Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas : A BBC 2 Between the Covers Book Club Pick - Shortlisted for the Booker Prize

4.01 (239,639 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author) 
4.01 (239,639 ratings by Goodreads)

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Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Arthur C. Clarke Award, winner of Richard & Judy Best Read of the Year and a BBC Two Between the Covers Book Club pick

Sunday Times

'A masterful feast'
Evening Standard

'Shamelessly exciting'


Daily Mail

A novel of mind-bending imagination and scope from the author of Ghostwritten and Utopia Avenue

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 p. 39 and p. 40 are intentionally blank*


'A thrilling and gifted writer'
Financial Times

'Dizzyingly, dazzlingly good'
Daily Mail

'Mitchell is, clearly, a genius'
New York Times Book Review

'An author of extraordinary ambition and skill'
Independent on Sunday

'A superb storyteller'
The New Yorker
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Product details

  • Paperback | 544 pages
  • 138 x 197 x 35mm | 375g
  • Sceptre
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • none
  • 9780340822784
  • 1,473

Review Text

A remarkable book ... there won't be a bigger, bolder novel this year. Guardian
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Review quote

Remarkable . . . it knits together science fiction, political thriller and historical pastiche with musical virtuosity and linguistic exuberance * Guardian * An impeccable dance of genres . . . an elegiac, radiant festival of prescience, meditation and entertainment * The Times * His wildest ride yet . . . a singular achievement, from an author of extraordinary ambition and skill * 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 -- A. S. Byatt * Guardian * A magnificent tour de force * Time Out * A glorious puzzle for the reader . . . Mitchell's storytelling in Cloud Atlas is of the best * Independent * An impeccably structured novel of ideas in many voices -- Literary Editor's Best Books * Observer * A novel of breathtaking ambition and scale, spanning continents, oceans and centuries * Independent * Funny, exciting, imaginative and energetic * Evening Standard * A virtuoso performance . . . deeply impressive * Daily Telegraph * The way Mitchell inhabits the different voices of the novel is close to miraculous . . . No other British novelist, to my mind, combines such a darkly futuristic intelligence with such polyphonic ease -- Robert Macfarlane * Sunday Times * His most accomplished achievement to date . . . a novel in the biggest, most exhilarating sense * Observer * Gloriously inventive and dazzlingly virtuosic * Independent on Sunday * A thrilling ride of a story * Observer * Tremendous . . . one of the most shamelessly exciting books imaginable * Spectator * Stunning . . . One of those rare books that manages to be enormously clever while resisting the temptation to show off * Daily Mail * Reassuringly excellent * Times Literary Supplement * Engrossing * Financial Times * Mitchell 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 * New York Times Book Review * This isn't just one brilliant book, it's a collection of six completely different brilliant books * Sunday Independent * Mind-bogglingly good * Elle * 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 Astonishing . . . essential fiction for the 21st century * Independent * Not just dazzling, amusing, or clever but heartbreaking and passionate, too. I've never read anything quite like it -- Michael Chabon An intense, arcing colossus of a book whose narrative links, supplied by the voices of six main characters, are spun out into a unified theory of everything: history, human evolution, science, the will to power. The voices span epochs, continents, and genres . . . Mitchell has rightly commanded attention for the sheer breadth and energy of his composition . . . I am moved by (his) talent * Prospect * It takes only a few pages of any part of this masterful feast of a novel to make you want to read the rest * Evening Standard * David Mitchell may well be possessed of genius . . . As well-plotted, entertaining narrative, Cloud Atlas succeeds on many levels. As political and cultural fable, with an unerring humanist sense of the dangerous will to power that lies at the dark heart of man, it's visionary * Irish Independent * As mind-bending in its ideas as it is accessible on the page . . . It pretty much resists hyperbole simply by being better than you'd ever dare hope * Big Issue *
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About David Mitchell

David Mitchell is the author of the novels Ghostwritten, number9dream, Cloud Atlas, Black Swan Green, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, The Bone Clocks, Slade House and Utopia Avenue. He has been shortlisted twice for the Booker Prize, won the World Fantasy Award, and the John Llewellyn Rhys, Geoffrey Faber Memorial and South Bank Show Literature Prizes, among others. In 2018, he won the Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence, given in recognition of a writer's entire body of work. His screenwriting credits include the TV shows Pachinko and Sense8, and the movie Matrix: Resurrections.

In addition, David Mitchell together with KA Yoshida has translated from Japanese two autism memoirs by Naoki Higashida: The Reason I Jump and Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight.

He lives in Ireland.
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Rating details

4.01 out of 5 stars
- 239,639 ratings
5 40% (95,118)
4 34% (81,585)
3 17% (40,317)
2 6% (15,026)
1 3% (7,593)

Our customer reviews

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 more
by Charlotte Jones
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 more
by Lisa Donkin
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 more
by Alex
"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."show more
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