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Cloud atlas : novel by David Mitchell
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Cloud atlas : novel (original 2004; edition 2004)

by David Mitchell

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11,050451253 (4.15)4 / 1089
Member:Amsa1959
Title:Cloud atlas : novel
Authors:David Mitchell
Info:New York: Random House, 2004
Collections:Your library, SF, Fantasy and Horror
Rating:***
Tags:1001 books, dystopia, sf, 2013, big fat book challenge 2013

Work details

Cloud Atlas: A Novel by David Mitchell (2004)

Recently added bynibhride, private library, Robbie1943, digicura, bsiemens, zkazy, twertz, Fjola
  1. 111
    If on a winter's night a traveler by Italo Calvino (Ludi_Ling)
    Ludi_Ling: Different yet both well-written approaches to meta-fiction.
  2. 102
    The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel by David Mitchell (pgmcc)
    pgmcc: Really enjoyable set of related stories with the author's well deomonstrated skill
  3. 104
    Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (sturlington)
  4. 71
    The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson (one-horse.library, PghDragonMan)
    PghDragonMan: A theme of reincarnation used to balance Karma flows through the story.
  5. 40
    Number9Dream by David Mitchell (PghDragonMan)
  6. 74
    A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (jbvm, souloftherose)
    jbvm: Without giving anything away, after you've read both you'll understand my recommendation.
    souloftherose: Both novels are occasionally experimental in style with interconnected short stories. They are also both very good.
  7. 52
    A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (sturlington)
  8. 30
    Black Swan Green by David Mitchell (PghDragonMan)
  9. 41
    Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban (Rynooo, browner56, pfeldman)
    browner56: Highly imaginative works, particularly the phonetic recreations of the English language
  10. 20
    The Children of Men by P. D. James (JenMDB)
  11. 20
    Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (JenMDB, sturlington)
    sturlington: Both have unusual narrative structures and explore the theme of reincarnation.
  12. 31
    Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (novelcommentary)
  13. 10
    TransAtlantic by Colum McCann (suniru)
  14. 10
    The Islanders by Christopher Priest (tetrachromat)
  15. 10
    The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (JenMDB)
  16. 10
    Girl Reading by Katie Ward (rarm)
    rarm: Girl Reading isn't as intricately constructed as Cloud Atlas, but both books use linked stories to carry a theme through the centuries and into the future.
  17. 10
    The Castle of Crossed Destinies by Italo Calvino (Ludi_Ling)
    Ludi_Ling: For those interested in disparate yet intertwining narratives of a somewhat fantastical nature.
  18. 10
    Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru (Tinwara)
  19. 11
    Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (generalkala)
    generalkala: Similar multi-strand, multi-era novel.
  20. 11
    Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (Anonymous user)

(see all 28 recommendations)

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English (437)  Dutch (5)  Spanish (2)  French (2)  Finnish (1)  Danish (1)  Czech (1)  German (1)  All languages (450)
Showing 1-5 of 437 (next | show all)
This book was heading for a 2½ or 3 star rating for me until the last few sections. Perhaps my change of heart came from the book itself but I suspect that participating in a group read of the book helped. Because I was discussing the book with others, I put more thought into questions such as "Why did Mitchell write it this way?" and "What is the purpose of the recurring features?" while I was reading than I would have done if I had been reading this on my own.

I can't claim that I "know" what the book meant or was supposed to mean but I can say that this is a book that has a meaning. It could be about the terrible price greed and selfishness cause the world to pay; it could be about the importance of belief; it could be something else entirely. Different readers will come away with different messages.

For a while, I thought that Mitchell was suggesting that civilization was cyclical so a return to barbarism was inevitable. As a missionary in the South Seas said in the second section of Adam Ewing:

"'That's what all beliefs turn to one day. Rat's nests & rubble.'"

The decline of civilization shown in the book certainly seems to bear that out. But the final pages of the book changed my mind. Ewing talks about the importance of belief and acting on your belief even if it seems futile:

[Adam's imagined criticism from his father-in-law]:"'...only as you gasp your dying breath shall you understand, your life amounted to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean!'
   Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?"


I love that message! However, I can't give the book 5 stars because there were some aspects that bothered me. They are probably silly nitpicking details but they prevent me from giving this the highest rating.

The most serious flaw for me was in the Sonmi sections -- I liked how Mitchell was showing the devolution of the language to coincide with the cultural decline. However, the use of American brand-names turned into nouns bothered me -- at first I thought it was clever but in Korea, these should have been Japanese brands rather than American. Also, some of the brands were already losing prominence when the book was written (Kodak for example) and so are unlikely choices (Fuji film would be far more likely to be commonly used in Asia than Kodak).

The theme that greed & the dominance of corporations over individuals leads to ruin could have been illustrated just as well with Asian brands.
( )
  leslie.98 | Apr 24, 2015 |
In Cloud Atlas David Mitchell questions where will we all end up? From the journal of an American Lawyer travelling the southern Islands in 1850 to a dystopian future of “The Fall”, we witness the battle between good intentions and civilised behaviour versus survival of the ruthless and powerful over the common good.
The novel is structured around seemingly unrelated people and how their choices, small and large, affect in a ripple the society they inhabit. Each version of events is read by or viewed by the next person in the chain.
We start with the Journal of Adam Ewing and American Lawyer attempting to return from the Chatham Islands to his wife and child in San Francisco. His adventures end abruptly and we are in Belgium in 1931 with a disinherited composer chasing his musical idol. We follow his fortunes in his correspondence with his lover and closest confidant Sixsmith. This correspondence stops without resolution and we are in 1975 with Luisa Rey an investigative reporter in San Francisco. Her story stops on a cliff hanger and then we are with a publisher in England evading pugilistic debt collectors. From here we take a leap into the future and follow the story of genetically modified ‘fabricant’ in a dystopian view of Corpocrasy. Our last storyteller is a pacific Islander who begins to discover how far his people have gone from having ‘Smarts’ and knowledge of the world and how it works.
From Zachary the Islander we go back and finish each tale to finish with Adam Ewing and his prophetic words.
“If we believe that humanity may transcend tooth & claw, if we believe divers races & creeds can share this world as peaceably as the orphans share their candlenut tree, if we believe leaders must be just, violence muzzled, power accountable & the riches of the Earth & its Oceans shared equitably, such a world will come to pass. I am not deceived. It is the hardest of worlds to make real. Torturous advances won over generations can be lost by a single stroke of a myopic president’s pen or a vainglorious general’s sword.”
This is Mobius strip of a novel as we follow the links of each protagonist through history and back again. ( )
  Robert3167 | Apr 19, 2015 |
It took me a while to think about what I would say in this review.

On the positive side, David Mitchell is an excellent writer and storyteller. Each of the stories in the book are terrific in their own right. There were a few slow spots, but I wanted to finish each one (which is my criteria for a good story).

On the negative side, I had a very hard time grasping the common thread that ran through these stories. I got the idea that they were intended to be illustrative of the ultimate downfall of civilization. But why start in 1830, and why pick the periods that were chosen? I also recognized the reincarnation theme in the comet birthmark. But why was this significant?

In the end, I felt as if the author was trying to be extra clever, and since i couldn't understand much the cleverness, he left me behind. I have a hope that if I go back and read this again in a year, I will recognize more of the cleverness. If so, I will post additional comments attesting to my increased understanding. But that begs the question, why write a book that the reader has to read twice to understand? ( )
  grandpahobo | Mar 22, 2015 |
When is a novel not a novel? When it's comprised of six inter-linked novella length stories. Coming into this book I didn't know what to expect. I knew the author was generally well regarded but I hadn't read anything of this book or his work prior to picking this one up, I had it tagged as science fiction and while it certainly fits that category for a couple of parts of the stories (post-apocalyptic and dystopia) it also belongs under historical fiction, contemporary fiction and mystery/thriller too. The book starts in the past with The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing and relates a voyage of a 19th century notary as he leaves Chatham Isle for his home in San Francisco. Told via entries into a diary the idiom is very much of the time period and takes a little while to get into the swing of the narrative style. But just as you do, it's cut-off mid-sentence and the second story begins. Letters from Zedelghen tells the tale of Robert Frobisher, a disinherited former music student at Caius College as he escapes some ruffians attempting to reclaim a debt. He makes his way to Belgium with the intent of seeking the position of amanuensis to Vyvyan Ayrs, a reclusive composer who, due to illness, hasn't produced any new work in some time but is still held in great esteem. We have moved forward to the 1920's and the writing style has also moved with the times. I mentioned that the stories are inter-linked and one of the ways here is that Frobisher finds half of a journal and is disappointed that he is unable to complete it. Yes, you've guessed that it was the earlier journal of Adam Ewing. This part of the story is related via letters sent to Rufus Sixsmith, a friend back in London. Part three of the story, Half Lives, a Luiza Rey Mystery, has an investigative reporter chasing a story of a potential nuclear disaster when rumours surface of a report written by one of the scientists involved in developing a power plant which advises that it might not be as entirely safe as most people seem to think it is. The scientist in question just happens to be Rufus Sixsmith. We then move to a modern day setting for The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish. A publisher needs to hide out after relatives of an author who want a cut of the already spent profits from a surprise blockbuster. His brother sends him to a safe house in Hull which turns out to be a nursing home for the elderly where he promptly has a mild stroke. After a brief convalescence he sets about plotting an escape along with a couple of the other residents. The only worthwhile thing Cavendish has to read during his ordeal is a manuscript for the first Luiza Rey mystery. A future dystopian society is the setting for the next instalment and features a fabricant, Sonmi-451, as she relates her ascension from a near-mindless server in a fast-food outlet to a revolutionary figurehead as related to an archivist who records this on a device called an orison. Sonmi's last wish is to be able to finish watching the tale of Timothy Cavendish. This device then features in the only segment which completes without interruption. Sloosha's Crossin and Everthin After is set in the far future after a cataclysmic event has ripped the world apart. Meronym is a member of the Prescients, a group of people that have retained some of the knowledge of the old world, who comes to spend time with the Valleysmen, a farming tribe, to learn and document their ways. She uses an Orison as a type of multimedia device to record her findings and communicate with her people. We then complete the preceding five stories in reverse order culminating with the second half of Adam Ewing's journal.

Six different stories told in differing styles and use of language sounds weird but when read as a whole works surprisingly well. The connections often seem tenuous but what I've listed above isn't the only way in which they are linked as there are constant themes that are touched upon in each tale. While there is nothing amazing about any of the actual stories (though none are badly written either) I think the accomplishment of bringing them all together is a triumph. Some wonderful characters narrate each of the stories and even when it's not so easy to read within the language of the time that is being used I still wanted to turn the page and find out what happens next. I am quite intrigued as to how they managed to make a coherent movie out of this book though and will be taking a look sometime soon. I'll also be seeking out more of David Mitchell's books to add to the tbr pile as well. ( )
2 vote AHS-Wolfy | Mar 20, 2015 |
One of the best books I have ever read. So nice a read. I have seen the movie before the reading the books didn't seem that interesting at first. I proved myself to be wrong to soon. The book is so interesting and makes you turn the pages with keen interest.
The language of the books is quite nice, I could really feel the old english and the new in the same book. So nice a language pattern let me tell you plot is one of the best I have ever seen.You should read. ( )
  durgaprsd04 | Feb 25, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 437 (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
David Mitchellprimary 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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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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:55:09 -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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