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Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Cloud Atlas (original 2004; edition 2004)

by David Mitchell

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
10,426417275 (4.15)4 / 961
Title:Cloud Atlas
Authors:David Mitchell
Info:Sceptre (2004), Edition: First Edition, Paperback, 544 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:science fiction, historical, period, drama

Work details

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (2004)

  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 (407)  Dutch (4)  Finnish (1)  Danish (1)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  Czech (1)  All languages (416)
Showing 1-5 of 407 (next | show all)
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 |
I really wanted to give this book 5 stars, but unfortunately some of the stories didn't move me, so, I deducted a star. However, the majority of the stories were not only captivating, but beautifully written. I'm curious to see how the film adaption turns out. ( )
  AMANDALAWR3NCE | Jun 14, 2014 |
Original post at Book Rhapsody.


A Literary Symphony in B Major

It was the first time that I attended the meetings of our book club. As it is with groups, little conversations sprout here and there. One conversation rippled within my hearing range, which was about trying out David Mitchell’s novels.

The words came from a Haruki Murakami fan. That member feasted on his books, and indeed, it’s high time to dip fingers on other goods. It stuck inside my head. Who is this David Mitchell? A local writer once gave away copies of Cloud Atlas and perennially claims a David Mitchell novel as one of her favorites. And then just a few weeks after, a handful of us from the book club decided to read it.

Which turned out to be a revelation. I don’t think I would have ever sampled any of David Mitchell’s works had I not heard that conversation. I don’t think that the people that I’ve read this book with ever turned to be completists of Mitchell’s works or his evangelists, but oops, someone’s list of favorite authors changed after finishing the book.

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 and its Oceans shared equitably, such a world will come to pass. I am not deceived. It is the hardest of worlds to make real. Tortuous advances won over generations can be lost by a single stroke of a myopic president’s pen or a vainglorious general’s sword.

That is a sampling, obviously, of a Mitchell narrative, presented in the form of a diary entry. The message sounds bleak, yes, but the diarist decides on the next paragraph that his life would be worth living if he shapes a world where he would be happy to see his son inherit. An ambitious feat, yes, one that could not be single-handedly accomplished, maybe just as ambitious as the novel it belongs to.

It is composed of six interconnected novellas, or novelettes. Whatever. The first, the one where the quotation belongs, is a diary, probably written in the late 1800s. The second is a collection of letters in the 1930s. The third is a mystery-suspense novel, which could be in the 1980s. The fourth is a movie, most likely present day. The fifth is an interview, set in a future where cloning is a possibility. And the sixth is an oral folktale, post-apocalyptic, which somehow seems ancient. A full circle. Not really, but more like a parabola, because the first five are broken in half, some even in mid-sentence, only to resume their completion later on. 1 2 3 4 5 6 5 4 3 2 1.

If I were to describe each of these six, it would take me longer than necessary. Each has its own distinct style, form, structure, and how could a writer create this novel if he does not have the genius to do it? True, there are already other novels with a similar approach, but this stands out because it is well-written. It’s very engaging, and the thrill that it brings can be likened to that gut feeling when a coaster charges through one of its loops.

It seems like six people pieced this panoramic novel together, people doing science fiction, historical fiction, modern fiction, and what else? It could be seen as a gimmick, this structuring of the novel. But if one can pull it off brilliantly, why not give him the credit for that? Besides, it still manages to be cohesive, not sloppy. Yes, it can get hard, just like any coaster ride, but it’s truly rewarding.

The dominant theme on each part is survival. Someone is always pursued by someone else. Someone else is trying to do wrong for various reasons. Yes, history tells us that we are a race of organisms that dwell on outliving one another, outsmarting one another. Survivor, anyone?

Yet in this dog-eat-dog world, there are souls who will do otherwise, holding on to that hope that this world will eat itself up and come up with a new order. Yes, these are only drops of water in the vast ocean of life, and the diarist responds, as the last line of the novel, in a question: Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?

Cloud Atlas, by the way, is one of the character’s posthumous sextet for the piano, violin, cello, clarinet, flute, and oboe. If ever you are wondering why I chose B Major as the scale, this one has five sharps. More sharps in a scale make the melody fiercer and bolder. It’s only befitting for this sextet, this novel.

So after finishing this, I read Black Swan Green. And recently, I have finished number9dream. I am looking forward to reading Ghostwritten and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet with my bookish friends. One novel turned me into a completist. If that is not enough proof to make you consider, it’s either I did not do a good job with this or you are not willing to try reading one of the best books of the decade.

On that note, I don’t think I could ever fully justify the merits of this novel. It’s just that immense, but I am glad to have tried. ( )
  angusmiranda | Jun 10, 2014 |
Absolutely astounding. ( )
  Kaelkivial | Jun 8, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 407 (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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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.)
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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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Average: (4.15)
0.5 3
1 42
1.5 8
2 118
2.5 43
3 362
3.5 161
4 981
4.5 304
5 1245


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