I don’t often write book reviews, but I was so moved by the experience of reading this book that I couldn’t resist the opportunity to share my thoughts with fellow book lovers.
I spend most of my time running my own small business, an enterprise that I’m very proud of but one that doesn’t allow for much solitude nor moments of introspection. I don’t read as often as I used to, so I have to choose my books carefully. A friend of mine lent me David Mitchell’s epic novel Cloud Atlas a few weeks ago with the endorsement that it was one of the best books they’d ever read, so I knew it was worth a shot.
I was ever so glad that I read that novel, and I highly recommend that you do the same.
Cloud Atlas is a complex novel that spans hundreds (if not thousands) of years. The book is divided up into 6 different storylines, with each relating to the other in the slightest of ways that are so profound and subtle that at times you wonder how such a story could be written. Or at least that’s how I felt.
The six storylines in brief: The first involves a man traveling on a ship to exotic locales on his way home to California in the mid 1800’s. The second story is about a young music savant who travels to study under a classic music master because he wants to be the world’s next composer. The third story is an action-packed tale about a reporter in the 1970’s who uncovers a threat at a nuclear reactor in the style of the movie The China Syndrome. Next is a story about a washed up aging publisher who acquires a bestselling novel.
Then we get to the last two stories, each of which are set in a dismal future. The first centers on a clone that is slowly made to realize her unique place in a world of rampant excess and corruption. The second story, and centerpiece of the book, is a story about the world long after an apocalypse, where human civilization is reduced to the Stone Age. The first five stories are cut in half, with the first half of their narrative told before the sixth story and the second half told after it. All the stories have characters that have traits and similarities to characters told in past and future tales.
Why it’s so amazing: Before I even started Cloud Atlas I knew that it involved six interweaving storylines, including some futuristic ones, but that’s all I knew about it. I had no idea that I’d be reading one of the few books that I’d really consider epic for so many reasons.
The scope of Cloud Atlas is about as ambitious as you can get: six different stories told in completely different styles about six completely different people and societies. Yet all the stories speak to the strength of a person’s resolve when faced with adversity and hardship. It’s a book that makes you want to believe that we live a multitude of lives that stretch across the very fabric of time. I felt myself transported to other worlds in a way I’d never felt before while reading other novels. In short, it’s a magical book. Read it!
The impending movie adaptation: I should also mention that Cloud Atlas has been made into a major feature film that’s set to debut sometime in October of this year. It has a huge cast of well-known actors, and it’s being directed by the people behind The Matrix movies. Check out the long preview here if you want an idea of what the book/movie will be about.