My Thoughts on David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

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Oh, more gear, more food, faster speeds, longer lifes, easier lifes, more power, yay. Now the Hole World is big, but it weren't big 'nuff for that hunger what made Old Uns rip out the skies an' boil up the seas an' poison soil with crazed atoms an' donkey 'bout with rotted seeds so new plagues was borned an' babbits was freak-birthed. Fin'ly, bit'ly, then quicksharp, states busted into bar'bric tribes an' the Civ'lize Days ended, 'cept for a few folds'n'pokets' here'n'there, where its last embers glimmer.

It took me quite a while to read Cloud Atlas, and I almost wish that I had devoted my full attention to it, all the way through the first time.  The reason I say this is, I know I will read it again.  In fact, I wanted to start as soon as I finished.

There isn't really much point in trying to summarize the book.  I could say that it is a set of interlocking stories, but it isn't really that.  To me, it is a novel in sections.  Each section is about a friendship, more or less.  But it is a beautiful palimpsest, piling texts on top of texts.  The book is also about all of history and the destiny of our species, if that is broad enough.  It is about how we create knowledge through storytelling, and how texts pass on the past.  It is about race, and the environment, and cloning, and cannibalism, amongst innumerable other things.

What I can most certainly say about David Mitchell's work is that it is a feat of technical mastery.  Each of the six stories in the book is written in a distinct voice, some capturing the dialect and verbiage of a time passed, and others inventing the language of the future.  Mitchell, incredibly enough, does this without being off-putting.  The vocabulary in "The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing" is a little fearsome at first, and "Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After" was slow going, but I was always compelled by the prose.  Other books that amaze me stylistically - Ulysses, Moby Dick, Tristram Shandy- aren't nearly as readable at the level of plot.

Thematically, the book can be a little clunky, the connections fun, but a little obvious.  This of course, is forgiven, because the book is absolute brilliance.  Highly recommended.

Title: Cloud Atlas
Author: David Mitchell
Publisher: Random House
Date: 2004
Genre:Literary Fiction

509  pages.
Where I got it: Bought It
Challenges: Chunkster Challenge


  1. I really loved it when I read it several years ago. I'm currently attempting to listen to it on audiobook, but the narrators blow, so I'm struggling. David Mitchell is great- read Number 9 Dream!

    1. I definitely want to read more. Thanks for the recommendation.

  2. See, I started to read this and I HATED the first section so much (it felt all historical fiction-y and icky to me) that I stopped, but now it's EVERYWHERE and I'm like... Damn, should I have kept on trying? And I feel this way again now, obviously! So... Maybe one day. Maybe.

    1. The first few pages are a little rough going. It is definitely worth reading though. I'm much more interested in language though than plot and character, so that is just my bias as a reader. However, I thought that the characters were interesting and the plot moved. You should try again.

  3. I felt exactly as you about this book. It's the only book that I remember wanting to start over as soon as I finished. (Of course I didn't because of my TBR pile, but I wanted to.) I've had it on my desk for a month trying to figure out how to blog about it and can't!


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