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Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Cloud Atlas (original 2004; edition 2012)

by David Mitchell

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
10,691439262 (4.15)4 / 1020
Title:Cloud Atlas
Authors:David Mitchell
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, 2013

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. 92
    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 (one-horse.library, PghDragonMan)
    PghDragonMan: A theme of reincarnation used to balance Karma flows through the story.
  4. 94
    Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (sturlington)
  5. 40
    Number9Dream by David Mitchell (PghDragonMan)
  6. 51
    Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban (Rynooo, browner56, pfeldman)
    browner56: Highly imaginative works, particularly the phonetic recreations of the English language
  7. 30
    Black Swan Green by David Mitchell (PghDragonMan)
  8. 41
    Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (novelcommentary)
  9. 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.
  10. 52
    A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (sturlington)
  11. 20
    The Islanders by Christopher Priest (tetrachromat)
  12. 20
    TransAtlantic by Colum McCann (suniru)
  13. 20
    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.
  14. 20
    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.
  15. 20
    Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru (Tinwara)
  16. 10
    A History of the World in 10½ Chapters by Julian Barnes (suniru)
  17. 10
    Mobius Dick by Andrew Crumey (alzo)
  18. 00
    Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess (ZenonRobledo)
    ZenonRobledo: I have the feeling Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess inspired David Mitchell when writing Cloud Atlas. Anyone else have thoughts on the matter?
  19. 11
    The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco (hippietrail)
  20. 11
    Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison (hippietrail)

(see all 24 recommendations)


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English (428)  Dutch (4)  Danish (1)  Finnish (1)  Spanish (1)  Czech (1)  French (1)  German (1)  All languages (438)
Showing 1-5 of 428 (next | show all)
This book is amazing. Once I've read it a couple more times and I understand more of it, definitely 5 stars. ( )
  Ambo_O | Oct 21, 2014 |
This is my first review that I ever written in Goodreads. English is not my first language so please bear with me xD

It was such a difficult read at first. I need to go back and forth between the book and dictionary for the first 39 pages. The story gets better by the time I reached Robert Frobisher's chapter. I really love how the story intertwine with the next story, like a Matryoshka. Adam Ewing's chapter is just a journal in Robert Frobisher's letter. Robert Frobisher's letter is just a part of Luisa Rey's chapter. Luisa Rey's chapter is just a novel in Timothy Cavendish chapter. Timothy Cavendish chapter is just a movie in Sonmi-451's chapter. And Sonmi is valleyman's God in Zachry's chapter.

The style of writing of this book is different for every chapter. The way it's written, and everything. It's kind of irritating to read some chapter... Like Adam Ewing's chapter for the amount of archaic words that's used in this chapter. Or Zachry's chapter in which the chapter written with so many apostrophes and the use of 'wrong' words... (*telled instead of told, knowed instead of knew, badder instead of worse, etc.) After a few pages of reading Zachry's chapter, I just realized that 'un' is equivalent to 'one'. I need to reread the whole thing again :/

I enjoyed reading Luisa Rey's and Timothy Cavendish chapter the most because the style of writing is pretty 'ordinary' and I'm accustomed to read such text.

I love how cool sonmi-451's chapter is. Removing every 'e' before the letter 'x' is a brilliant idea. xcited. xultation. xpect. xec. Those words sounds cooler and more... futuristic I suppose?
I also notice how the writer change the word 'light' into 'lite'.

The end of the chapter is always end in a cliffhanger (*except in Zachry's chapter), which is good because it keep my curiosity alive and drive me to keep reading.

After the Zachry's chapter end, the other chapter ends too and they linked to each other. I think it's awesome to read how a story is connected to each other. How the character in the book is as curious about the tale as the reader is. Sonmi-451 want to continue watching Timothy Cavendish disney, Timothy Cavendish want to read the rest of Luisa Rey's novel, Luisa Rey's want to read the rest of Robert Frobisher's letter and Robert Frobisher sent the rest of Adam Ewing's journal for Sixsmith to read.

It was such a great reading experience. It feels like I'm reading six different book and living six different lives, in six different eras. This book never bore me... (*after the page 39 that is..)
It's book about life and death, good and evil, justice, humanity, greed, love and life. So many aspects, so many things to learn from it. Such a great book. I hope everyone will enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed it xD ( )
1 vote Winoko21 | Oct 1, 2014 |
Inventive and ambitious! intermittently compelling. Very good reading. ( )
  sberson | Sep 29, 2014 |
Cloud Atlas is a series of first person stories told in different narrative styles. The first is about a 19th-century American lawyer, Adam Ewing, crossing the Pacific in 1850, with an Australian native who believes Ewing saved his life, an English physician with questionable motivations, and some stomach-turning sailors. The second is about a spirited young British composer, a bit of a con man, who in 1931 talks a dying genius into taking him on as an amanuensis. This narrator, Robert Frobisher, composes the Cloud Atlas Sextet for piano, clarinet, cello, and three other instruments , "each in its own language of key, scale and colour". His story is told through letters to the man who loves him, Rufus Sixsmith. Sixsmith in turn is a nuclear scientist in the next story, a kind of thriller featuring young journalist Luisa Rey, who uncovers a diabolical corporate cover-up of nuclear safety issues, and has her life endangered because of it. The fourth story is narrated by Timothy Cavendish, a 1980s London vanity publisher, who has an unexpected publishing success and then is trapped in a suburban old people's home by a family member. The fifth science fiction-y story is narrated by Sonmi-451, a cloned slave working in some future McDonald's-parody burger joint, who shows an exceptional ability to learn and to function "outside". The sixth and last story is an after the fall of civilization (post Sonmi) tale centered around young tribe member Zachry in the Pacific islands where Ewing was crossing in the first story.

We essentially get the first half of each story, moving linearly forward in time, in the first half of the book, and then the second half of each story, starting with Zachry's furthest into the future and moving backwards in time to finish with Adam Ewing's. Someone who has studied this book more closely could explain better why and the effect of that, but I can say it works, and causes the reader to weave the stories together in a way that wouldn't have happened in a straightforward sequential presentation. Also, each narrator is mentioned or appears in the subsequent story in some fashion, which also helps tie it all together. There are other links, like a comet-looking birthmark that appears in each story.

This is virtuoso storytelling, and it seems to be a commentary on the importance of storytelling to us as well as a page-turner in its own right. As he effortlessly shifts between narrative styles, it's impossible not to think, "I'm being told a new story", but also impossible (for me, anyway), not to think, "oh, good." Zachry's was probably the hardest for me to get into at first, as it uses a made-up patois, but after a few pages it starts to sink in and seem natural.

As one character says, "Travel far enough, you meet yourself." That seems to fit the underlying theme in this book. Travel far enough in history, travel far enough in stories, travel far enough in our world, and you meet yourself. Another interesting one: "Power, time, gravity, love. The forces that really kick ass are all invisible.” As to the Cloud Atlas, Zachry says, “Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies, an' tho' a cloud's shape nor hue nor size don't stay the same, it's still a cloud an' so is a soul. Who can say where the cloud's blowed from or who the soul'll be 'morrow? Only Sonmi the east an' the west an' the compass an' the atlas, yay, only the atlas o' clouds.”

My favorite stories were those of the rascally composer and the on-the-run journalist Luisa Rey, but they're all good. The shifts in language and style are supple, and the interwoven threads are both pleasurably puzzling and important to the larger-than-its-parts whole. The overall effect is beguiling. Four and one-half stars. ( )
2 vote jnwelch | Sep 26, 2014 |
I could go on all day about Cloud Atlas. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time and honestly may be one of the best books I have ever read. I would have given it 5 stars, but the Valleysmen language frustrated me from time to time (albeit it was phenomenal)*. I will not lie, I saw the movie first. I wished I hadn't. While the movie did a great job at following the story, it did not do it justice. And how could it.
The way Mitchell weaved all of the characters stories together throughout hundreds of year was impressive to say the least. The protagonists were so strongly written that all you wanted was their success (and in my case to be their best friend, Luisa Rey . . .) while the villains were so intense they made you cringe and hope for some kind of demise. There were so many things said about society, trends, and human nature that I don't even know where to begin.
This book deserves to stand the test of time and truly deserves to be read because it is a wonderful novel and NOT because they decided to make a movie out of it!

*Lied, it's still getting 5. ( )
  KatieEmilySmith | Sep 23, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 428 (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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Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
For Hana and her grandparents.
First words
Beyond the Indian hamlet, upon a forlorn strand, I happened on a trail of recent footprints.
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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:55:09 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagan ?s California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified "dinery server" on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilisation -- the narrators of Cloud Atlas hear each other ?s echoes down the corridor of history, and their destinies are changed in ways great and small.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 8 descriptions

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Average: (4.15)
0.5 3
1 43
1.5 8
2 122
2.5 46
3 374
3.5 166
4 1012
4.5 314
5 1266


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