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The Cloud Atlas by Liam Callanan

The Cloud Atlas

by Liam Callanan

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273542,050 (3.3)24
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Showing 5 of 5
Very good, although I did think I was reading the book that had been made into a movie. But no, that was THE Cloud Atlas. Not "Cloud Atlas." ( )
  librarymary09 | May 24, 2014 |
Despite the description on Amazon's webpage, this is not the same book as Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell!
A priest living in Alaska tells his life story to his dying friend, particularly about the time he came to Alaska as a soldier and ended up working under the command of a guy who was obsessed with weather balloons being used as a biochemical weapon by Japan. The narrator was kind of a terrible person in his youth, particularly towards the woman he was supposedly in love with, but he at least seems to realise that now. Interesting and sad. ( )
  tronella | Jul 25, 2013 |
I really enjoyed this book. Mainly set during the Japanese bombing of Alaska during World War II, it gives us a glimpse into a time that we don't hear much about. This is mostly told as a story from an old Catholic priest to dying old Yup'ik Eskimo shaman. The main characters lies about his age to join the army where, after proving to be the worst shot ever, he becomes a member of the bomb disarmament squad and is sent to Alaska for a top secret mission. In Alaska, everyone he meets seems to be crazy to varying degrees. The story is filled with insanity, love, spiritualism, violence, and magic, all told through the eyes of innocence. I never knew what was coming next. Great book! ( )
1 vote stubbyfingers | Jul 13, 2008 |
Set against the majestic backdrop of Alaska, this absorbing book is spiritual and mythical at the same time. A priest and an Alaskan native shaman who are longtime friends/adversaries, tell their long-held secrets as one lays dying.

Father Louis Belk reveals the fascinating story of balloon warfare in WWII and the disturbing experiences with the madman Captain Gurley and Lily, the native woman they both loved. I thought this first book was very well written and informative about an area of military strategy of which I had no prior knowledge. ( )
2 vote Donna828 | Jul 5, 2008 |
A reviewer trying to describe this novel used the analogy of Russian nesting dolls and I think that's apt. There are several stories here, each told with surprisingly distinct voices, building through time to the future, then receding back to each story in a long, gradual coda. It's done well, but some people who like an ordered narrative and traditional climax may find it irritating.

In the past year, I've read three very good novels about cloning and this is one of them. The other two are "Never Let Me Go" and "The House of the Scorpion." ( )
  kalobo | May 19, 2007 |
Showing 5 of 5
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385336950, Paperback)

In his gorgeous debut novel, The Cloud Atlas, Liam Callanan merges fact and fantasy in a dual narrative set in Alaska amidst the waning days of World War II. In a hospice care facility Louis Belk is an aged priest providing religious comfort and confession to a dying friend, a Yup'ik shaman named Ronnie. But, as Ronnie reaches the final stages of life, Belk begins a confession of his own.

The narrative turns back to young Belk's career as a bomb disposal specialist during the war. When Belk witnesses a bizarre balloon explosive kill several soldiers at Fort Cronkhite outside of San Francisco, he is summarily shipped to Alaska to join a top secret military unit dedicated to uncovering the mystery of what turn out to be Japanese balloon bombs (Callanan based this story on an actual Japanese program that was largely covered up by the US government during the war). Belk's commanding officer, Captain Gurley--a cross between Conrad's Colonel Kurz and Melville's Ahab--is a disgraced former OSS man with a Princeton pedigree and an artificial leg. The leg is a permanent reminder of his failure to defuse his first balloon bomb, and it fuels an obsession to discover and collect all such bombs in the future. In possession of a captured leather-bound atlas filled with maps and neat Japanese script, Gurley is also convinced that the Japanese are about to launch far more deadly cargo on the balloons, perhaps spies or plague virus. Meanwhile, Belk and Gurley become embroiled in an explosive love triangle with the local fortune teller, Lily, a woman with an uncanny ability to read people's lives but unable to understand her own destructive passions or escape her demons.

In unfolding this complicated story, Callan manages to keep the development of Belk, Lily, and Gurney in an almost perfect balance with the telling of a well-paced and compelling war-time narrative. Callanan enriches the novel with details of 1940s bomb disposal procedures and provides a thorough anatomy of Japanese balloon bombs. He also establishes Alaska--a place seemingly caught between American and Yup'ik culture--as a space for American magical realism, where spirit animals and Catholic mysticism can cohabitate. As a first effort, The Cloud Atlas is all silver lining. --Patrick O'Kelley

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:27:41 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"Drifting through the night, whisper-quiet, they were the most sublime manifestations of a desperate enemy: Japanese balloon bombs. Made of rice paper, at once ingenious and deadly, they sailed thousands of miles across the Pacific...and once they started landing, the U.S. scrambled teams to find and defuse them, and then keep them secret from an already anxious public. Eighteen-year-old Louis Belk was one of those men. Dispatched to the Alaskan frontier, young Sergeant Belk was better trained in bomb disposal than in keeping secrets. And the mysteries surrounding his mission only increased when he met his superior officer - a brutal veteran OSS spy hunter who knew all too well what the balloons could do - and Lily, a Yup'ik Eskimo woman who claimed she could see the future." "Louis's superior ushers him into a world of dark secrets; Lily introduces Louis to an equally disorienting world of spirits - and desire. But the world that finally tests them all is Alaska, whose vastness cloaks mysteries that only become more frightening as they unravel. Chasing after the ghostly floating weapons, Louis embarks upon an adventure that will lead him deep into tundra. There, on the edge of the endless wilderness, he will make a discovery and a choice that will change the course of his life."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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