Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas

Book rating: 04 Paperback Sceptre

By (author) David Mitchell

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  • Publisher: Sceptre
  • Format: Paperback | 544 pages
  • Dimensions: 128mm x 194mm x 38mm | 360g
  • Publication date: 1 February 2005
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0340822783
  • ISBN 13: 9780340822784
  • Sales rank: 210

Product description

Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies ...Six interlocking lives - one amazing adventure. In a narrative that circles the globe and reaches from the 19th century to a post-apocalyptic future, Cloud Atlas erases the boundaries of time, genre and language to offer an enthralling vision of humanity's will to power, and where it will lead us. *Please note that the end of p39 and p40 are intentionally blank*

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Author information

Born in 1969, David Mitchell grew up in Worcestershire. After graduating from Kent University, he taught English in Japan, where he wrote his first novel, Ghostwritten. Published in 1999, it was awarded the Mail on Sunday John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. His second novel, number9dream, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and in 2003, David Mitchell was selected as one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists. His third novel, Cloud Atlas, was shortlisted for six awards including the Man Booker Prize, and adapted for film in 2012. It was followed by Black Swan Green, shortlisted for the Costa Novel of the Year Award, and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which was a No. 1 Sunday Times bestseller. Both were also longlisted for the Booker. In 2013, The Reason I Jump: One Boy's Voice From the Silence of Autism by Naoki Higashida was published in a translation from the Japanese by David Mitchell and KA Yoshida. David Mitchell's sixth novel is The Bone Clocks (Sceptre, 2014).

Customer reviews

By Charlotte Jones 03 Sep 2014 5

This novel has a unique style of story-telling. There are six sections, all following different characters in a different tense in a different style, and each one of these are visited twice so there are twelve sections in all.

David Mitchell has a genius way of adapting his writing style and tone for each of the six characters in a way that almost makes it feel like completely different books all together, but they all tie together in some way.

For those of you who are maybe intimidated by this novel, as I’ve heard some people are and I know I was, there is no need to be, mostly because even if you struggle with one section or writing style, each part is under 100 pages so you won’t have long to go until the next part.

The actual story, or rather the range of stories, was eclectic and fascinating, ranging from colonisation adventures to espionage to cloning. There really is something for everyone contained within these pages and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing.

This is definitely a novel that I think you would get a lot out of by reading it more than once and it is definitely something that I will reread at some point in the future.

Overall I would highly recommend this novel and I think it is something that is accessible even if you are used to Young Adult fiction or are intimidated by ‘literary fiction’ because, as I said, there is a wide range of topics discussed and the writing styles are so different from each other.

By Lisa Donkin 24 Mar 2014 5

As an avid reader of non-fiction, biography, romance & detective mysteries, I thought this book would be quite a challenge. I was pleasantly surprised - the imagery was incredible and I found myself feeling so in the moment that I constantly forgot there we other events & eras in the same book - David Mitchell wrote with such dedication to the characters that it was so easy to feel a part of their journeys.

I had trouble putting this one down & would highly recommend it.

By Alex 10 Mar 2013 4

Cloud Atlas is a book that's hard to categorise or describe in one sentence, so I won't even try. What I found most novel about this novel is its chiastic form: it's comprised of six sort-of nested stories in an ABCDEFEDCBA sort of structure. Bar the middle story, all the stories are split into halves. So, for example, the book begins and ends with each half of "The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing". I must say that I was very glad to see that the stories were completed as I would have been very dissatisfied if they were just cut off mid-way, never to be seen again, because I need closure in my life, yes I do.

The stories in Cloud Atlas cover a variety of genres and time periods. They are:
"The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing": an American faces the effects of colonisation in the Chatham Islands in the 19th century;
"Letters from Zedelghem": a destitute English musician finds work as an amanuensis to a blind composer in 1931;
"Half-Lives - The First Luisa Rey Mystery": a reporter in 1975 investigates suspicious goings-on at a new nuclear plant;
"The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish": a present-day man becomes an unlikely prisoner;
"An Orison of Sonmi~451": in the future, a Korean "fabricant" ascends to human intelligence; and
"Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After": a post-apocalyptic story about a boy who deals with both a strange visitor and attacks on his village.

The writing is strong across all stories. David Mitchell uses very different styles across all six - for example, Adam Ewing is meant to be reminiscent of Herman Melville, Luisa Rey like an airport thriller. Now, given the stylistic acrobatics and fancy novel structure, I can almost picture the author being all like "La! See how impressive and clever I am!". But the the thing is, I can't even be mad, because I am impressed and I do think he's very clever. The Luisa Rey story definitely works as a thriller and the Sonmi story is a solid sci-fi tale. I even found "Sloosha's Crossin'", with its pidgin-like English, to be very readable. I enjoyed all the tales despite having to reach for the dictionary a lot in the first two stories (because wtf is an amanuensis?? answer: a secretary who takes dictation - you're welcome, similarly vocab-challenged people out there). The only story I wasn't too keen on was Timothy Cavendish's - but that, I suspect, is because what happens to him is realistic enough to terrify me. All in all, there is great variety in the stories and it was almost like a mix-bag of lollies in that monotony was never a problem.

The six individual stories are explicitly interlinked - the Luisa Rey story for example features as a fictional manuscript in the Timothy Cavendish story. While the tales are separated in time and space, we have recurring themes and a recurring soul (the one with the comet-shaped birthmark) who reincarnates into the different stories. Those who have seen the movie or its trailer might be misled - I had assumed, given the use of the same actors in different roles, that the book featured a group of souls who kept meeting up across time. However, only one soul is clearly reincarnated in the book, and even then, the personalities of the reincarnations and other characters are all different. Further, from watching the trailer, it also seems that more interconnections have been added in the movie. I just thought I'd mention this to dispel any false expectations if you decide to read/watch both versions.

Depending on how you interpret things, you can link the tales in different ways. I personally am not too sure whether I liked this; it felt kind of like the author was trying too actively to make it ~deep~ and ~ambiguous~. Together, the tales cover a broad scope of human experience and a commentary on humanity emerges from the collection; it's definitely a case where the sum is greater than its parts. But thematic links aside, the actual literal and character links between stories don't seem to add too much to the tales other than a "spot-the-connection" game for the reader, which can be fun or infuriating, depending on your tastes. I personally thought this the weakest aspect of the book, as the lack of "proper" connections made me wish for more. To me, the hints were tantalising but ultimately unsatisfying.

The tales are thoughtful and work well as individual pieces; together, they are something else entirely. The ambiguity of the connections between them and the multitude of themes (the nature of the human race, oppression, free will, etc) make it a good book for discussing with others. It's epic and glorious and a wee bit frustrating. Cloud Atlas is clever and well-written but don't strain yourself too hard looking for connections and just enjoy it for what it is.

By a Book Depository customer 10 Dec 2008 3

"A brilliantly winding tale or tales that leave the reader wanting more, i would be interested in a movie of the story, many different styles bring this book together in a clever way to form a book that will im sure gain stature as time passes.
I am eager to read more of his work."

Review quote

It knits together science fiction, political thriller and historical pastiche with musical virtuosity and linguistic exuberance: there won't be a bigger, bolder novel this year. -- Justine Jordan Guardian An impeccable dance of genres ... an elegiac, radiant festival of prescience, meditation and entertainment. -- Neel Mukherjee The Times His wildest ride yet ... a singular achievement, from an author of extraordinary ambition and skill -- Matt Thorne Independent on Sunday David Mitchell entices his readers onto a rollercoaster, and at first they wonder if they want to get off. Then - at least in my case - they can't bear the journey to end. -- AS Byatt Guardian Mitchell's storytelling in Cloud Atlas is of the best. I was, appropriately, captivated. -- Lawrence Norfolk Independent The best novel of the year so far ... a thrilling ride of a story -- Philip Hensher Observer Impeccably structured novel of ideas in many voices by a talent to watch. Literary Editor's Best Books, Observer Funny, exciting, imaginative and energetic -- Tim Lott Evening Standard