Riona's Reviews > Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
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's review
Jul 28, 12

bookshelves: favorites, dystopia, epistolary, apocalyptic, multi-pov, so-unique-it-hurts, unputdownable
Recommended to Riona by: Zach
Read from July 07 to 11, 2011

Update 7/28/2012: So when I first heard the Wachowskis were planning to make a movie of this, I was incredibly skeptical. It's super ambitious, I think, to try to translate a novel that focuses so much on literary techniques into another medium. But now the trailer's been released, and I've gotta say -- it looks pretty fucking awesome.

View Trailer

Thoughts? The more I watch it the less it looks like the book to me, but I'm still pretty excited. I may well end up hating it, though.

If I could give this book a million stars, I would. It is an absolute masterpiece.

I tend to like experimental, postmodern fiction with a good gimmick, but it's not enough to make a book great. Most of the time, I end up thinking "Well, the author had some cool ideas, but..." No. There is no "but" when it comes to this novel. The concept of 6 nested novellas - taking place in completely different time periods, with different characters, and each written in a different style - sounds seriously gimmicky, but Mitchell is such an excellent writer that the different narratives work together flawlessly. The voice of each section is so distinct, you would never guess they were all written by the same author if the stories had been published separately. What's even more astonishing is that each of the 6 stories, though very different, are all excellent. While this isn't exactly a short story anthology, allow me the liberty of a comparison - I have never read a short story anthology in which each piece was great on its own. There are always one or two stories, included to flesh out the collection, that just aren't very good. This is far from the case with Cloud Atlas. None of the storylines stand out as being better than the others, and none is forgotten by way of being mediocre. Each story seems better than the last, until you reach the midpoint and the order reverses, and then somehow each one is STILL better than the last. It defies science.

I knew next to nothing about this book going in, except that it came highly recommended by a friend (whose tastes I didn't even know, but I decided to trust him). My reaction while reading basically went like this:

The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing (Pt. 1) - Wait, what is this? Epistolary historical fiction? Why did I keep seeing this book on science fiction and dystopia lists? I'm not really into this stuff... Hey, this is kind of interesting. It's written beautifully, in any case. I'm getting into it. Hold up! Why does it just end in the middle of a sentence? Am I missing a page?

Letters From Zedelghem (Pt. 1) - Well now I'm in a brand-new story apparently and have no idea what's going on. I wish I knew what the hell happened to Adam Ewing. That story was good. Wait, Adam Ewing Who? Now I'm super invested in this mysterious disowned wannabe playboy composer! Robert Frobisher, that's one hell of a name. And the reason the previous story ended so suddenly was because he found the book that was torn in half? You genius, David Mitchell, you.

Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery (Pt. 1) - An eco-mystery? Seriously? Hey, I like this Luisa girl, she's spunky. Oh no, cliffhanger!

The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish (Pt. 1) - Aburd, Kafka-esque, hilarious. This is my favorite so far.

An Orison of Sonmi-451 (Pt. 1) - Sorry, did I say the last one was my favorite? No, this is my favorite. Clones on death row, y'all. You know I love a good dystopia. And this is an excellent one, with a wonderfully imagined future world. Oh crap, another cliffhanger? David Dearie, why you gotta play me like that?

Sloosha's Crossin' An' Ev'rythin' After - Oh no actually, now this one is my favorite. Post-apocalyptic Hawaii? Who comes up with that? And they worship.... Oh noooo, I did not see that coming. The dialect is kind of A Clockwork Orange meets The Color Purple meets Firefly , but it works. And then perfect segway back to...

An Orison of Sonmi-451 (Pt. 2) - I changed my mind again. Screw Zachry, this makes Sonmi my favorite again. THIS BOOK NEEDS TO STOP GETTING BETTER WITH EVERY PAGE OR MY HEAD WILL IMPLODE. What, another perfect segway to Timothy Cavendish?



I seriously don't understand how it's possible to write a novel this good. It's totally unique, with fleshed-out characters, beautiful language (varying from proper 19th century correspondence to invented far-future pidgin), amazing storylines, all wrapped up in individual nested gift-wrapped boxes with bows that would make Martha Stewart proud. I almost wish I could erase it from my memory in order to have the pleasure of reading it for the first time again. This book is perfection. I hope the rest of Mitchell's work lives up to this standard, because I am going to go out and buy everything he's ever written in hopes that it's as good.
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Quotes Riona Liked

David Mitchell
“My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?”
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

David Mitchell
“What wouldn't I give now for a never-changing map of the ever-constant ineffable? To possess, as it were, an atlas of clouds.”
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

David Mitchell
“People pontificate, "Suicide is selfishness." Career churchmen like Pater go a step further and call in a cowardly assault on the living. Oafs argue this specious line for varying reason: to evade fingers of blame, to impress one's audience with one's mental fiber, to vent anger, or just because one lacks the necessary suffering to sympathize. Cowardice is nothing to do with it - suicide takes considerable courage. Japanese have the right idea. No, what's selfish is to demand another to endure an intolerable existence, just to spare families, friends, and enemies a bit of soul-searching.”
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

David Mitchell
“If war's first victim is truth, its second is clerical efficiency.”
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

David Mitchell
“Nothing is as eloquent as nothing.”
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

David Mitchell
“As an experienced editor, I disapprove of flashbacks, foreshadowings, and tricksy devices; they belong in the 1980s with M.A.s in postmodernism and chaos theory.”
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

David Mitchell
“The night in question, I had put aside my perpetual lavatory read, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, because of all the manuscripts (inedible green tomatoes) submitted to Cavendish-Redux, my new stable of champions. I suppose it was about eleven o'clock when I heard my front door being interfered with. Skinhead munchkins mug-or-treating?

Cherry knockers? The wind?

Next thing I knew, the door flew in off its ruddy hinges! I was thinking al-Queda, I was thinking ball lightning, but no. Down the hallway tramped what seemed like an entire rugby team, though the intruders numbered only three. (You'll notice, I am always attacked in threes.) "Timothy," pronounced the gargoyliest, "Cavendish, I presume. Caught with your cacks down."

"My business hours are eleven to two, gentlemen," Bogart would have said, "with a three-hour break for lunch. Kindly leave." All I could do was blurt, "Oy! My door! My ruddy door!”
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas
tags: humor, mob

David Mitchell
“Temple of the Rat King. Ark of the Soot God. Sphincter of Hades. Yes, King's Cross Station, where, according to Knuckle Sandwich, a blow job costs only five quid - any of the furthest-left three cubicles in the men's lavvy downstairs, twenty-four hours a day.”
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

David Mitchell
“Snarling an oath from an Icelandic saga, I reclaimed my place at the head of the queue.

"Oy!" yelled a punk rocker, with studs in his cranium. "There's a fackin' queue!"

Never apologize, advises Lloyd George. Say it again, only this time, ruder. "I know there's a 'fackin' queue'! I already queued in it once and I am not going to queue in it again just because Nina Simone over there won't sell me a ruddy ticket!"

A colored yeti in a clip-on uniform swooped. "Wassa bovver?"

"This old man here reckons his colostomy bag entitles him to jump the queue," said the skinhead, "and make racist slurs about the lady of Afro-Caribbean extraction in the advance-travel window."

I couldn't believe I was hearing this.”
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

David Mitchell
“To enslave an individual troubles your consciences, Archivist, but to enslave a clone is no more troubling than owning the latest six-wheeler ford, ethically. Because you cannot discern our differences, you assume we have none. But make no mistake: even same-stem fabricants cultured in the same wombtank are as singular as snowflakes.”
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

David Mitchell
“Books don't offer real escape, but they can stop a mind scratching itself raw.”
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

Reading Progress

07/07/2011 page 128
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Justin I think the trailer looks amazing. I also think the movie has a lot of potential. I have high hopes.

Riona Yeah, I'm excited. But nervous too. The more I watch the trailer, the less it seems like the book to me, but that's not really surprising.

Also the guy who plays Frobisher looks hot, and while I know that's a stupid way to judge a forthcoming movie it's gotta count for something, damnit!

Frozenwaffle Ooooh. Ok, you have me convinced. Awesome review! Now I NEED to read this book, fortunately I'm on vacation starting today, so I plan to make a huge dent in my tbr pile :'D *dances a happy nerdy dance*

Riona Yay! You really do have to read it. I'm sure you won't be disappointed. Or, er... I would be really surprised if you were.

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