Monday, January 14, 2013

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Publisher : Random House
Pages :  509
Rating: 5/5

A postmodern visionary who is also a master of styles and genres, David Mitchell  combines flat-out adventure, and Nabokovian love of puzzles, a keen eye for character, and a taste for mind-bending philosophical and scientific speculation in the tradition of Umberto Eco and Philip K. Dick.  The result is a brilliantly original fiction that reveals how disparate people connect, how their fates intertwine, and how their souls drift across time like clouds across the sky.

No, that summery doesn't draw me in either, but it was on the back of my book so I'll include it. However, I will attempt to do better. Cloud Atlas is an amazing anthology written by one person, so not an anthology at's six stories that fit together like Russian nesting dolls (are they Russian...). Basically, you get half of a story five times then a whole story then the end of the 5 stories backwards to the way they were initially presented. Make any sense? No? Well, the first half and the last half are the same story. Get it now? If not I don't know how to tell you. I can say I've never seen another book formatted this way but I really liked it. It was easier to see how the stories tied into one another and it felt like you were uncovering the stories as the characters were. My memory was the only problem, by the time I was reading the ends of the stories; I had forgotten what happened in the beginning! However, a few quick rereads put everything back in to perspective.

The range of stories told in Cloud Atlas is amazing. Everything from mystery to romance to sci-fi included in just 500 pages! There is easily something for everyone, just look at the scope of these six stories and tell me you’re not interested in any of them.
  1. Adam Ewig is crossing the Pacific with a doctor who collects human teeth and a runaway stowaway in his cabin.  
  2.  Robert Frobisher was never one for subtle.  He falls in and out of love easily and struggles through life while composing his life's work.  
  3.  Luisa Ray, aspiring serious reporter, cannot believe she's stumbled upon such a story but people start to get hurt and she starts to wonder if she's next!
  4.  Timothy Cavendish just wanted to escape the gangsters trying to kill him and now he's trapped in a nursing home with a torture-happy nurse.
  5.  Somni-451 lived the same life day in and day out slowing working her way toward freedom from the Papa Song Corporation.  She lives, completely unaware of reality until someone breaks her out.  
  6.  Zachry has lived a normal on the big island with his fellow Vallymen, the canbalistic Kona and his goats until a woman Prescient arrives and asks to be lead to the home of the devil.
This is one of the most influential books I have read this year. I will admit that I saw the movie first but trust me when I say they are not the same story. For me, the movie was more focused on the connections to others, romance and growth via the actors and their parts and the book was stories of people standing against the will to power. The "will to power" is a philosophical concept created by Friedrich Nietzsche. The cliff-notes version is that all of mans actions are based out of a desire for power and a desire to reach the highest possible position in your life. Nietzsche makes a very persuasive and agreeable argument for this pessimistic idea. Cloud Atlas does its best to show that will to power is not a necessity in a human. All six main characters embody this idea and send a powerful message of belief. Belief in free will, in humanity, and in each other which is something I find hard to believe in. As at unwilling believer in the worst it was great to read something so hopeful. If you ever feel stuck in a rut I would suggest giving Cloud Atlas a try.

 "Fantasy. Lunacy.  All revolutions are, until 
 they happen, then they are historical 

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