Title: Cloud Atlas
Author: David Mitchell
Genre: Sci-Fi, Drama, Fantasy
Publication Date: March 2004
Summary: ‘Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies…’
Six interlocking lives – one amazing adventure. In a narrative that circles the globe and reaches from 19th century to a post-apocalyptic future, David Mitchell 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.
I’ve been meaning to read Cloud Atlas ever since I saw the film a few months ago and I wasn’t disappointed. The book is (of course) so much more detailed and although it took me a week to read, I was always excited to get back to it, wondering what the next twist would be.
I must admit, I did expect to enjoy it, since I already knew the general storylines and the idea of souls being connected over different ages is something I have always been slightly in love with. However, I didn’t expect to adore it as much I as I do.
As there are six story arcs, there are many protagonists to meet throughout the book.
- Adam Ewing, a 19th century notary, who, as he travels, questions the morals of the men around him and their enslavement of other races
- Robert Frobisher, an amanuensis to a deteriorating composer in 1930’s Belgium, who describes the difficulties he faces and the secrets of the family he lives with
- Luisa Rey, a determined journalist in 1970’s America, fighting against the odds to publish the truth about a dangerous and corrupt corporation
- Timothy Cavendish, a old, grumpy editor in contemporary times, struggling to escape from astonishing situations he finds himself in
- Sonmi-451, a clone in a dystopian future, stating her recollections of her days of unquestioned work and her gradual ascent to independence and awareness
- Zachry, a post-apocalyptic tribesman trying to understand the ways of a more ‘civilised’ tribe, the Prescients
My personal favourites are Robert Frobisher and Sonmi-451’s story arcs. The way their stories were written intrigued me: Frobisher’s letters to his love, Sixsmith, and Sonmi-451’s interview with an archivist, recording her history for the future to see. The experiences of these characters are so detailed and their relationships so complex, you feel you have lived their lives. Though, this can be said for all six narratives. Mitchell describes various worlds and situations in such a beautiful way that I felt I was a part of each characters life – I could visualise it so easily.
One part of Cloud Atlas that I really enjoyed is the connections between each story. Some connections are very small and simple – the name of a place, for example. Others are more complex and stunning, weaved together as though some of these unrelated characters are reincarnations of the same soul (a regular implication and theme within the novel). The comet birthmark many of the characters share is a commonly used connection to imply this.
This book is fairly heavy and I did have to take a break during some of the more difficult chapters. The sudden change of writing style was sometimes difficult to adapt to, especially Zachry’s chapter as the way he speaks can be confusing to read.
The strongest parts of this novel are definitely the interlocking themes and various characters and their developments. In a short space of time, I grew attached to so many of the characters – minor ones included. My opinion of them could change and grow through chapters I never expected them to appear in.
I would definitely recommend this book to everyone I know but be aware that it can be a challenging read because of the constantly changing formats and writing styles. However, it is worth the difficulty, if only to discover so many beautifully complex characters.