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Cloud Atlas: A Novel by David Mitchell
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Cloud Atlas: A Novel (original 2004; edition 2004)

by David Mitchell

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12,088513212 (4.13)4 / 1182
Member:Huge_Horror_Fan
Title:Cloud Atlas: A Novel
Authors:David Mitchell
Info:Random House Trade Paperbacks (2004), Paperback, 528 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:Literature

Work details

Cloud Atlas: A Novel by David Mitchell (Author) (2004)

Recently added byprivate library, raffle, ramses_smuckles, balen, IanLaChance, EmikoSin, PHSEnglishDept, Ronoc, JBD1
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English (500)  Dutch (5)  Spanish (2)  French (2)  Finnish (1)  Danish (1)  Czech (1)  German (1)  All languages (513)
Showing 1-5 of 500 (next | show all)
Cloud Atlas is a perfect novel. I love everything about it. Even the novels structure reads like a piece of music rising up to crescendo, falling down into a diminuendo and ending in a glorious and calm finale. It’s about more than the same named piece of music that makes up its title. The music runs through the core of many of these stories where facts and events barely overlap but come together into one continuum of history. This novels is very “big picture” and at its heart it’s about the best and the worst of us and how those things survive any age. ( )
  RachelRY | Aug 23, 2016 |
I barely feel competent to review this book, after reading some of the earlier reviews. It's like some of the reviewers are busy trying to be "literary super reviewer" and pull out all the stops, and there's a certain irony there, because one of the shining things about this book is the crisp and clear writing. Even in the "genres" within the book where the nature of the thing is to be a little florid with the prose, Mitchell is spare and the writing is beautiful for it.

Suffice to say, I adore it. And I was so apprehensive about reading it, but like many others, the film trailer just tempted me so, and sent me scurrying back to the pages.

And now, I hear from fans of the book, I'll probably love the movie too, albeit not quite so very much. ( )
  krazykiwi | Aug 22, 2016 |
Well, well, well. Cloud Atlas had been on my reading list for a long time, but when a trip half way around the world came up it suddenly seemed the right time to get started on it.

Is it the best book ever written? Nope. Will it translate easily onto screen and be understood by anyone who hasn't read the book? Probably, not.

Nevertheless, I do like short stories and cliff hangers. When starting the book I could not immediately warm to the characters (apart from Adam Ewing), but after a couple of days I found myself still thinking about the book and wanted to read on. And this despite the resonances of other books / films in the stories - even despite the regurgitation of the Erin-Brokovich-theme.

Maybe it is because of the contrived connections that I enjoyed the stories or maybe it is because of the emphasis of diversity between the stories, but it made for an easy read - and sometimes I do want to switch off the cynic in me that keeps shouting "it has been done before - so why waste time on it" and just go with the story. ( )
  BrokenTune | Aug 21, 2016 |
I was a underwhelmed. I thought i was reading a work of science fiction or fantasy and it was metaphysical but not sci-fi. It is a interrelated group of stories. It is a good solid work of literature and it is fun because they are in different genres. I enjoyed it more as a collection of short stories than a whole book. The looping around of stories is novel and clever.
  newnoz | Aug 6, 2016 |
My experience with Cloud Atlas, book and film, has been a most unusual one. Pretty much always, if a book in one of my general areas of interest attracts enough attention to be actually greenlit and made into a film, I won't go near said film until I've read the book, which is always better than the film (even though I love film). I figured this case would be no different, so when previews for this film started showing up before all the big dumb superhero movies and whatnot this summer, I took notice, recalling that some of my friends had recommended this book to me and that I'd decided it sounded interesting enough to get hold of and read someday.

Then the film announcement and PANIC! Not much time to read the book, aaaaaah! But I was reading all of these other books (seriously, the number of books I'm reading at any given time is truly absurd). But surely I could fit this one in. So I started it.

And it kind of fizzled on me. I read the first section -- half-baked Joseph Conrad, lots of White Man's Burden -- and slowly propelled myself on sheer inertia into the second... and then Angry Robot dropped some new books and Candlemark & Gleam dropped one I was OMG excited for (that would be Mr. Blank) and I got an eARC of something else I was excited for (Fridgularity) and the Humble Bundle came out and...

BOOM! Theatrical release. And early buzz on the film was decidedly mixed. I quickly discovered that most of the haters, though, were hating on the controversial make-up jobs; to convey the continuity of characters/souls/whatever over time (this is, at least in part, a reincarnation story, after all), some big-time make-up work was required to, e.g., make white actors look Asian, black actors look white or Asian, etc. It got to be a whole thing. As things do.

But that's all beside the point, for me. Which is not to say that I don't get or feel with the people who were complaining about the makeup (which was also very distracting, perhaps even more so than that done on Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Looper), just that, to me, it seems that doing what the directors did with these actors helped ground the film's reality in a way that casting racially correct actors wouldn't. And really? Cloud Atlas, the movie, needed plenty of grounding, because it, and the novel it adapted, are nothing like what audiences are used to getting from a big budget film like this.

Both film and book offer a spectacular array and variety of storytelling. There is a 19th century high seas adventure full of perfidy and plotting (that would be the aforementioned half-baked Conrad), a High Romantic tale of forbidden love and musical composition on the eve of WWII, a 1970s conspiracy thriller (even in the novel, this part of the story felt like an action movie), a contemporary senior citizen's nightmare riff on One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, a dystopian high tech sci fi tale of clones and revolution, and a post-apocalyptic last grab at redemption for humanity that features the remnants of a high tech civilization collaborating with a tribe of aboriginal types who survived the apocalypse only because they were never part of the high tech world to begin with. Which is to say that there is very likely something for everyone.

But I didn't get that feel at all when I started the book! In both book and film, the stories are broken into chunks and intercut with one another, but the book has bigger chunks and fewer cuts. Ordinarily, this would argue for the book's being a richer and more comprehensive experience, but in this case, the film's three directors (Andy and Lana Wachowski and Tom Twyker) and the editor (Alexander Bener, whom I think needs to get an Oscar for his work) broke the stories into much smaller chunks, did a great deal more intercutting even from the very first, and did not respect the novel's chronology all that much -- and in so doing conveyed the novel's point* better than the novel did.

That's right. Chopping up the story/stories and remixing them like some kid from Pirate Cinema actually made it all make more sense. And rekindled my interest in the book. Hell, rekindled isn't the term -- more like ignited. Because I knew that, even though the film is longish by mainstream cinema standards, it probably wasn't totally serving all of the stories as well as one might like (I'd love to find out that a gigantic directors' cut DVD is in the works because that would be one to own). I especially suspected that there was more going on in the high tech sci-fi story, in which a Neo-Seoul, Korea, is ruled by a "corpocracy" than the film touched on.

And I was right.

Am I conveying that there's a hell of a lot going on in this novel? Because there is. At bottom, these six interlinked stories ask all kinds of difficult questions about how we treat one another as human beings, questions about slavery and freedom, respect for the individual and his/her right to self-determination, what civilization is, even how we might define what constitutes a human being. These are chiefly explored through the lens of slavery and related forms of coercion: the first story deals with the historical institution as we all remember it; the second with the horrors of an attempt to transform willing servitude/apprenticeship into slavery via blackmail; the third shifts gears to examine how a free society can be enslaved and endangered by corporate interests eager to feed the hunger for more ever more energy and stuff; the fourth examines the plight of an old man tricked into a retirement home whose residents are essentially prisoners; the fifth brings it all together in the story of a clone designed for a life of food service drudgery, engineered and conditioned to believe it's a wonderful life but awakening to its actual horrors -- she is a sentient being who is the property of a corporation and her every waking and sleeping moment is under its control, until suddenly it's not***; and the last story shows us the potential consequences of all of these elements and impulses run mad: a devastated environment, a loss of civilization, a return to life that is nasty, brutish and short, in which a character from the first story's credo that "the weak are meat the strong do eat" becomes literal.

The stories are interwoven most cunningly, for these are not merely sequential episodes. Ideas and images from one story echo in others** and some elements from "earlier" bits only really make sense after one has gotten to later ones (lots of nice "aha" moments). The feeling that it's all quite profound is, I think, earned.

But I genuinely think that I would not have enjoyed this book as much had I not read it concurrently with the film. The novel tells a great story/set of stories; the film tells it better, but in doing so has to leave out a lot of bits that make the novel a richer version of the story. They complement each other beautifully.

But really, I would have probably dropped this novel unfinished had the timing of events not produced their sequence in my personal life as they did.

*At least as I understand it.

**Naturally, the visual motifs are more apparent in the film, and some more are added (I think chiefly of the sapphire buttons from the first story and how they keep turning up), to elegant effect.

***The film pulls the most cynical/subversive punch from this story, which shouldn't surprise anyone, really; in general, the film versions of the stories have some teeth pulled and are given rather happier endings than they have in the book. ( )
  KateSherrod | Aug 1, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 500 (next | show all)
Cloud Atlas is powerful and elegant because of Mitchell's understanding of the way we respond to those fundamental and primitive stories we tell about good and evil, love and destruction, beginnings and ends. He isn't afraid to jerk tears or ratchet up suspense - he understands that's what we make stories for.
 

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mitchell, DavidAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brick, ScottNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Campbell, CassandraNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guest, Kim MaiNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heyborne, KirbyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lee, JohnNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Matthews, RichardNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mijn, Aad van derTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Original title
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Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
For Hana and her grandparents.
First words
Beyond the Indian hamlet, upon a forlorn strand, I happened on a trail of recent footprints.
Quotations
Oh, once you've been initiated into the Elderly, the world doesn't want you back.
Sometimes the fluffy bunny of incredulity zooms around the bend so rapidly that the greyhound of language is left, agog, in the starting cage.
The stationmaster's whistle blew on time, the locomotive strained like a gouty proctor on the pot before heaving itself into motion.
"Are you mad?"
Always a trickier question than it looks. "I doubt it."
Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
The book consists of six nested stories that take us from the remote South Pacific in the nineteenth century to a distant, post-apocalyptic future. Each tale is revealed to be a story that is read (or watched) by the main character in the next.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375507256, Paperback)

Now a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, and Hugh Grant, and directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer
 

A postmodern visionary who is also a master of styles of genres, David Mitchell combines flat-out adventure, a Nabokovian lore of puzzles, a keen eye for character, and a taste for mind-bending philosophical and scientific speculation in the tradition of Umberto Eco and Philip K. Dick. The result is brilliantly original fiction that reveals how disparate people connect, how their fates intertwine, and how their souls drift across time like clouds across the sky.
 
“[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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:11 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Recounts the connected stories of people from the past and the distant future, from a nineteenth-century notary and an investigative journalist in the 1970s to a young man who searches for meaning in a post-apocalyptic world.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 7 descriptions

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