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Cloud Atlas (2004)

by David Mitchell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
15,448635269 (4.1)4 / 1364
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.
  1. 121
    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. 122
    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. 81
    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. 51
    Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban (Rynooo, browner56, pfeldman)
    browner56: Highly imaginative works, particularly the phonetic recreations of the English language
  5. 40
    Number9Dream by David Mitchell (PghDragonMan)
  6. 40
    The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (JenMDB)
  7. 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.
  8. 30
    Black Swan Green by David Mitchell (PghDragonMan)
  9. 20
    Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru (Tinwara)
  10. 31
    Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (JenMDB, sturlington)
    sturlington: Both have unusual narrative structures and explore the theme of reincarnation.
  11. 31
    Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (novelcommentary)
  12. 10
    The Islanders by Christopher Priest (tetrachromat)
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 21
    The Children of Men by P. D. James (JenMDB)
  16. 32
    Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (generalkala)
    generalkala: Similar multi-strand, multi-era novel.
  17. 00
    Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett (ansate)
  18. 00
    The Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson (doryfish)
    doryfish: Both novels have a theme of eternal recurrence.
  19. 00
    Join by Steve Toutonghi (47degreesnorth)
  20. 00
    Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (sturlington)

(see all 32 recommendations)


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English (614)  Dutch (8)  French (3)  German (3)  Spanish (2)  Finnish (1)  Czech (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (633)
Showing 1-5 of 614 (next | show all)
A beautiful tour de force. Part historical novel, part science fiction, well, six parts all together to be precise. Each one a little gem and all together a cloud atlas sestet. Unforgettable.

( )
  Charon07 | Jul 16, 2021 |
Very interesting. Also the section I thought I would like least is the one I liked the most. ( )
  MuggleBorn930 | Jul 11, 2021 |
At one point in David Mitchell's amazing Buddhist science fiction novel "Cloud Atlas," a character in the past comments on a character in the future he might or might not reincarnate into which you, the reader, knows is true (the action and the reincarnation) because you already read that passage about the character in the future because you're reading from the future to the past and your brain explodes all over the wall in a big greasy lumpy mess you say "Maybe this is a good book."

Six sections all written in the style of the section's time period (the Canticle for Lebowitz section is arguably the strangest to read);

Six different stories from a South Pacific Travelogue to the transcript of a futuristic TV show all referring back to the events in the stories backward _and forward_ in time;

At least four character reincarnating with one ascending to Buddhahood and returning to suffering to help usher in a new era;

Big themes of the novel hidden in the structure of the novel itself;

A big puzzle of nesting stories where actions in one story impacts the others;

And an awesome science fiction novel for 33% of the story.

You might not bother to see the movie but you should read the book. ( )
  multiplexer | Jun 20, 2021 |
I don't know exactly how an author gets the urge to write concept fiction, or, to be more pejorative, "a book with a gimmick". Most of the time it seems like there's no real reason to take what could be a perfectly pleasant novel or short story collection and start piling on endless symbolic layers (Joyce), pointless footnotes (Wallace), or text formatting games and frame narratives (Danielewski), and it seems like frequently the concepts are just there to paper over a weak supporting story. Mitchell's book, though, didn't strike me as one of those cases where his conceit was gilt over mush. It's six layers of loosely-connected, mostly good tales nested like a matrioska doll:
- Adam Ewing, an American lawyer in the South Seas who gets involved with the fallout of colonialism among the Maoris and contracts a mysterious ailment.
- Robert Frobisher, an aspiring musician whose escape from his debts leads him to serve as an elderly composer's amanuensis in his household of many temptations.
- Luisa Rey, a Karen Silkwood-esque journalist trying to research a potential coverup behind the construction of a nuclear power plant.
- Timothy Cavendish, an aging book publisher lured to an early retirement in an old-folks' home straight out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
- Sonmi-451, a clone in a THX-1138-ish future born to serve fast food who struggles to realize her potential despite the suffocating pressure of the nightmarish hyper-Juche that surrounds her.
- Zachry, a Polynesian in the far future whose story I skipped over because it was written in a goofy Anthony Burgess-style fake language that was annoying to read.
The book starts off with the first half of Ewing's story, moves to the next through one or another transition method (e.g. Ewing's diary entries get read by Frobisher, Cavendish's story is a movie that Sonmi watches), then returns to close out the second half by the end of the book. Most of the stories were pretty interesting in and of themselves, although maybe one reason for the book's format is that Mitchell didn't think any was strong enough to be a complete book. I would certainly have read a good deal more of Frobisher, Rey, and Sonmi's stories. I liked the stylistic transitions between the narratives, and I'm sure I would have found Zachry's story interesting if I had put in the effort to get used to the patois he used. There's some themes going on like reincarnation and the journeys of souls that are done well and possibly the main motivation for the book's structure, but overall I liked the actual plots of the stories enough that even though I skipped an entire sixth of the book I liked it as a whole. ( )
  aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
I tire of much contemporary fiction because, for the most part, it pales in comparison to older, mightier literature of the canon; and as I find myself “reading against the clock” (to borrow Bloom’s words) it’s hard for me to expend my precious reading hours on literature that doesn’t have a payoff confirmed by many ages before myself. Still, I take chances in the name of curiosity and, I suppose, keeping at least a pulse on the state of current fiction. And yet oftener and oftener, when I take these chances, I find myself disappointed and wishing I had allotted the time to, say, absorbing some unread Shakespeare play, Borges short story, or perhaps tilling the soil of some of Montaigne’s vast corpus of wisdom. But—alas!—with this treasure of 2004 from one David Mitchell, disappointed I was not! Far from it, in fact.

See full review: http://chrisviabookreviews.com/2017/09/08/cloud-atlas-2014/ ( )
  chrisvia | Apr 29, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 614 (next | show all)
It felt like reading multiple stories from six different authors all on a common theme, yet all these disparate characters connect, their fates intertwine, and their souls drift across time like clouds across a globe.
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 (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mitchell, Davidprimary 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
Oldenburg, VolkerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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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.)
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Publisher's editors
Original language
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References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

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.

No library descriptions found.

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
Looping, linking time/
chaining space, land seasalt drifting/
visual lyric threads
The literary
equivalent of Marmite –
you love or hate it.

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