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Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
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Cloud Atlas (original 2004; edition 2005)

by David Mitchell

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
11,168465251 (4.14)4 / 1104
Member:hoddybook
Title:Cloud Atlas
Authors:David Mitchell
Info:Hodder & Stoughton Audio Books (2005), Audio CD
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:***
Tags:historical fiction, science fiction, reincarnation, short stories, slavery, rebellion

Work details

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (2004)

  1. 120
    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 by David Mitchell (pgmcc)
    pgmcc: Really enjoyable set of related stories with the author's well deomonstrated skill
  3. 71
    The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson (TomWaitsTables, PghDragonMan)
    PghDragonMan: A theme of reincarnation used to balance Karma flows through the story.
  4. 84
    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.
  5. 40
    Number9Dream by David Mitchell (PghDragonMan)
  6. 30
    Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (JenMDB, sturlington)
    sturlington: Both have unusual narrative structures and explore the theme of reincarnation.
  7. 30
    The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (JenMDB)
  8. 41
    Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban (Rynooo, browner56, pfeldman)
    browner56: Highly imaginative works, particularly the phonetic recreations of the English language
  9. 30
    Black Swan Green by David Mitchell (PghDragonMan)
  10. 31
    Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (novelcommentary)
  11. 20
    The Children of Men by P. D. James (JenMDB)
  12. 31
    Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (generalkala)
    generalkala: Similar multi-strand, multi-era novel.
  13. 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.
  14. 21
    Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (Anonymous user)
  15. 10
    TransAtlantic by Colum McCann (suniru)
  16. 10
    The Islanders by Christopher Priest (tetrachromat)
  17. 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.
  18. 10
    Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru (Tinwara)
  19. 00
    1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (JuliaMaria)
  20. 00
    Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann (JuliaMaria)

(see all 28 recommendations)

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English (451)  Dutch (5)  Spanish (2)  French (2)  Finnish (1)  Danish (1)  Czech (1)  German (1)  All languages (464)
Showing 1-5 of 451 (next | show all)
I admit I'm a sucker for art that interrogates art, and that's exactly what "Cloud Atlas" is. Whatever term you use--reflexive, post-modern, meta-fiction--it's very self-aware. But art that tries to interrogate art is extremely common. Art that succeeds? Not so much. And art that both succeeds in interrogating the art form and ALSO offers three-dimensional, sympathetic characters and compelling story-lines is downright rare. The best of the genre is mostly packed with the likes of Umberto Eco and William Gibson--fascinating thinkers, solid writers (I'm a fan of both), but not great storytellers. All six short novels in "Cloud Atlas" are, within their own genres, good stand-alone novellas with good characters and worthwhile storylines. The fact that they fit together like puzzle pieces is almost a bonus--and a lovely one at that. Nicely done. Dense, but worth the effort. ( )
1 vote TheBentley | Jul 28, 2015 |
I would give this book 10 stars if that were available. This is definitely on my list of “favorite books of all time!” I have so many wonderful things to say about this book that I hardly know where to begin.

So, in no particular order of importance:

I saw the movie before I read the book. This is really unusual for me, and when it occurs I usually find the movie to be disappointing. Not so this time. The movie, which stars a full panoply of amazing actors, is incredibly true to the book and excellent! So watch the movie AND read the book.

The structure of this book is downright amazing. Each section serves as its own short story, set in a particular time and place, with its own cast of characters. Mitchell has created dialects and vocabularies unique to many of the settings, yet none of them seem contrived or implausible and each fully captures the elan of the setting, so that they enhance the richness of the telling rather than detract from it.

Each individual story in the book tells the tale of some human dilemma. Together, the individual stories depict the many ways in which human beings hurt & help each other, understand & misunderstand each other, isolate and denigrate those different from us & occasionally see our better natures lift each other up and onward.

But then Mitchell does something even more incredible. Every individual story links to every other individual story in the book. The characters are recurring, even though they may appear (or reappear) in a different century or country or level of civilization. There is something that came before in humankind and the experience of each character that is of significance to the present of that character. And by the end, the entire book folds back to its beginning.

I am 53 years old and I’ve been a reader all of my life. Cloud Atlas is the first novel I have ever wanted to begin again from the beginning and literally diagram its entirety. I believe I will have to read this book several times over.
( )
  Phyllis.Mann | Jul 13, 2015 |
...Cloud Atlas is a very difficult book to review. I'm very impressed by the way Mitchell ignores the usual genre/literature divide and uses elements from both to tell his story. I do not think that he manages to blend the best of both into this book however. It is very preoccupied with structure and technique, something a lot of readers will feel is pretentious. In fact, it hides so many literary tricks and techniques that I am pretty convinced I haven't even caught half of them. It is an ambitious book, fascinating in many ways, but also a book that I feel tries to do too much and as a result falls short in some aspects. It does show how rich literature could be if it would manage to break down the wall that in the mind of readers, writers and publishers still divides genres. As such Cloud Atlas is a very interesting novel. One of a growing number of books on both sides of the divide that is chipping away at the wall. I don't expect it to come down any time soon but it is starting to crumble in places. Hopefully books like Cloud Atlas will allow more of these genre-defying books to slip through.

Full Random Comments ( )
  Valashain | Jul 12, 2015 |
Six different stories, set in six different eras, inter-weaved, but very unique in terms of writing style, background and storyline. Personal favorite would be 'An Orison of Sonmi' and really enjoyed reading the British publisher's account in 'The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish'. And the worst of the six has to be 'Chapter 1: The Pacific journal of Adam Ewing'. But each story is told with such individuality in terms of words and expression, I believe I am thoroughly convinced by Mitchell's writing capability and am eager to read his other books.

Cloud Atlas's underlying theme may not be new or different from the fears of the future of humanity authors and scientists have expressed for a century. But the book has been a treat for a reader like me. After almost getting bored to death by Brown's 'Inferno', I was relieved to read something invigorating, even though both books have something in common in some place. Yes, Cloud Atlas may be heavy, high thought, and boring when focused on the moral teachings and the philosophy beneath all that nonsense, fun, spy, sci-fi, adventure accounts. But it is a high-paced satire, drama, adventure, sci-fi, thriller nonetheless. I understand why some watching the movie might not be interested to read the book, and frankly you actually may not like the book after knowing the stories. But having read the book, I am thankful I haven't seen the movie as yet, and actually am eager to see how Sonmi's futuristic theme is pulled off and the person playing T Cavendish pulls off the humor along with the sadness.

Finally, a huge "Yeyyyy" for Cloud Atlas. :) ( )
  PsYcHe_Sufi | Jul 12, 2015 |
A series of stories within stories, told from the outside inwards (opposite, for example, John Irvings' nested stories in [b:The World According to Garp|7069|The World According to Garp|John Irving|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348745597s/7069.jpg|1028204] and [b:The Hotel New Hampshire|11768|The Hotel New Hampshire|John Irving|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1318013543s/11768.jpg|1786995]), meaning that the inner stories have knowledge of the outer ones, and not vice versa)

Except - one of the hand-offs reveals that one of the stories is fictitious - which makes the whole house of cards collapse.

Specifically:
- Adam Ewing is adventuring in the pacific, writing a journal, which ends up in the possession of...
- Robert Frobisher, who write letters to his lover Rufus Sixsmith, who in turn is...
- a nuclear scientist met by Luisa Ray, an investigative reporter, whose life is...
- ENTIRELY FICTIONAL, since she was merely a character in a book authored by Timothy Candevish!!!!!

What's the point to continue? If Luisa is fictional, then Rufus is just a character in that same book, and his life does not extend beyond the scope book. Therefore there is no real Robert Frobisher, there is no Cloud Atlas sextet that you can really listen to, there were no Jocasta and Vyvyan Ayrs, there were no pacific diaries, and there was no Robert Ewing.

If that's not bad enough, then the stories of "The First Louisa Ray Mystery" and "Orison of Somni 451" are just the worst kind of faux-environmental anti-corporate propaganda-like manifesto that make me embarrassed to be a liberal. They insult the intelligence. With this kind of writing on your side, there's no need for conservative pundits, dammit.

Somni-451 especially makes no sense, since if the uber-government requires a false prophet to crucify, they don't need to create her and take her through years of training, setting up a fake underground, etc - with their powers, they can frame anyone with a lot less effort and a lot more predictability. Also Soylent Green is made of people. Come on!

Other than that, after what seems like 2000 pages, after the closure of all the stories, there's no point other than "people should be nice to each other for a change".

I held on till the bitter end since at least the writing is competent, but all for naught. The book is thick, and can be used as a door stop, unless you got the Kindle edition. Not enough for a second star. A pretentious waste of time. ( )
  meekGee | Jul 6, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 451 (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 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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