todd's Reviews > Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
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's review
May 09, 2012

it was ok
Read in April, 2012

I am clearly in the minority of commentators here, but the best I could come up with as a description of Cloud Atlas was clever. The multiple short stories are connected thematically by only the slimmest of threads (all of the stories are linked but none are dependent on the others for plot development). Having the first six stories (five of which are only half baked) progress chronologically and then present the completions of the first five in reverse chronological order seemed completely contrived. The author shifted across styles and dialogues in the chapters as if he was completing writing class exercises. Moving from a near parody of Mickey Spillane in one chapter ("Smoke slams the brakes. He gets out into the cool air and smells hot rubber.") to a stilted style that would make Proust seem succinct in another did not help develop either characters or message. Or the sense that this was a real novel.

Another annoying feature is the book is filled with errors. Elevators in England have a ground floor. They don't in California. It's called 1. 70's Chevy sedans do not have five gears in a manual transmission. Coyotes don't inhabit the Korean Peninsula. I may be picky here, but if you are trying to build suspense in a scene, there is no better way to spoil it than have a pretty obvious error. It may be fiction, but to be effective the reader needs to be able to believe in it. Imagine developing a fight scene between Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham and then have Robin pull out a light saber. It just does not work. And did anyone else find that the almost impossible to read futuristic Hawaii dialect sounded more like Cajun when you tried to read it aloud? The author should have done some research or found a less indulgent editor to help.

One must acknowledge that Mitchell has a great command of language, but it is not superior to contemporaries like Neil Gaiman or Carlos Ruiz Zafon. In the end we are left with the word clever. But this is not a great novel as some here believe. It neither has the characters that we grow with or a message from which we learn.

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

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Sarah Oh well, despite the very good points you made, I still enjoyed the book - but possibly not as much as I enjoyed your review. Light saber... excellent.

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