David Mitchell – Cloud Atlas

This was chosen for our book club and at first I was disappointed to be reading a book that I had already read but it didn’t take long before I remembered how fantastic it is.  I LOVE David Mitchell and I think that this is one of his best books.  What I particularly like is its completely different style; there are six different stories running through the book all based in different historical eras starting from the 19th century through to the post apocalyptic world.  What completely surprised me the first time of reading it (and the second strangely) was the fact that each narrative starts and then finishes so abruptly that you think some pages might have fallen out of your book, but once you finish the sixth story it goes back to the  original stories retelling them in reverse order.   It works through lots of different genres such detective, 19th century journal, letters, sci-fi, etc.  Parts of it are so funny but it is not just a lot of random stories thrown together as some critics suggest, it  even encompasses themes like Nietzsche’s Will to Power. Some of the book group criticised to say it didn’t hang well together and I must say I did find the middle/final story about the post apolyptic world a bit hard going.

So the plot, that’s a bit difficult, it encompasses stories as Adam Ewing’s Pacific Journal, Luisa   a possible cover up of the murder of a nuclear scientist, Timothy Cavendish’s hilarious attempts to break out of his old people’s home and a Blade Runner style story and about a robot slave in the future.  It reminds us about the ‘progress’ of history  how mankind may be destroying itself to the extent that we many go back to living in a primitive world.

So overall it is completely innovative and fantastic and funny, it is one of my favourite books ever.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “David Mitchell – Cloud Atlas

  1. “Cloud Atlas does not want for ambition, and Mitchell proves — six different ways — that he has the imagination and technique to deliver a fully figured world ……An exorbitant artistic effort has yielded an overwhelming literary creation.” – Lawrence Norfolk, The Independent

  2. “This novel will woo those who are delighted by historical novels, and yet it also works as a form of hypertext, albeit one where you have to turn the page rather than click on a word to jump to an alternative world and narrative. I would say this is the novel stretched as far as it can go, but Mitchell would probably consider this a challenge.” – Matt Thorne, Independent on Sunday

  3. “The effect is dizzying. The reader is flung forward in time and then propelled backwards to the point from which he departed. The six narratives of Cloud Atlas vary significantly in style and tone, but they are animated by a single theme — mankind’s capacity for cruelty, rapaciousness and violence.” – William Skidelsky, New Statesman

  4. “I hope Cloud Atlas will be spared knee-jerk reaction against “tricksy devices,” and not merely because Mr. Mitchell is a prodigiously talented writer. The book works: The elaborate structure enacts a theory of history that’s part of the novel’s core meaning; the stop-and-go narrative reveals itself as a continuous cycle; the separate stories achieve a weird unity; and what seemed at first mere cleverness begins to look like wisdom.” – Adam Begley, The New York Observer

  5. “Taken as a whole, Cloud Atlas seeks to give the novel a steely new rigging of the possible. It is an impressive achievement. Unfortunately, impressive is usually all that it is. (…) The novel is frustrating not because it is too smart but because it is not nearly as smart as its author.” – Tom Bissell, The New York Times Book Review

  6. “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.” – The New Yorker

  7. Vicki Gowans

    I have borrowed this from the library twice, but never got into it on both occasions, maybe I will try once more 🙂

  8. Charlotte Gillam

    I think I’ve been put off this by the fact that Mark has read Number 9 Dream (cyber punks!) and the Richard and Judy sticker on it. But I will put aside my prejudices and read it next – on your head be it Rotten Books! I did enjoy Black Swan Green, so that’s encouraging. Except for his HORRENDOUS mistake about Cheltenham Regent Arcade being complete in 1982!!!

  9. I would say to both of you that this book is great! Stick with it. number9 dream was definitely his most disappointing book and I didnt enjoy that as much so dont just cloud atlas on that. I missed that reference to the Regent Arcade! I am shocked.

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