for each differs greatly too.One of the characters in each of the six stories has an identical birthmark. I think the author was conveying that they were all reincarnations of each other. So, one might argue this entire book is speculative fiction, or a spiritual book perhaps.I don’t believe in reincarnation; I looked at the commonality of the birthmark in a very different way. I think of it as representing the human nature and how it doesn’t change over time and circumstances.In these stories, the world shown is a predatory world. There are exceptions but overall human tyranny, especially of “the other” is shown. Many horrors of the human condition are depicted, as is the dismal record (and proposed future) of humanity. What these six stories show, better than a single story could, is how humans are doomed to repeat themselves. Their plight is shown in a very bleak way. Luckily, each story also shows exceptions to that rule, times when people have acted in an exemplary manner.I found this book fascinating and not as depressing as its content would suggest. Books such as this, that use some gimmick, often make me feel stupid because I feel as though I’m missing some of the cleverness. Perhaps I did here, but I did not get confused by the stories or characters as I was afraid I would.Overall, I really enjoyed this book, except for story 6 which, for me, was mostly a chore to get through, that despite that it was a central and necessary portion of the book.I am glad that I finally read this. It had been on my to-read list for 3 1/2 years.more
Cloud Atlas is a collection of six seemingly unrelated vignettes, beginning with the story of an American Notary Public (apparently quite a prestigious position for the era) in the 19th century South Pacific seas. The stories proceed chronologically through the present day and into a post-apocalyptic future set in Hawaii. At that point, they reverse, revisit and complete the previously told stories.The technique used in the novel is certainly interesting, and given the proper set of stories and linchpins, could have been intriguing. However, the stories are, in fact, not related in any way and only tied together by the loosest of references. Therefore, what we have are six short stories (novellas) which are split in two. The absence of a unifying theme or common element actually works against the enjoyment of the stories. For example, the first story, involving the sea voyaging American Notary Public proceeds for roughly 40 pages before ending mid-sentence. Four hundred pages later it takes up again mid-sentence. With the exception of the final two stories, which are begun and finished relatively close together because of the nature of the serpentine order, the reader is tasked to recall the names, locations and fact situations that existed and were then abandoned hundreds of pages earlier.I found the stories themselves to be quite well written and enjoyable. The fifth, focusing on a dystopian Korean society in the not distant future, featuring a sub class of manufactured drones, some of which are attaining increased sentience, to be brilliant. The final vignette, set in post-apocalyptic Hawaii, I found to be irritating, due to the pidgin English employed. It is as if nuclear Armageddon will somehow convert the survivors into back woods hillbillies as it relates to the English language.In any event, the stories were entertaining and at times compelling. The technique used by the author detracted from my enjoyment of the work, and given the absence of any unifying element, raises the question of what he hoped to achieve, other than originality. My advice is to read the first half of the first story, and when it switches to story number two, go to the back of the book and find where the story continues. Read each story in its entirety, chronologically. I cannot imagine what would be forfeited using such a strategy, and you’ll enjoy the first three or four stories more fully.more
I really enjoyed Cloud Atlas. I knew about the 'matrushka doll' plot beforehand, which helped: if I hadn't, I'd probably have found it frustrating, which is partly what keeps me from giving the book five stars. The structure is a little gimmicky, but patience with it is rewarding, ultimately, I think. My favourite story was undoubtedly Sonmi's. My favourite feature of the book was the use of period-appropriate language -- the way each piece seemed to belong perfectly to the world it illustrated: Sonmi and the branding, Zachry's corrupted but recognisable language... It did render it hard to read, particularly in Sloosha's Crossin', but I loved the attempt at following language-change. I liked the interconnectedness of each story, and trying to follow the parallels. I think this is probably best read with that in mind, knowing what to expect, otherwise it'd be very frustrating -- no conclusions anywhere.

I found this quite slow, actually, thinking about it. Normally I'd devour books, but this was quite hard to just devour. Worth taking the time over, though.more
If you've read other reviews, then you know the way the book is constructed: six narratives in different times and places from the 19th century through a post-apocalyptic future spin out from the earliest to the latest and then back down again. As author Mitchell explains it, the construct is an attempt to illustrate what it would look like if a mirror were placed at the end of a book and you continued into a second half that took you back to the beginning.So the question is, how do the individual stories stand up, and do the connections work and enhance the overall storyline? For me, the individual stories were variable. The first, featuring Adam Ewing, a San Francisco lawyer on a difficult 19th-century ocean journey that shows him the evils of slavery and oppression of native people by colonizers, is overly earnest and, in its second part, marred by an unbelievable plot twist.After the first part of the Ewing story, it's a pleasure to move on to the tart comedy of the 1930s tale of Robert Frobisher, a ne'er-do-well young musician with an omnivore's sexual tastes. Then there's an unexpected jump to a crusading journalist in 1970s California named Luisa Rey. This story is written in a thriller style, as Luisa attempts to uncover corporate wrongdoing at a nuclear power plant.Back to acerbic comedy, British style, as we move to the 1990s and Tim Cavendish, a struggling publisher whose life is transformed when one of his authors commits a spectacular public murder. The fifth and sixth stories are completely different; one set in a 22nd-century authoritarian corporate-controlled state (apparently Korea) where people live to consume and all real and practical work is performed by replicants, and the other in a far future post-apocalyptic Hawaii, where the same evils of slavery and oppression from the Adam Ewing story seem to be beginning yet again.While there is some intriguing storytelling, the preachiness is often annoying and the messaging downright ham-fisted. Corporations, materialism, racism: all bad; thanks, got it. Is that all there is? Well, no. There is also a vague suggestion that the protagonist in each story is a transmuted soul from the previous tale(s). But this theme isn't developed and its point is never made clear. Is it that souls can change over time? Well, maybe so, if you believe in reincarnation, but nothing is made of this. So the connections between the stories end up being tenuous and not particularly compelling. Each storyline just evaporates into the next. The connection ends up being Mitchell's oft-repeated lesson that human beings' natural striving makes us civilized, but ultimately destroys us. For me, that was a lukewarm proposition to float these stories on.I had a bigger problem with the bad guys in the book. I'll try to talk about that without being spoiler-y. In sum, the bad guys are just too over the top and do things that don't make any sense in their context. A man is imprisoned and abused in a nursing home in a fashion that is inexplicable if the operators wanted to stay out of prison, let alone keep operating. Executives in a corporation go on a killing spree to avoid a story coming out, but they go after their multiple targets in spectacularly sloppy and attention-getting ways. Another bad buy decides to fleece a victim without knowing what assets the victim is carrying. That would be fine if the fleecing was a quickie job, but this one requires a dangerous journey, a lengthy time period and risky methodology. These aspects of the plot required way too much of a suspension of disbelief and made serious stories just seem silly.The expectations built in round one of each of the six stories were dashed by each story's round two, and the letdown feeling just increased with each successive resolution.more
I am not sure what I think. Initially, I loved it. Then, I really didn't like it. Then, thinking about the book made me irritable. Then, Thinking about the book made me feel like a totally less than evolved reader. Then, I loved it again. The reading wasn't as challenging as I thought it would be - given all the ink spilled about this book, but the playing with style, particularly during the mid-portion of the book, was enough to make one feel wobbly and unsure. 3.5 stars for now but I will continue to think on this story.more
reads like a mash up of calvino, orwell, and asimov. unbelievably, deeply, satisfying! political, philosophical, suspenseful, grand, epic, and then some! became a little too preachy during the last few pages for my taste, but even that couldn't overshadow my fun :) i wont be watching the movie ;Pmore
This is a very impressive book. I didn't think it was quite as good as it was impressive, but I can't deny it... I'm impressed.The book is a number of short stories of which all but the last are interrupted in the middle. Once the last short story is finished, the book makes its way back through the end of the stories. As it turns out, all of the stories are somehow connected.What impressed me the most about the book was how incredibly different, yet very well done, the short stories were. An unfortunate consequence of this was that I found myself liking some of the stories very much indeed, and getting a bit bored by others. The links between the stories are mostly rather clever and very well done, but become somewhat tenuous on a few occasions.Overall, I really liked almost exactly four sixths of this book. And one of the sixths, a story set in a future dystopia, left me wanting much more.I didn't quite love this book, but I really liked it. It made me think about things, covering serious issues such as politics, religion, morals, and so on, but didn't take itself too seriously, and also served up a bunch of good, irreverent, fun.more
Cloud Atlas's six 'nested' stories represent an interesting experiment in narrative form, and some parts of the book are enjoyable. I was amused by the Timothy Cavendish elder-rogue segments, and the Somni sci-fi story was competently executed, if derivative. But some of the book's other stories are rather flat, and I thought David Mitchell worked far too hard to shove his writerly virtuosity in his readers' faces. Yes, yes, very clever structure, David, but might I suggest in this case the book's parts are less than their sum? That is, Cloud Atlas's overarching concept overshadows the actual execution of its constituent stories. As I progressed through the book's movements, I found myself constantly wondering if I would be bothering with reading the story at hand if it were not interlinked with the others; my answer was generally 'no'. And since this is quite a long book, I find it difficult to recommend wholeheartedly; it's asking too much of the reader to plow through frequently mediocre storytelling in order to experience what is in essence a fairly straightforward narrative trick.more
I could probably turn out pages on how great this book was, and I may at some other time, but the gist would be that this book is both dazzlingly clever and dazzlingly human. It doesn't lose the characters for the structure, or the plot for the themes. It's a really, really good book that was also really, really fun to read, and that doesn't happen too often.more
This is one of the most ambitious books I've read in recent memory. The plot is built like a Russian doll -- subplots nested within subplots, in a very methodical way. Each subplot happens in a different period, and the writer really differentiates the language well, writing in a different register for each period.

This is an engaging read. It's got some historical fiction, some Sci-Fi, and lots of political commentary. Somewhere near the end it starts feeling just a tad didactic and too direct, but I still enjoyed it.more
Reading this after seeing the movie is .. weird. Some segments were used nearly unaltered in the film, and some were extensively adapted to fit the demands of the screen. I tended to enjoy the latter more in this book. Particularly the parts in Neo Seoul and Hawaii. After the brilliant cutting and interplay between story lines in the movie, the simple nesting in the book is a let down. Enjoyed the movie more, and I don't say that often.more
Ok, so i just come fresh from book club where we discussed this book. It seems like general opinion was how Mitchell mastered the different styles and also having 6 "stories" into one. To me this wasn't so amazing after having rea da lot of hispanic and latinamerican writers, which use this kind of narrative a lot.
So here's my opinion, he could have done SO much better and it seemed like a rewrite of "Brave New World" mixed with a little bit of "Treasure Island". He tries to be subtle about the topics he chooses, like religion, slavery, society, rape, sexual preferences and so on, but it's so very obvious that you can't take those away and have a story. Reading it was a bit of deja vú, with a little bit of "this is new... and just too long and boring". The parts that weren't a remix of older books, were a bit boring and a bit less cohesive with the rest of the story.
Long read, overall too much considering the content and the whole "I've read this with different character names elsewhere" feeling. Haven't seen the movie so I can't say "skip reading it and just watch the movie". I did like the stories as kind of stand alone, but the weaving and the pushing on the recurring topics was tiring. Maybe I'll read it again in a few years and like it better, from what I'm told, you find new things, yet I was surprised many had not seen all that I had seen (book club), I guess it's just that I'm used to this kind of writing and plot twists, so I know what to look for.more
This book kicks my ass. I love it. David Mitchell is that guy who is able to take all of that airy-fairy po-mo jargon and marry it with actual story to produce something worthwhile. The premise behind the book sounds pretentious as all heck, but, to me at least, it isn’t that at all. Mitchell just tells six, count ‘em six, great stories with real panache. This makes _Cloud Atlas_ sound more like a short story collection than a true novel, but Mitchell pulls off making this both by having all of the stories nested within each other, both structurally and temporally, with backwards and forwards references to each other throughout. It really is an impressive achievement.

On top of that is the fact that there is something here for just about everyone, the novel starts off with a couple of stories that could be classed as historical fiction, moves into a murder mystery, changes to tragic farce, and then ventures into pre and post-apocalyptic sci-fi. Some stories are better than others, but they are all well worth reading. Despite the differences between each of the stories there is an overall thematic arc of how horrible people can be to each other mingled with the hope we are still able to experience in the midst of this that Mitchell is playing with and he manages to find a wide variety of ways in which to explore it. He is able to pack the novel with tragedy, action, humour and thoughtfulness.

Details on the stories follow. I'm not sure how much these descriptions might give away important details to new readers, so I've marked them as spoilers just in case. We start off with the first person narration of a hapless notary in the South Pacific of the 1850’s who is caught in the snares of an unscrupulous con-man. This then moves to the story of a libertine composer in the early twentieth century who reads the account of the notary in a manuscript and is himself writing letters to a friend and former lover about his misadventures as amanuensis to an older composer as he is on the run from creditors. We then switch to the ‘novelisation’ of an investigative reporter trying to ferret out corporate greed and corruption at the instigation of the afore-mentioned friend and lover of the young composer who is now an old man. This in turn becomes the manuscript that lands on the desk of a vanity publisher on the run from his mob creditors as he falls into the clutches of an asylum-like old age home. His story becomes a cautionary tale seen in film by a near-future slave clone in Korea who testifies at her own execution. This then becomes a holographic relic held by a tribe of post-apocalyptic survivors in a Riddley Walker-like tale of hope and oppression.

Each tale, except for the central/final one, is cut in half only to continue where it left off in the latter part of the book. It’s an impressive structural achievement that is made more impressive by the thematic and narrative hooks that link all of these tales together. All in all I highly recommend this book. It manages to be both entertaining and enlightening in just about equal measure and never loses its sense of story in the name of literary tricks regardless of the obvious care with which it was designed.
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This seems to be a book that the reader either loves or hates. This is the impression I get from reading the reviews. I guess I missed the point of the book because 3/4 of the way through I gave up. This is a rare thing for me, to get so far into a book and then put it down saying 'No More'!more
Cloud Atlas is David Mitchell's third book. It follows a similar pattern to his book Ghostwritten (which I read last year). Cloud Atlas is a series of stories, each narrated by a distinct invidial living in a different place and time. Each of the sections of the book is some kind of retelling - a diary, letter, interviews, a movie, etc. Each of the stories intersect each other in an obvious way (and a not quite so obvious way that I can't reveal without giving away the book.)

The book begins with the Diary of Adam Ewing, an American notary living in the Chatham isles in the mid-1800s. Then we skip to Belgium in the 1920s with a series of letters from Robert Frobisher, a bi-sexual composer, to his friend Rufus Sixsmith. The third part is the story of Louisa Rey, a reporter in the 1970s who stumbles across problems with a nuclear reactors in Buenas Yerba, California. From there, the story takes us to Timothy Cavendish living in Britian in the present time. The next story is from Somni-495, a fabricant living in Korea in the not-so-distant future. Her story is in the form of an "orison", a sort of last testimony of her life set aside for the historical record. The final installment is told by Zachary Bailey, a member of the nine valleys in Hawaii. This is the more distant future, after the fall of humanity.

Each of the stories is interrupted by the next, once even in mid-sentence. Then, once the reader reached Zachary's future, the stories move backwards again, picking up where each one left off, and finishing them all.

The most interesting part of this book is reading the stories as they move back through time. This is a novel that can be enjoyed on a superficial level and on a much deeper level. It's easy to see the ways that the stories show each of the steps that humanity takes in order to come to that final conclusion. You could say that Cloud Atlas is really just one story of all of humanity.

The toughest part in this novel is probably Zachary's story, only because the author writes in a dialect for the entire part. Once I got used to it, the reading went faster, but getting used to it took some time. Overall, I found Ghostwritten to be more eloquently written, but the ways that the stories intersect in this book are far more complicated and fascinating.more
 One of the best books I've read this year.
It's a series of 6 short(ish) stories that are interlinked - each book finds the previous one, by some means. However they don't follow in order, the stories are nested. Imagine 6 books open at random pages, all stacked on on top of the other, this book takes that format. So the first story, Ewing's pacific voyage is the first book started and the last to be finished. It's a really inventive way of telling a story and it works. I think it works better than just 6 stories presented in a conventional manner would. I particularly like the way that the second half of each story is introduced at the end of the previous story. It takes some skill as a writer to be able to write 6 very different stories and make them all have a distinct voice. The tales are all told in a journal, letter, aural account form, so it is a very personal telling. The narrators, journal writers and story tellers are all quite convincing and the detail is captivating.
The stories have a number of themes, as well as the physical link between them. There's the nature of the rise and fall of civilisation, as well as what is civilisation in the first place, the nature of belief and how that feeds into civilisation - it's telling that in this book belief and civilisation seem to rise and fall in reverse of each other. Then there's the way that they mention the same places again and again, as history criss-crosses the globe.
One of those books that will stay with me for sometime after I've finished it.more
La prima volta che ho sentito la Boheme per intero - non solo le arie famose - a teatro mi sono accorta dei rimandi musicali che legano tutta l'opera, cambiano ritmo, emozioni, personaggi, ma ci sono sempre alcuni elementi musicali che collegano tutto. Cloud Atlas è così, come una sinfonia, costituita da sei storie differenti per tema, registro letterario e ambientazione, ma ci sono alcuni elementi che collegano le storie che appartengono a un'unica grande opera, a un sestetto di voci soliste.
Cloud Atlas è anche un esercizio di stile dell'autore che si confronta con generi letterari diversi (distopico, post apocalittico, thriller, romanzo epistolare, moderno e ottocentesco di viaggio) adattando il linguaggio (molto faticosi da seguire il primo e l'ultimo racconto).
Oltre ai tratti che rimandano alla possibile reincarnazione dei protagonisti ci sono altri momenti di legame, preveggenze di storie che seguiranno ("The waitresses all had the same face. The food was soap, the only drink was cups of lather.", "Soylent green is made of people" e così via).
Un esercizio anche per il lettore che da una parte viene lasciato sempre sul più bello e dall'altra è intrigato a scoprire nuovi riferimenti, nuovi rimandi tra le storie per ricostruire l'intera sinfonia.

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The first time I listened to the whole Boheme - not only the most famous arias - in a theatre I noticed the musical elements that link the whole opera; rhythm, emotions, characters may change but there is always a musical structure that links everithing. Cloud Atlas is like this, like a symphony made of six different stories, six different themes, literary registry and setting but they all contain something that merge all in a unique symphony of six solo artists voices.
Cloud Atlas is a style exercise of the author dealing with different literary genres (dystopia, post apocalyptic, thriller, epistolary novel, modern and nineteenth-century ones) adapting the language used (the former and the last stories were the most difficult to me).
Other than the elements remanding to a possible reincarnation of the characters there are other linking hints, precognition of things that will happen ("The waitresses all had the same face. The food was soap, the only drink was cups of lather.", "Soylent green is made of people" and so on).
It's an exercise also for the reader who is always left at the turning event of each story and wants to find other references between the six narrations to combine the whole musical piece.more

(DISCLAIMER: This review was my knee-jerk reaction right after reading the book. Since then my admiration for CA has diminished. I will let the original review stay as it is. I disown this review though.)

WOW. With my vocab-deficit, I can't find the perfect word to express how reading Cloud Atlas felt. I will put spectacular as a placeholder. It has been quite some time since I read something this exciting.

So. The thing about Cloud Atlas is that everything explaining the central theme of the novel is embedded, in very clear words, within the novel, but rather in-conspicuously. Mitchell does not try to expound his theory anywhere, he does not hold a laser pointer attracting the reader's attention to the heart of the matter.
I can easily pull out a couple of quotes from the novel, which would perfectly summarize what, for me, is the essence of the book. Most of those quotes appear to be just another thing that one of the characters said. Seen within the scope of the individual stories where these quotes appear, they wouldn't amount to much. It is only when you look at the complete map that Mitchell has laid out, that they begin to be meaningful. However, unless the reader has already developed a vague understanding of what Mitchell is trying to tell us, one could walk by those sentences/dialogues unsuspectingly. You need to know what you are looking for, to be able to notice them. And figuring this out makes the reading experience entirely wonderful and intellectually engaging. Which is why I am refraining from including any quotes giving away the theme.

I suppose everyone has already heard enough about how Cloud Atlas consists of six different stories and how it is structured in an innovative manner. These six stories are very different from each other, yet they belong very much together. Mitchell connects these stories in various ways and at multiple levels. There are some direct connections which Mitchell spells out for everyone. He even mentions a few things which mirror the form of the novel itself. Then the stories are sprinkled with numerous subtle hints which give one delight if discovered, but do not take away much if not. And at last there are connections at a conceptual level which bind and unify the entire thing.

Sadly, an undiscerning reader may not notice much going on beyond the structure of the novel and perhaps label it as gimmicky. One of the characters in the novel itself brings up the question about whether this form is revolutionary or gimmicky, with respect to a musical composition that he is writing. In my opinion, the form is well justified and does a marvelous job at putting the point across. However, this form itself could also be held responsible for obfuscating the main point by diverting a reader's attention.

Each of the six stories is largely plot-driven. As Mitchell moves from one time period to another, the story's setting, tone, language, characterization etc. changes drastically. There are authors who sound the same in their different novels. And here we have Mitchell who sounds like six different authors within one novel. Each story can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone novella. But the whole is definitely more than the sum of the parts, by an astonishing amount.more
I had much higher hopes for this book, but it just didn't pan out. I get it, we're all connected and we succeed or fail together, but I just don't get the hype. Not sorry I read it, just not going to run and buy Thousand Autumns or any of his other works.more
This book has been... interesting for me. I heard it was an odd movie, based on a book, so I picked up the book. When I read the jacket, I discovered I had already read a book by this author, and since I liked his writing, I was mollified.

And then Cloud Atlas happened, and it took me a little while to figure out what was going on. I should have spoiled myself to make it easier.

It’s 6 novellas/stories that take place in an interesting nested structure. These stories were linked, through some sort of reincarnation, themes, and by each being aware of the previous in different ways. It was incredibly interesting, I just couldn’t get into it.

All of the stories take place here (here = Earth), but all through different times. So it’s “us” just not the “now” us.

The first story, the Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing takes place in the distant past, he keeps a journal and this story collides with...

Letters from Zedelghem, which takes place in 1930s Belgium, is presented in the form of letters from Robert Frobisher to his lover Rufus Sixsmith. Frobisher finds Adam Ewing’s journal. And then...

Half-lifes, an elderly Sixsmith, now a nuclear engineer in the 70s helps Luisa Rey, an investigative reporter uncover the truths regarding a new nuclear power plant. She finds Frobisher’s letters and buys the Cloud Atlas Sextet, his only published work.

The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish covers what happens to a publisher, who gets “stuck” in a nursing home, while reading Half-Lives for publication.

An Orison of Somni-451 takes place in the not-so-distant future in Seoul, Korea. This was one of my favorite stories, because it’s very dystopian. Corporations have taken over, and this story is about Somni becomes on of the first fully “ascended” (read: human souled) clones, and what happens. She watches “disneys” including the Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish.

Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After happens in the far distant post-apocalyptic future on Hawaii. It’s a very primitive society, trying to survive, and this was probably my least favorite story.

I like the writing, I loved the two dystopian/PA stories. I liked the linkage, but I just could not get attached to any of the characters. Watching the “how”s of the development and crash of society, the butterfly wings causing typhoons is interesting, but sometimes it was like an anvil to the face.

So I want to rate this as an amazing book, but I just didn’t really feel it. I think that this book would probably benefit from multiple readings, but I don’t care enough to reread this one.more
Extraordinary book. Quite mind boggling and vast in concept. One small quibble - I would have liked a bit more linkage between the stories and tidying up at the end.more
A collection of six seemingly disparate stories move forward then backward through time, revealing a connection through the repetition of an uneven power structure. Rather than end with hopeless inaction, however, Mitchell concludes with a call for ceaseless defiance of inequalities despite the monumental struggle therein contained.

This 500 page book is a lengthy and ocationally tedious read, but the novel's form and Mitchell's seamless transition between literary genres in each of the six stories offer welcome refreshment, and each story delivers an engaging plot despite the many parallels between them.more
So I downloaded this after Laini Taylor threw a fit over the movie trailer, because I thought, "Laini Taylor knows a good story when she sees it." And I did enjoy most of the stories in this uniquely structured book. The book tells six stories, a sextet of interwoven solos the book suggests. Half of the first, half of the second, and so on until it descends in reverse order.I failed to enjoy this quite as much as I might otherwise have in the beginning because I spent a lot of time trying to make something concrete out of the connections between the individuals in the stories. This was a mistake both because I found the building and waning through history of the society in the stories to be much more fruitful in the end, and because you really don't see that much of the individual connections until the book is in descent. Also, I found the sixth story to be terribly slow and it is large and connected right in the center.But I did finally relax and let the connections wash through without grabbing at them, and I did find the world building to be wonderful, and the settings to be just right. I did appreciate the whole thing in the end, and even like the people. Stories 2,3,5 were my favorites, and when I had to part from them, I wanted to get back to them quickly.more
Hot ziggity, what a book!

Stories upon stories, thoughts and layers, intertwined - I'm gushing. I don't think I can write a coherent review just yet. I'll come back later.

EDIT (3/26/2012): After about 9 months of being lazybusy, I've had my thoughts gestate long enough to write something. Here goes.

Cloud Atlas consists of some six stories, each set in a different time, place, with different characters, and a wholly different writing style. The 19th century section is peppered with 'ye's and 'oughts' and archaic language, the 20th century segments are each wonderful for their dialect and setting, the future segments portray a corpo-state dystopia and the slow burning embers of humanity after an apocalypse. Everything flows. The distant threads of lives cross and intertwine after the centuries, and plot lines become untangled only at the very end, in some cases.

This may be a bit hard to read simply due to the fact that so much is going on. It will be a stretch for the average reader, but it is more than worth it.

The circling epicycles of history and humanity, dazzling writing, and sincere storytelling. If I could get more stuff like this, I would be a very happy reader.more
A large part of the variety found in clouds relates directly to the altitude of the cloud. Cirrus clouds can be found above 18,000 feet; Stratus under 6,500; Alto between 6,500 an 18,000. Within these groups, there are different types. Cirrostratus clouds, part of the Cirrus family, are thin, covering much of the sky; they often indicate that rain or snow is coming. Cirrocumbulus are also a part of the Cirrus family, but they appear as rows of white puffs. They occur during times of cold weather. Outside of the three groups are other clouds, Cumulus, Cumulonimbus, Mammatus, et cetera; each has its own unique appearance and reason for being.

Knowing how each particular type of cloud is formed does little for me than fill my mind with information that makes me feel self-important. Sure, I can be aware of when it might rain or know which way a storm is blowing, but day in and out, cloud identification helps me little. That doesn't mean I appreciate clouds any less: the beauty and power of clouds; the joy in connecting their shapes to my favorite furry animals. I love clouds, even when I don't understand them.

I feel much the same way about David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas. There is power in these stories. Each is so unique that it is difficult not to stand in awe at Mitchell's raw talent. Whether he's writing a journal as an eighteenth century notary aboard an ocean vessel, the letters of a priggish English composer, a suspenseful tale of corruption and the journalist who uncovers it, the vain musings of a publisher with a belief that he is akin to Randle Patrick McMurphy, the interview of a clone guilty for her rebellion against a capitalist totalitarian government, or the post-apocalyptic oral stories of adventure by a primitive tribesman, Mitchell writes perfectly. One minute Mitchell's writing mirrors Melville, the next Margaret Atwood or a more literate Tom Clancy, then Toni Morrison.

Mitchell's talent is clear, but what his aim was is not so transparent. The thread that connects these stories is often thin. Regardless, this makes them no less intriguing. Even the many stories that move slowly are entertaining in their own unique way.

Cloud Atlas was an exceptional read. The stories were a delight and the characters worth every minute of my time. I would like to have had a more clear intent of Mitchell's purpose; there's no denying the author is clever—perhaps too clever—but that doesn't make up for the lack of connection.

Cloud Altas is the kind of novel that takes determination and patience, but it doesn't require complete understanding. Sometimes it's okay to just sit back and be mystified by it all. And sometimes the greatest joys in life can come from the simple things, like finding a cloud in the shape of an enormous bunny.more
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