karen's Reviews > Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
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's review
Jan 21, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: distant-lands
Read from January 17 to 20, 2012

**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??


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!!!


the other day, when i was still a whopping 60 pages from finishing this book, greg shoved me out from in front of my work-computer to revisit his review of the book.he muttered aloud "why does anyone even read my reviews. karen, don't ever let me compare a book to a mobius strip again."

and he is both correct and incorrect. because it is a good review, but the book ain't nothing like a mobius strip.

finnegan's wake is a true mobius. infinite jest is a motheaten mobius, with key scenes lost along the way. this is more of a parabola, or the first hill in a rolly coaster. if the rolly-coaster ride-as descriptor weren't so trite, i would explore that here: how at first, you didn't quite know what you were getting into, as you made your ascent, but then, once you got to the top and could see what was coming, you just couldn't read through it quickly enough, and there was excitement and screams and probably some of the weaker readers vomited into their laps. but it is indeed trite, so i won't make the comparison at all.

i can understand the accusations of gimmickry. although as we are learning here on goodreads, gimmicks pay off, no? even the ones with no substance. and if this was just structure without substance, i would completely agree with mitchell's detractors. if it were just a series of short stories, butterflied and stacked on top of each other to form a book, it would be less appealing than it is in reality.

because they do bounce off of each other, the stories. they sneak into each others' worlds both thematically, and more overtly, like foraging little mice on mouse-missions. sometimes they are each others' stories. calvino, borges, arabian nights, david lynch - i can trot out all the expected names if you aren't tired of reading them.but this is something all its own. and i am sure that a second reading would do me a world of good at identifying even more of these echoes. this is a book that pretty much demands a second pass, which i will gladly give.

mitchell addresses the accusations of gimmickry before they are even made, in the novel itself:

spent the fortnight gone in the music room, reworking my year's fragments into a "sextet for overlapping soloists": piano, clarinet, 'cello, flute, oboe, and violin, each in its own language of key, scale, and color. in the first set, each solo is interrupted by its successor: in the second, each interruption is recontinued, in order. revolutionary or gimmicky? shan't know until it's finished, and by then it'll be too late.

and i love that - his anticipation of his own critics. yummy.

so - yeah - absolutely read this book if you have been dragging your feet over it. but beware - some of the stories are going to be much more captivating than others. i would read an entire book about frobisher, for example.

people are obscenities. would rather be music than be a mass of tubes squeezing semisolids around itself for a few decades before becoming so dribblesome it'll no longer function.


i will definitely read this book again.

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Comments (showing 1-50 of 121) (121 new)

message 1: by Tania (new)

Tania Any good? He gets mixed reviews - some people either love this book or think it's pretentious.

karen i am only on page 16... i will let you know once i get further in...

Steve I'm relieved that the avalanche of books you were afraid of in pulling this from the bottom of the stack didn't bury you after all. I believe I speak for Stephen M as well when I interpret this as divine (DM) providence.

karen i am going to post the pictures tonight.... it was... problematic

message 5: by Stephen M (last edited Jan 17, 2012 04:36PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Stephen M Yes! I'm so happy you're reading this. I hope you find it a worthwhile read. If you'd like to share any thoughts or field any questions, we'ed love to hear your opinion: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/7...

(shameless plug for my own reading group)

Krok Zero c'mon, we all know "lode-bearing" isn't a problem for you


karen ha! i have bourne no lodes! i am not greg's mom!

message 8: by Tim (last edited Jan 18, 2012 12:18PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim Cloud Atlas is itself a teetering lode-bearing stack of books! That's a great description, actually.

message 9: by Athens (new) - added it

Athens hi there ... eagerly awaiting your thoughts on this one.

Cynthia I'll look forward to your review. And missy, if you don't tidy up those piles I will be asking the fire marshall to pay you a visit. Get some shelves!

karen i have shelves!! i have so many shelves!! this is just... extra.

Cynthia Oh, well then. Carry on. Put some fresh batteries in your smoke detectors.

message 13: by Bill (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bill you got that out of there without causing a book explosion? you should get a prize just for that. i thought it was a great book, by the way.

message 14: by Bill (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bill your book piles are bigger than mine.

karen oh, man - there are worse ones in here.... it is embarrassing...

message 16: by Bill (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bill i'm amazed that you can stack books that high without them falling over...unless of course you glue them all together!! and the poor books at the very bottom.

are you still enjoying the book?

karen yes! very much! i am only about halfway through.

that stack is being supported by a stack right next to it, going perpendicular, so they support each other like a loving couple.

message 18: by Bill (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bill yeah, it was a five star book for me, for sure.

books loving other books...how romantic! and appropriate.

Angela I adore this book! I read Oryx and Crake at the same time, they went very well together.

karen those particular stacks are chin-high. and i am like 5-7. but i think i am shrinking.

Angela karen wrote: "those particular stacks are chin-high. and i am like 5-7. but i think i am shrinking."

Those stacks are taller than me. Awesome.

message 22: by Wealhtheow (new)

Wealhtheow I want to squeeze into the little triangular-area between those two stacks of books and just live there.

s.penkevich Good work getting it out alive! I hope you enjoy it, there is so many little metafictional joys in this book.

karen i just finished it tonight! will review tomorrow!

karen holy shit - i have never had so many votes for a review i haven't even written yet!

not that i'm complaining, my loves...

karen so many cookies!

message 27: by Ken (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ken Mitchell's my favorite contemporary writer, hands (feet, and whatever else) down.

karen well, i have read 2 now, and liked them both, so he is on a roll with me!

s.penkevich Glad you enjoyed it. and i love that - his anticipation of his own critics, i think that was my favorite part too. He seemed so honest with the reader about his own writing which made it easier to forgive any shortcomings. The whole Cavendish story seemed like a big review over his own way of writing.

Which of Mitchell's books did you like better?

karen mmm hard to say. i read ghostwritten so long ago - my memory of it is that i enjoyed it very much, but this book was probably more accomplished, overall.

s.penkevich Sounds good. I'm currently reading Ghostwritten, and it is pretty good but having read Cloud Atlas first, it comes up a bit short. Still good though.

message 32: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Jan 21, 2012 12:05PM) (new) - added it

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio I hope to Zeus almighty that you're referring to Mr. Show with "rolly coaster".

Also, poor Greg--everything is like a mobius strip.

Thirdly, have you actually read Finnegan's Wake?

Fourthly, why on Zoroaster's green Earth did you read Finnegan's Wake??

Fifthly, I like the idea of short stories being loosely and vaguely interconnected, but not then pretending that it's a novel. Not saying this is what Cloud Atlas does, just sayin'. Someone should write a book of short stories that does this and call them short stories. I have my own sorta plans for something like that.

karen no, this is more like nine stories it is a progression. a progression!!!

i did not finish f.w., but i did attempt it once when i was fifteen. adorable! i am pretty sure i used the tale as review fodder once....

message 34: by Kerry (new)

Kerry This is somewhere in my teetering stack of "to be read" books too. Maybe I'll have to dig it out sooner rather than later. I have his Black Swan Green somewhere in that same stack. Poor David Mitchell. I buy his books but never read them!

karen at least he gets paid!

message 36: by Lydia (new)

Lydia love seeing all your books stacked up. wish i could borrow a few.

karen if only you worked with me...

Sherry Looks like the stacks by my bed.

karen be careful!

message 40: by Mirvan (new) - added it

Mirvan  Ereon awwwww... i love this.. reminds me of my basement filled with books =P

karen yeah! and some of those are jonathan carroll in german and french! and i don't even read german! i just collect his books in other languages because they have great covers. i love that man. i finally got The Woman Who Married a Cloud: Collected Stories in the mail. eeeeee!!!

karen ummmmm i would say either The Land of Laughs or A Child Across the Sky

message 43: by Bill (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bill did you see they are making a movie of cloud atlas? that should be interesting to see how they do that.

karen i saw that! yay!

message 45: by Bill (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bill by the way karen, i got the arc you sent me...thank you very much!! i was away for the last week, and it arrived while i was away.

karen i'm glad it arrived safely!

message 47: by Tracy (new) - rated it 1 star

Tracy I am drooling over your book piles!!

karen oh, no - don't encourage me.... it is getting really really bad,,,

message 49: by Tina (new) - added it

Tina That's a daunting and varied stack of books! Whores on the Nile, I Hate to Cook, How to Win Friends and Influence People--I admire your eclectic taste.

Cynthia Bill wrote: "did you see they are making a movie of cloud atlas? that should be interesting to see how they do that."

I watched the preview of the movie and it looks Really Really Good.

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