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Cloud Atlas

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  116,227 ratings  ·  13,466 reviews
The narrators hear their echoes in history and change their destinies in ways great and small, in a study of humanity's dangerous will to power. A reluctant voyager crosses the Pacific in 1850. A disinherited composer gatecrashes in between-wars Belgium. A vanity publisher flees gangland creditors. Others are a journalist in Governor Reagan’s California, and genetically-mo...more
Paperback, 529 pages
Published February 21st 2005 by Sceptre (first published 2004)
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Popular Answered Questions

Abyssopelagic I put it down after around then for months. I agree with Jenny. I got through the first section and couldn't put it down.
Zachery Brasier Try Michael Danielewski's House of Leaves. If you don't mind reading a dead writer, you can try Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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B0nnie

This book proves David Mitchell can be any writer he chooses. The six novellas that comprise Cloud Atlas are forgeries - and they are original. Each adopts the voice of a distinct author. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but all of the parts are superb. It is a sextet, like the one found within the novel, with piano, clarinet, cello, flute, oboe, and violin - every individual instrument pleasing, but when played altogether becomes something different and brilliant - the Cloud Atl...more
Jenn(ifer)
Sep 24, 2012 Jenn(ifer) rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: i wouldn't
Recommended to Jenn(ifer) by: they didn't

Dear David Mitchell,
I’ve been trying to figure out the nicest possible way to tell you what I’m about to tell you. I sort of feel like I’ve failed you as a reader, but I just couldn’t suspend my critical mind for long enough to enjoy your book (“how I envied my uncritical…sisters” – I hate it when my own words come back to bite me in the ass, don’t you?). Don’t take it personally though. I’m the girl who didn't like The Matrix. I know, right? How could anyone dislike The Matrix? All of the neat-...more
Ken-ichi
On re-reading in 2012...

I admit, the surpringsingly-and-terrifyingly-not-awful trailer for the upcoming movie adaptation of this book sent me plunging back into its hexapalindromic universe to re-solidify my own mental renditions of Frobisher's bicycle, Sonmi's soap packs, and Lousia's imaginary California, among other things. I emerge even more impressed with Mitchell's mimetic acrobatics, the book's deft allusive integument ("Is not ascent their sole salvation?" p. 512), the acrimonious satire...more
Neil Powell
Several short stories, that on their own are relatively weak. The author has linked them together tenuously with some mistakenly profound pseudo-religious nonsense and a tattoo. An interesting idea, let down by the poor quality of the writing. Pretentious twaddle of the highest order

This book seems to be one of those hoaxes to call out hack reviewers. I'm slightly puzzled by the fact that Mitchell hasn't come forward yet six years after publication.
He hits all the usual clichés that are the hal...more
karen
**okay - i have actually written a "review" for this book, all you early bird voters! feel free to take back your picture-votes if you hate my words (and by "feel free," i mean "don't you dare!!")**

why have i never read this book before??

observe:



do you see how it is wedged into a teetering, lode-bearing stack of books??



removing it was a tricky business, indeed, but i succeeded, and i am finally reading it. so thank you for badgering me about it, internet, because so far, i am really enjoying it!...more
Jason
At the Museum of Science in Boston, there is an exhibit just outside the doors of the Planetarium that demonstrates—through a series of adjacent panels—the scale of the Earth in relation to the universe at large. The first panel shows the Earth’s location in the Solar System (as a microscopic dot, mind you), which is followed by a second panel showing the Solar System’s location in the Milky Way (also microscopic). The third panel is of the galaxy’s location in its Supercluster or whateverthefuc...more
Kris
All autumn, with the release date of movie adaptation of Cloud Atlas fast approaching, interest in the novel among my Goodreads friends has been high. I have not seen many subdued reactions. Fans of Mitchell discuss his ability adeptly to assume so many different voices and styles, the intricacy of the novel’s structure, and the relevance of its themes for today. Detractors have dismissed Cloud Atlas as gimmicky, a work by a much-hyped writer who is showing off his style but neglecting to anchor...more
Nataliya
Oct 10, 2012 Nataliya rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nataliya by: Kris
I was a third into this book and I could not care less about it. It didn't seem we were meant to be.

Then suddenly my heart was aching for the characters and their stories, and it did catch me by surprise.

And now it's been a week since I finished it, and I still find myself thinking about it. 'Okay, you win, book!' I have to admit grudgingly. You've wormed your way into my heart and I'd better make my peace with it.

Why did I resist liking it so much? Why did this book and I have such a rocky sta...more
s.penkevich
Mar 21, 2012 s.penkevich rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Humanity
“One may transcend any convention,” writes Mitchell’s 1930’s composer Robert Frobisher, “if only one can first conceive of doing so.” Cloud Atlas, the third novel by English novelist David Mitchell, is the author’s bare-knuckled blow to standard conventions and literature itself. Here you will encounter six stories, linked across time, that, like individual notes of a chord, each resonate together to form a greater message than just the sum of their parts. Using a style inspired by Calvino’s If...more
brian
so… here we have unearned value determined by structure alone: pile story atop story, set them at different time periods, offer up a thin connection b/t each, and everything seems a bit more than it is. for me cloud atlas is exactly the sum of its parts. perhaps less. (i'd love to hire 6 authors to independently write 6 stories set in different time periods, throw the whole mess together as one work, and watch people find all kinds of connections and deeper meanings. they would. they could.)

now...more
Ian Paganus de Fish
In Memory of Double Bills

I saw a lot of double bills in the heyday of independent cinemas.

They weren’t just two current release films that had been packaged to eke out some extra dollars for the exhibitor. They were carefully curated films that shared a theme and formed part of a whole season of similarly matched films.

Usually, the season was promoted by a poster that illustrated each film with a fifty word capsule review. For many years, I kept these posters in a folder, at least until I got ma...more
Kemper
I have no idea if the movie version of Cloud Atlas will be any good, but it was worth making just so we could get that excellent trailer. In fact, they probably shouldn’t even release the movie. Just use the trailer to promote the book. It worked on me because once I saw that thing I couldn’t get this read fast enough.

An American notary crosses the Pacific and encounters many unsavory characters in the mid-1800s. In 1931 a young man fleeing his creditors cons his way into the home of a respecte...more
Megha

(DISCLAIMER: This review was my knee-jerk reaction right after reading the book. Since then my admiration for CA has diminished. I will let the original review stay as it is. I disown this review though.)

WOW. With my vocab-deficit, I can't find the perfect word to express how reading Cloud Atlas felt. I will put spectacular as a placeholder. It has been quite some time since I read something this exciting.

So. The thing about Cloud Atlas is that everything explaining the central theme of the nove...more
Algernon

I finished the book 10 days ago, and I still hesitate to start this review. The first reason is that I loved the book so much, I am left with a feeling of inadequacy :


The second reason is the nature of the story. I can't begin to explain why I think this is important to me without going into the message / the core of the narrative. All the stories assembled into this map of clouds/beliefs/attitudes are variations on a given theme, and the interrupted nature of the narrative is important in maint...more
Maciek
Hey readers...



Look at the book you're reading...



...now back to me.



Now back at the book you're reading...



...now back at me.



Sadly, that book was (probably) not written by me. But if you'd check out my book, Cloud Atlas, you'd know that I could have written it if I just wanted to. Look back at the book...



...and now back up. Who's that?



That's me, the author of Cloud Atlas, which is the book you could have been reading. What's in your hand?



It's Cloud Atlas, which is a historical novel about a pacific...more
Kalliope
Given that to review Cloud Atlas has become a perilous activity in GR, since it can elicit all kinds of backlashes and from a variety of stands, I will only include an innocent declaration of intent.

In respect to the book and to the following incumbents: the author David Mitchell, the publisher, the editors, the printers, any reading groups, any member readers in GR, whether friends or followed or followers, any member of Management in GR, and even, yes! even the new owners of GR.

I, Kalliope of...more
Greg
One morning while reading Cloud Atlas I was leafing through The Lie that Tells the Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction by John Dufresne and I opened to a page talking about how you have to leave room in a book for the readers to do some of the work. The readers need to fill in some of the gaps. According to Dufresne, this isn't just some advice that a writer can't give every piece of minutiae in a book, because that will make it unreadable, but also that readers want to put in some of the work. It...more
oriana
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
K.D. Absolutely
Apr 30, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2004-2006); Booker Prize Finalist
A basket case when it comes to storytelling form: six interrelated stories (in different narrative style and different genres) happening centuries in between. If you list the chapters in sequence, this is how the relationship looks like, main themes, and how the main characters are related to each other:

1a The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing (1st part) - diary - sea adventure; racism - 16th century - in a vessel Prophetess afloat the Pacific Ocean
2a Letters from Zedelghem (1st part) - epistolary...more
Cecily
This is definitely a book that is richer with rereading, but I still prefer his "Ghostwritten" (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...), which has significant echoes of this.

STRUCTURE

Imagine six very different short books, each open at roughly the middle, then pile them up - and that is the structure of Cloud Atlas (story 1a, 2a, 3a, 4a, 5a, 6, 5b, 4b, 3b, 2b, 1b). The structure is echoed in this clever and very brief review: http://www.fromnought2sixty.com/final....

(The structure of the fil...more
Larissa
First and foremost, this is a book about form. Four of the five stories are broken in half, each one ‘nesting’ (thanks, Chabon) inside the other until we get to the apex of the novel in one complete, contained story. It’s an intriguing project for many reasons. Firstly, there are the more formal experiments that are taking place: Mitchell sets up his stories to question a reader’s sense of how a story is told—how we deal with chronology, the ways in which readers organize elements of plot and ch...more
Scribble Orca
Oct 26, 2012 Scribble Orca rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: I wouldn't not recommend it.
Recommended to Scribble by: everybody, I think
No. Those three stars are because this book has not read me. This book is utterly, if adroitly, contrived. It is belletristic masturbation of astounding proportions.

The three stars are an acknowledgement of Mr Mitchell's deliberately smug composition....see remainder of review at www.abookwithaview.com and the comments for a raise-the-eyebrows and dimple-the-cheeks discussion.
Samadrita
There's the sound of a deeply contented sigh emanating from the lips of someone clutching this book to herself like a long-lost friend, a bead of tear perched precariously atop disorderly eyelashes. And there's the barely audible sound of her turning the pages ricocheting off the pliant walls of time and space, sculpting a minuscule dent on the surface of a collective fate and this perplexing cosmic interconnection.

She cannot properly articulate her awe or even fathom her own bewilderment at be...more
Stephanie
cross posted at Shelfinflicted

I can find no fault with Cloud Atlas.

Because of that I have had a difficult time coming up with this review. This book could have gone all wrong, its premise could have easily tipped this book over the edge into gimmick but David Mitchell pulled this off seamlessly. It blows my mind.

This book is six very different stories, occurring in different time periods that on the surface have nothing to do with each other. Yet they have everything to do with each other.

In...more
Carolyn
I think people sometimes toss around the idea that something they've read or seen or heard has "changed" them. I almost never come away from something feeling changed, at least not in any way that I can immediately sense. But after I'd finished Cloud Atlas, I had this bizarre, unshakable feeling of being more connected than I was before I'd read it, not just to the people around me, but to those who'd gone before me, and those who will come after me as well.

In my opinion, this is a work of pure...more
Ian Paganus de Fish
DJ Ian's Sunday Evening "Tell Me What You Really Think"


Mitchell's Hollow Horn Plays Wasted Words

I’ve tried to understand this novel.
Let me tell you how very much I've strived,
But from my humble little hovel,
It seems to me horribly contrived.

Like, what about the self-conscious display
Of inordinate lit’ry prowess?
Applied for amusement and for play,
It’s the ultimate in high-browness.

He’s in Haruki’s artistic debt,
High up there defying gravity
And recursive time without a net,
Oh what gimmicky depravi...more
Michael
All my fears that this book would be a pretentious head-trip were initially reinforced when the first segment of the book ended abruptly. Right when I felt myself getting attached the main character, a Englishman aboard a merchant ship in the South Pacific circa 1830, I was moved into the mind of an unrelated character about 90 years later, a man escaping nefarious schemes in London to pursue an assistant position with a prominent modern composer in declining health. But once I came across myste...more
Emily May
Cloud Atlas is a book which is not particularly easy to read, requires patience and perseverance, but is ultimately very rewarding. It is a story spanning more than one hundred years that combines an entertaining - even humourous - plot with far bigger and more important issues like slavery and exploitation. The novel's language changes and develops with time and every new character introduced is as fresh and interesting as all those who came before. In the end, it is pure genius. It is also not...more
Garima
One adjective that I find apt whilst describing this novel is ‘Clever’. Yes, it’s a clever book, not w.r.t. to its contents but its mere structure. For me, reading this book was like reading two volumes which constitutes of reading Cloud Atlas and then reading Cloud Atlas Reviews. Now you see, With Great Books, comes Great Reviews and that’s why I read its thorough analysis by experts as well as regular readers both on GR and those that are available on internet, that of course to quench my own...more
Shovelmonkey1
Well Mr Mitchell, I have to say that I'd heard very mixed things about this book before I read it with people swinging between rapture and rage at its mention. But I enjoyed Ghostwritten so I was happy to give it a go. Some proclaimed you to be a genius while others compared it to Dave Egger's Heart Breaking work of Staggering Genius (you can draw your own conclusions on what I mean by this).

Initially I was looking forward to reading. I mean what's not to like? A visually pleasing cover in prett...more
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David Mitchell was born in Southport, Merseyside, in England, raised in Malvern, Worcestershire, and educated at the University of Kent, studying for a degree in English and American Literature followed by an M.A. in Comparative Literature. He lived for a year in Sicily, then moved to Hiroshima, Japan, where he taught English to technical students for eight years, before returning to England. Afte...more
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