With one novel, David Mitchell became one of my favorite authors.
But, then again, Cloud Atlas can hardly be considered just one novel. It’s more like six interrelated novellas, five of which are interrupted halfway through. Each has a drastically different setting and style, ranging from a mid-19th century series of journal entries from a South Pacific voyage to an oral account of futuristic, post-apocalyptic Hawaii. Oh, and each character discovers the story of the character from the previous setting in each novella. Also, all but one of the main characters are related, though they are not descendants of one another.
Sound confusing? That’s part of what makes it so awesome.
Cloud Atlas is one of those books where you’ll finish it, put it down, and never stop thinking about it. Mitchell draws parallels across time and space and worlds. He switches from genre to genre like a chameleon changes the color of its skin. And, perhaps best of all, he challenges his readers to piece together an intricate literary puzzle.
Though each narrator has her/his own narrative arc, Cloud Atlas does not have the typical cause-and-effect plot of the average bestseller. I argue that it’s more an exploration of theme and idea than a linear story. The form of the novel reflects these enduring themes, showing that even through changing eras, human nature remains fundamentally constant. It’s tough to get at first, but once you finish the novel, you’ll see it.
Though I absolutely love this novel, some may find certain sections to be less enjoyable than others. I myself find “An Orison of Somni-451” to be rather dry, though a friend of mine likes it very much. That same friend dislikes “The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish.” I, on the other hand, think it’s hilarious. With so many genres in one book, I guess you can’t please everyone…
That said, I think each story is enjoyable because they’ve all been written by the same person. I mean, how many authors out there can say that they combined comedy, drama, suspense, and science-fiction, all in one book?
A work of creative genius. There’s no other way to put it. It’s one of the most innovative, most brilliant, most enjoyable novels I’ve ever read. I highly recommend it.
Like this review? I’ve got more where that came from. See them here.