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

by David Mitchell

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
10,454419273 (4.15)4 / 968
Member:HanJie
Title:Cloud Atlas
Authors:David Mitchell
Info:Sceptre (2004), Edition: First Edition, Paperback, 544 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:science fiction, historical, period, drama

Work details

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (2004)

Recently added bythemarkdolan, KRoan, deckehoe, private library, robertwmartin, Malcomnson, abbeyhar, catiew
  1. 110
    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. 82
    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. 61
    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. 52
    A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (sturlington)
  8. 30
    Black Swan Green by David Mitchell (PghDragonMan)
  9. 41
    Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (novelcommentary)
  10. 20
    The Islanders by Christopher Priest (tetrachromat)
  11. 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.
  12. 64
    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.
  13. 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.
  14. 20
    Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru (Tinwara)
  15. 10
    A History of the World in 10½ Chapters by Julian Barnes (suniru)
  16. 10
    TransAtlantic by Colum McCann (suniru)
  17. 10
    Mobius Dick by Andrew Crumey (alzo)
  18. 11
    The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco (hippietrail)
  19. 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?
  20. 11
    Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison (hippietrail)

(see all 23 recommendations)

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English (410)  Dutch (4)  Finnish (1)  Danish (1)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  Czech (1)  All languages (419)
Showing 1-5 of 410 (next | show all)
Six related stories set in different time periods (the 19th century, the 1930s, the 1970s, the present, two future times).

I saw the film first and came away baffled, but was told that the book was much better. It was certainly more comprehensible as the relationships between the different stories became clearer. ( )
  Robertgreaves | Jul 16, 2014 |
say that it's a great novel. I found some of the multiple storylines, which range from past through present to future and cover a range of genres, easier going than others, but connections between those storylines made the book a satisfying whole. As is often the case with science fiction by authors more strongly associated with literary fiction, the science fiction portions of the book don't offer anything strikingly new in conceptual terms, but in common with the rest of the novel, they are deeply and densely imagined. If you are prepared to give it time and attention, "Cloud Atlas" offers rich rewards. ( )
  timjones | Jul 13, 2014 |
Read the book – don’t see the movie. For those of you who saw The Wachowski’s film treatment of David Mitchell’s novel [Cloud Atlas], there is so much more waiting for you in its pages. Don’t misunderstand, the film was a grand gesture, taking a book that many people deemed unfilmable and giving it a visual treatment. It was epic, visually stunning, and challenging. But in the attempt to give Mitchell’s voice to the film, the Wachowski’s opted to slide in and out of the six nested stories rather than tell them in the order that Mitchell does. The result is herky-jerky at best, making it difficult to sink into any of the characters or stories, like the reader does

For the uninitiated, Mitchell’s novel offers six stories set in wildly different times and locales. Each account is told in a distinct voice that is consistent with the time and place of the story. He links each of the stories through some slight connection: a character that recurs or a manuscript from one character finds its way into the hands of a character from a different story. But the connections are deeper for Mitchell than these surface links. One person from each story bears an unusual birthmark in the shape of a comet. The suggestion is that these are reincarnated souls, living successive lives in different times, vaguely aware of their previous lives and connected to them in some way. Each of their stories is interrupted mid-stream for another, in one case, in the middle of a sentence.

Mitchell starts with Adam Ewing, a San Francisan sailing the Pacific in the mid-nineteenth century, who is the unwitting victim of a deceitful doctor. The doctor falsely diagnoses Ewing with a parasite so that he can slowly poison the man and rob him. Ewing journals the journey. Robert Frobisher, a young, down-on-his-luck musician and composer from the 1930’s, interrupts Ewing’s account. Frobisher seeks out a reclusive master composer and auditions as his amanuensis. He soon learns that their partnership is not at all equal, and begins composing his own work alone, the Clous Atlas Sextet. During his time in the composer’s home, Frobisher finds Ewing’s journal and reads it. He then sends his sextet, along with Ewing’s journal, to his friend, Sixsmith, to whom Frobisher’s story is told in the form of letters. Sixsmith reappears in the next story, a noirish mystery featuring Luisa Rey, a slightly radical journalist for a kiss-and-tell rag. In 1975, Rey meets Sixsmith, now an engineer, in an elevator, and he sets her onto a conspiracy surrounding the opening of a nuclear reactor. After Sixsmith is murdered, Rey collects Frobisher’s letters to him from Sixsmith’s motel room, and reads them, learning that she and Frobisher share the comet-like birthmark. Rey’s story makes its way to Timothy Cavendish, a publisher of no particular account. Cavendish reads Rey’s story as a submission for publication while he is on the run from the hoodlum brothers of another seedy author who believes that Cavendish owes him money. Mistakenly imprisoned in a Nurse Ratched-run nursing home, Cavendish must lead his cohorts on a daring and comical escape, one that he decides to chronicle in his own memoir. Somni-451, a fabricated clone in a dystopian world, recounts watching a film version of Cavendish’s story, while she is interrogated. Somni reveals her awakening at the hands of rebels who seek to abolish a corporate government that has enslaved the world in a forced consumer state. Further into the future, Zachary describes the world that resulted from Somni’s revolution, a world stripped of most civilization. Somni’s interrogation features prominently in Zachary’s world, as she has become a deity of sorts, and her interrogation a morality tale, encapsulating the principles of righteousness.

Zachary’s tale is the only one that isn’t interrupted, serving as a fulcrum to push the narrative back through the others, back to the beginning. In the conclusion of Ewing’s journal, as he describes his attacker’s confession, Mitchell’s theme is the most clear. The doctor tells Ewing, “The weak are meat, the strong do eat.” The victimization of each of the comet-marked souls in Mithchell’s novel is never more clear than with Ewing. It is a much more direct and intimate feast for the doctor. The constant predation of the human world was Mitchell’s point all along. While each of these characters are fed upon though, they also survive, each chipping away at the chains and offering the next incarnation a chance at survival.

Bottom Line: A story that transcends time and place, yet is firmly rooted in several times and places.

5 bones!!!!!
A favorite for the year. ( )
2 vote blackdogbooks | Jul 12, 2014 |
I loved reading this book. Great seamless weaving of storylines. Great craft work on David Mitchell's part. I want to read his other books. I don't believe in destiny or providence but its use in the story was masterfully done. I particularly liked his visions of the future. ( )
  BenjaminHahn | Jul 8, 2014 |
David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas is a feat of stunning storytelling, marvelously constructed and impressively told. Some of it feels almost like the author showing off, but he's good enough that it is a plus not a minus.

Cloud Atlas is composed of what are effectively six interrelated stories of almost novella length nestled together like a set of matryoshka dolls. Mitchell relates the first half of each in chronological order going from a ship's voyage in the Pacific in 1849 through to the present and then beyond to a dystopian future followed by a post apocalyptic vision. He then finishes each story in the reverse order that they were originally told, going from the future and ending in 1849. The stories span the globe, but most of them seem to have some strange affinity for Hawaii.

The stories are linked in that the character in the second story is reading the first book, the character in the third story is reading the letters written by the one in the second, the character in the fourth story is a publisher with a manuscript of the third story, etc. They also have more of a mystical link that I did not particularly relate to in that the main character in each of them appears to have been intended to be a reincarnation of the same person, signaled in part by them all sharing the same distinctive tattoo or birthmark.

Each of the segments is told in completely different styles, including a journal, letters, a pulp thriller, an interview--all of which read like they were written by a completely different author writing in different genres. I thought four of the six stories were outstanding, with the first/last somewhat less so and the postapocalyptic middle one the only one I did not really like.

Ultimately, Cloud Atlas seemed to be about storytelling, constructing worlds, and a postmodern exercise. But it is so well constructed and told, that it seems larger and more epic than just that. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 410 (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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Important places
Important events
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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.
Last words
(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)

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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