Scribble Orca's Reviews > Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
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May 17, 2015

bookshelves: thriller, suspense, romance, psychology, political, mystery, murder, historical, crime
Recommended to Scribble by: everybody, I think
Recommended for: I wouldn't not recommend it.
Read from October 22 to 26, 2012 , read count: once was enough

See comments for a raise-the-eyebrows and dimple-the-cheeks discussion.
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 177) (177 new)


message 1: by Scribble (new) - added it

Scribble Orca Well, so far I'm wondering what all the fuss is about.


message 2: by Scribble (new) - added it

Scribble Orca Well, it's just....the first chapter reads like something from Captain Cook's journal. Ok. Clever. Yes, Mr Mitchell, you can imitate whatever-century-it-is prose....and?


Garima Wow! you read it quite fast. I liked the adjectives you used in your review. Well I love to read reviews of this book, whether negative or positive, as I feel everyone is right the way they feel about it.


message 4: by Scribble (new) - added it

Scribble Orca Thanks, Garima!

Every morning this week I've been standing on the stair-climber balancing the laptop on the console while reading and marching away my self-righteous indignation...


message 5: by sanny (new) - added it

sanny Like a Damien Hirst of literature? Then I really should read this...love your updated translation on the meaning of cloud atlas.


message 6: by Rakhi (new) - added it

Rakhi Dalal Scribble wrote: "Thanks, Garima!

Every morning this week I've been standing on the stair-climber balancing the laptop on the console while reading and marching away my self-righteous indignation..."


Ah that says quite a lot!...Good to see your views expressed such. I am wondering at the varied response the book has got! I surely must read it to have my own opinion.


Aubrey Agreeing with this one. It's nice that David Mitchell can style himself as any type of writer, but I prefer him when he's honing his writing talents to a peak in a less horribly disjointed plot. I recently watched the movie for this, and there were quite a few sections that I didn't remember at all from the book. These were no minor details, but key plot turns and conclusions. I can't say whether the movie didn't hesitate on dramatically differing from the book, or I simply missed them due to the obfuscating writing. So, the ability to transcribe multiple writing styles is cool, but not if it interferes with inherent storytelling ability.


message 8: by MJ (new) - rated it 4 stars

MJ Nicholls Ouch! Did Mr. Mitchell punch you in a previous life?

It is belletristic masturbation of astounding proportions.

I disagree the writing is belletristic: the content is clearly more painstakingly crafted than the rather simple structural arrangement which forms the aesthetic aspect . . . it isn't so complex to be dismissed as masturbation.

Mr Mitchell's deliberately smug composition (in which the reader is invited to participate in - and congratulate - his self-conscious display of his writerly prowess)

How did you glean Mitchell's intentions from the text? I'm unable to read texts and gain a direct access into the author's own mood and thoughts at the time of composition. You must be a shapeshifter.


message 9: by Stephen M (last edited Oct 26, 2012 11:01AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Stephen M Hey Scribs. Too bad this one rustled your feathers. I would like to second MJ's sentiment in that I think you have seriously mischaracterized Mr. Mitchell's intentions here. Any of the interviews that are scattered around the web will show not a person bent of proving his "chameleon prowess" but a genuine fan of literature who has huge ambitions about representing all of humanity. Too much? Maybe, but I appreciate and respect the ambition. He always wanted to, as he says "write the world underlined three times over". Is it really so bad if he chameleons his way through his writing? Didn't it make for ripping good fun of a read? A sampling of different genres and literary styles. I think a lot of people (especially as it's riding the crest of movie hype) bring a lot of expectations of an important huge novel. I just see it as great fun. I enjoyed myself throughout the entire book.


Garima Stephen M wrote: "Hey Scribs. Too bad this one rustled your feathers. I would like to second MJ's sentiment in that I think you have seriously characterized Mr. Mitchell's intentions here. Any of the interviews that..."

David is really lucky to have an admirer like you Stephen ;)

And Scribble, in the words of a movie reviewer twisted a lil by Ian, "It may be the most fiction you can get for the price of a single book".


Mosca "...belletristic masturbation...obdurately recursive...followed by its pent up release in a gravity accelerating free-fall, dichotomous merely through the artificial truncation of each of the stories constituting the journey to the pinnacle."

I think I'm in love :)

I liked Cloud Atlas, ...quite a lot, in fact. But I didn't go into it expecting a literary masterpiece.

But I also really liked your review...I think it has made my afternoon.

Look for an old hippy now lurking in your "follow reviews" list. He's harmless.


message 12: by Ian (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ian Vinogradus An eloquent, if establishment, review, Scribble, right down to the references to "Mr Mitchell" (even if the Tom Bissell review doesn't adopt this style).


message 13: by Scribble (last edited Oct 27, 2012 03:52PM) (new) - added it

Scribble Orca sanshow wrote: "Like a Damien Hirst of literature? Then I really should read this...love your updated translation on the meaning of cloud atlas."

Sanshow, in the sense that my response was similar to those I have when regarding Damien Hirst in the context of both his life's ambitions and his works. Hirst is nothing if not a marketing genius. But I'm hard pressed to call his work art so much as a signpost of the times.

I wouldn't disparage Mitchell's oeuvre for the same reason - but I did experience that momentary frisson of revulsion. But Mitchell is accomplished where Hirst is just...an exhibitionist.

As I said, I wouldn't not recommend Cloud Atlas. I just found its ground-breaking reputation less than iconic.


message 14: by Scribble (last edited Oct 27, 2012 03:54PM) (new) - added it

Scribble Orca Aubrey wrote: "Agreeing with this one. It's nice that David Mitchell can style himself as any type of writer, but I prefer him when he's honing his writing talents to a peak in a less horribly disjointed plot. I ..."

Yes, Aubrey. I'm looking forward to reading more of his work.

Rakhi wrote: "Good to see your views expressed such. I am wondering at the varied response the book has got! I surely must read it to have my own opinion."

Yes, Rakhi, please do.


Maciek Your review is much more negative and critical than mine! I've got to say I am impressed.


message 16: by Scribble (last edited Oct 29, 2012 06:06AM) (new) - added it

Scribble Orca MJ wrote: "Ouch! Did Mr. Mitchell punch you in a previous life?

Quite possibly, MJ. I imagine that if I were a time-travelling shapeshifter I could verify that easily.

MJ wrote: "...the content is clearly more painstakingly crafted than the rather simple structural arrangement which forms the aesthetic aspect..."

I didn't find content sufficiently crafted to escape the conscious shadow of its construction.

MJ wrote: "...it isn't so complex to be dismissed as masturbation....

No, you're probably right. Just dismissed would have been more apt. Then again, that implies masturbation is simplistic. I suppose that would depend on the experience.

MJ wrote: "How did you glean Mitchell's intentions from the text? I'm unable to read texts and gain a direct access into the author's own mood and thoughts at the time of composition. You must be a shapeshifter.

Ah. So an analysis of the metafictive qualities of the work = mythological being? Or rather the plethora of references in the text to the stylistic nature of the work did not represent intrusive authorial voice for you? Unfortunately, it did for me. Although I rather like the idea of changing my shape at will. Perhaps I should update my avatar more often.


message 17: by Scribble (last edited Oct 27, 2012 04:28PM) (new) - added it

Scribble Orca Stephen M wrote: "Hey Scribs. Too bad this one rustled your feathers. I would like to second MJ's sentiment in that I think you have seriously mischaracterized Mr. Mitchell's intentions here. Any of the interviews t..."

To be fair, Stephen, I haven't looked at the various interviews of Mr Mitchell, and perhaps if I had, that would have informed a different response to Cloud Atlas. However, I've done that before (most notably on my review of McCarthy's The Road) and been lambasted for precisely a contextual analysis. Seems there's neither rest for the wicked and even less for trying to please none.

As I wrote however, the three stars were an acknowledgement of his skill. Usually I would refuse to give any, but I do admire his ability to imitate both genre and period. However, having done this as a first year university exercise in Lit Studies (the only Lit Studies I did) I found it somewhat reminiscent of a kid coming home and saying "Mum, mum, guess what tricks we learned in school, today."

I think the only reason my expectations were not met is rather less than because of the current hype (I'm media isolated apart from GR updates) and more because it simply didn't stretch any boundaries - not in relation to other works I've seen or read. If you haven't yet flirted with Lawrence Durrell, I recommend this as a start: The Alexandria Quartet, and if you have, The Avignon Quintet is the ultimate in bending rules. I must sound like a broken record by now.

And if you have a chance to see those films, do so. They should be available with English subtitles.

Foucault's Pendulum deals with some of what Mitchell attempts, but I'm hesitant to suggest it as a comparison piece. It deserves reading for its own merits.


Maciek This stunt has been accomplished before and better - the films Three Colours Red, White and Blue, and the Double Life of Veronique, are obvious cinematic examples.

You'll have to excuse me for my small moment of national pride! Yay!


message 19: by Scribble (new) - added it

Scribble Orca Garima wrote: "It may be the most fiction you can get for the price of a single book."

I'm afraid I'm insufficiently utilitarian to be motivated by quantity over quality, Garima.


message 20: by Scribble (new) - added it

Scribble Orca Mosca wrote: ""...belletristic masturbation...obdurately recursive...followed by its pent up release in a gravity accelerating free-fall, dichotomous merely through the artificial truncation of each of the stori..."

I'm glad I made your afternoon, Mosca. We can be two old harmless hippies together.


message 21: by Scribble (new) - added it

Scribble Orca Ian wrote: "An eloquent, if establishment, review, Scribble, right down to the references to "Mr Mitchell"."

Oh! Are GR reviews the new establishment? No wonder that Man Booker chap worked himself up into a lather of bother over social networking book sites.


message 22: by Scribble (last edited Oct 27, 2012 04:39PM) (new) - added it

Scribble Orca Maciek wrote: "You'll have to excuse me for my small moment of national pride! Yay!"

I'll add to it some more, Mac. The Polish-Japanese film Avalon is also a lovely example of ambiguously nested realities. The images linger long after.


Maciek Scribble wrote: "Maciek wrote: "You'll have to excuse me for my small moment of national pride! Yay!"

I'll add to it some more, Mac. The Polish-Japanese film Avalon is also a lovely example of ambiguously nested realities. The images linger long after. ..."


Thanks! You're one of the few people I met who have heard of this film, let alone knew what it was about and enjoyed it! It seems to have slipped into obscurity and disappeared from sight, despite all the factors supposed to prevent exactly that from happening.


message 24: by Scribble (new) - added it

Scribble Orca Maciek wrote: "Thanks! You're one of the few people I met who have heard of this film, let alone knew what it was about and enjoyed it! It seems to have slipped into obscurity and disappeared from sight, despite all the factors supposed to prevent exactly that from happening."

I saw it in Germany (thankfully subtitled because you know the extent of my Polish!) years ago and I think it was simply too complex and poignant for mass market - not when things like the Matrix were around as well.

Dark City (although you can't claim national pride for that) is another of the same ilk and very noir that has faded off the picture screen, sadly.

I have the DVDs of all these films. Another I should mention is the Antonioni and Wender collaboration Beyond the Clouds.


message 25: by Ian (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ian Vinogradus Scribble wrote: "Oh! Are GR reviews the new establishment?"

Oh, no. I was referring to the message, not the medium.


message 26: by Scribble (last edited Oct 27, 2012 10:15PM) (new) - added it

Scribble Orca Maciek wrote: "Your review is much more negative and critical than mine! I've got to say I am impressed."

Oh, Mac. Sorry - I didn't see this in the deluge of comments to which I was trying to respond.

No, I think yours is equally critical but a whole lot more playful - maybe you were mimicking the fun aspect of CA? :P

I'd never be so imaginative as you were with those pics :D


Stephen M Right on, Scrib. I will definitely check those books out. CA is a book I'll be revisiting throughout my life. I've got a great deal of nostalgia tied around it. So after reading those books and more Nietzsche, I'll have even more ways into it!


Garima Scribble wrote: "Garima wrote: "It may be the most fiction you can get for the price of a single book."

I'm afraid I'm insufficiently utilitarian to be motivated by quantity over quality, Garima."


Haha! I'm glad to know that actually.


Maciek Scribble wrote: "I saw it in Germany (thankfully subtitled because you know the extent of my Polish!) years ago and I think it was simply too complex and poignant for mass market - not when things like the Matrix were around as well.

Dark City (although you can't claim national pride for that) is another of the same ilk and very noir that has faded off the picture screen, sadly.

I have the DVDs of all these films. Another I should mention is the Antonioni and Wender collaboration Beyond the Clouds."



I think that The Matrix certainly didn't help this film to reach its desired audience. It's been a while since I last saw it and would like to see it again.

The Matrix was even shot on some of the same sets from Dark City - I don't think I've seen it in its entirety but now definitely want to! Thank you for reminding me of it.

I have not heard of the last movie and will definitely check it out!


Maciek Scribble wrote: "Maciek wrote: "Your review is much more negative and critical than mine! I've got to say I am impressed."

Oh, Mac. Sorry - I didn't see this in the deluge of comments to which I was trying to respond.

No, I think yours is equally critical but a whole lot more playful - maybe you were mimicking the fun aspect of CA? :P

I'd never be so imaginative as you were with those pics :D "



Ah, don't worry! I thought that the book begged for a review which opens this way and this is why I did it. I had lots of fun selecting pictures and organizing them. LOL!


message 31: by Scribble (new) - added it

Scribble Orca Stephen M wrote: "Right on, Scrib. I will definitely check those books out. CA is a book I'll be revisiting throughout my life. I've got a great deal of nostalgia tied around it. So after reading those books and mor..."

I'm very interested to see your responses to those books, but I'd also like to see a re-review of CA at some point in time in the future from you - those revisits would be like archived memories of who you are.


message 32: by Scribble (new) - added it

Scribble Orca Garima wrote: "I'm glad to know that, actually..."

Sometimes a throwaway remark creates the best opportunity for sharing.


message 33: by Scribble (new) - added it

Scribble Orca Maciek wrote: "I thought that the book begged for a review which opens this way and this is why I did it. I had lots of fun selecting pictures and organizing them. LOL!"

It was very clever, imho.


Martin So, why'd you give it three stars?


message 35: by Scribble (new) - added it

Scribble Orca Martin wrote: "So, why'd you give it three stars?"

The "it was very clever, imho" refers to Maciek's review, Martin :)

Hopefully my review goes some way to explaining why I gave CA three stars.


message 36: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg M Writing a review containing the phrase "belletristic masturbation of astounding proportions" is belletristic masturbation of astounding proportions.


message 37: by Scribble (last edited Feb 22, 2013 11:11PM) (new) - added it

Scribble Orca Greg wrote: "Writing a review containing the phrase "belletristic masturbation of astounding proportions" is belletristic masturbation of astounding proportions."

Ditto your comment. Not too mention moronic plagiarism.


message 38: by Fionnuala (last edited Feb 23, 2013 02:59AM) (new) - added it

Fionnuala I haven't read any of David Mitchell's books but I found your review and the comments both fascinating and hugely entertaining, Scribble. That there is such diversity in people's response to this book - I have read some other fulsome and lengthy gr reviews - makes me less rather than more inclined to dip into it. That's a strange reaction because I usually seek out books which polarize opinion in order to satisfy my own curiosity. In this case, I feel that perhaps I've read too many reviews and that they have somehow substituted for reading the book itself - a reminder to spend less time on goodreads and more time with good books...


message 39: by Ali (last edited Feb 23, 2013 09:25AM) (new) - added it

Ali Greg wrote: "Writing a review is belletristic masturbation of astounding proportions."

I agree.
But seriously, though, use a dictionary. Learn a new word or two. It won't kill you.
But no, really, why is it masturbation because she uses "big words"? In this case, the phrase you take issue with describes a very specific situation that cannot be written in smaller, simpler words without compromising the aesthetic qquality of the sentence. Not everyone who uses words you don't know is doing so to show off, often there is no other way to describe a thing without writing a longer, clunkier, less appealing sentence in the process, and for those who are aware of and care about how their prose sounds, such distinctions are important. And even if she is "masturbating" with her vocabulary, which is in turn presuming that this is a valid insult with merit that is worth thinking about, why does it matter? It's her review and she can do whatever she wants with it. Be gone with your fallacious belletristic nitpicks. or address the actual content of her review rather than a single phrase. One of those.


message 40: by Mosca (last edited Feb 23, 2013 09:25AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mosca Ali wrote: "Not everyone who uses words you don't know is doing so to show off, often there is no other way to describe a thing without writing a longer, clunkier, less appealing sentence in the process, and for those who are aware of and care about how their prose sounds, such destinctions are important. "

(applause) Very correct, Ali.

I would like to add that this is a reading website. The very literate site-members here are likely to use, abuse, and misuse the language as they are inclined; and as they see fit. Authors take the same liberties. It's called prose.

;) Ahem, "distinctions" (sp) ;)


message 41: by Ali (last edited Feb 23, 2013 10:23AM) (new) - added it

Ali Thanks. Ficksed. The trubble with my kwickly ritten pashunit wauls of tekst is that the smalle detales, lyke the Ms. Spelling of simpel werds eye aurdinairly wud hav kmow problim with, git overluked, hense my beraje uv editz minets aftr thay r post'd two the cite. Sew fahr az im awaire they're has oanley been wun resint laung messij inn the passéd threigh mois that did knot gett editededed at alle aftr Aye roate it.


Mosca Cee thaz whut i ment. prowze.


message 43: by Scribble (new) - added it

Scribble Orca Ali wrote: "Thanks. Ficksed. The trubble with my kwickly ritten pashunit wauls of tekst is that the smalle detales, lyke the Ms. Spelling of simpel werds eye aurdinairly wud hav kmow problim with, git overluke..."

Oi, Ali, yew as me purrforming toes trix and tartz ayes lolling tongz and littry fahrts! <3 <3 <3

Mosca wrote: "The very literate site-members here are likely to use, abuse, and misuse the language as they are inclined; and as they see fit. Authors take the same liberties. It's called prose.

Cee thaz whut i ment. prowze"


Your humble servant, as ever, Mosca. I proust your prooz.


message 44: by Scribble (new) - added it

Scribble Orca J.cruise wrote: "Quite right, except for your first paragraph which Greg adroitly adresses in the comments here."

If that's your proclamation of adept spare me your elucidation of maladroit, please.


message 45: by Scribble (new) - added it

Scribble Orca Fionnuala wrote: "I haven't read any of David Mitchell's books but I found your review and the comments both fascinating and hugely entertaining, Scribble. That there is such diversity in people's response to this b..."

I'm AWOL for reading purposes at the moment...if we're going down that dreadful track which discombobulates itelf into low brow, middle brow and high brow I suggest Mitchell falls somewhere in the middle (tainted with the stench of commercial, you see).


message 46: by Scribble (new) - added it

Scribble Orca You were requested, nicely, and your opinion is completely self-reflexive. There are any number of threads elsewhere in which your labels might find traction.


message 47: by Jericho (new)

Jericho Strange, I seem to be unable to find anyone willing to engage me in productive discussion. I promise you, I harbor no secrete agenda or ulterior motives. I merely found this thread to be of interest and worthy of intelligent debate. But, if you really have nothing of substance to say in response, then I'll take my commentary elsewhere.


message 48: by Scribble (last edited Feb 25, 2013 12:03AM) (new) - added it

Scribble Orca J.cruise wrote: "Strange, I seem to be unable to find anyone willing to engage me in productive discussion. I promise you, I harbor no secrete agenda or ulterior motives. I merely found this thread to be of interes..."

Mr Cruise:

I've have just read your comments on Richard's review of Pynchon. May I give you a piece of advice, please?

If you preface your comment with a derogatory remark, and you are unknown, it is a means and method to be labelled very quickly blathering idiot or troll. Your comment, on my review thread, was a pompous piece of twaddle, and the originating comment was refuted as such by me and two other commentators. So if you don't wish to receive the same treatment, approach the review and the thread with a discerning and sensitive eye, and understand a putdown is not who can shout louder, longest and with the most monosyllabic words. You will win friends and influence people. Stick to Ian Graye and you will do well, also.


message 49: by Scribble (last edited Feb 25, 2013 12:02AM) (new) - added it

Scribble Orca J.cruise wrote: "I am quickly coming to understand this site for what it is. You are right, perhaps I should stick with Ian, because he brings a certain intellectual rigor that is otherwise lacking severely. I did ..."

Your definition of intellectual rigour suggests you prescribe yourself an appropriate remedy. Good day to you, sir.


message 50: by Ali (new) - added it

Ali Scribble: I've heard both Mitchell and Cloud Atlas particularly described as "literary/intelligent pulp" by two devotees, which if the descriptions I've seen of his work from reviews are accurate (and I have no reason to believe they aren't) sounds as if it could be right. More commercial than others who share that label (Sergio de la Pava's first book, Pierre Siniac's last*), but like both of those it places an emphasis on "entertaining" the reader (yes, it is subjective, but I'm sure you know what I mean as it regards the intent of the author) along with being inventive, making a statement, and provoking thought and discussion.

*I actually don't know how much of Siniac's oeuvre has the same page-turning quality as the last book, The Collaborators, but I mention it because it's the only one I own and I've seen a review from MJ where he firmly places it into that category. With de la Pava, however, I am more sure, as I've read his first book, A Naked Singularity, own the second, Personae, and have read reviews that suggest Personae is... quite different, to say the least, and not an extension or progression of Naked Singularity's style. In other words, if you read ANS and (I'll be idealistic and assume there exist bookstores that carry de la Pava's work [I have heard of but one, in Estonia of all places {where a copy of ANS has been sitting for months and nary a single person except the one who recounted this sad story to me has expressed any interest at all in liberating it and giving it a new home}, but of course there are others, just, you know, not very many]), stole Personae off the shelves of your nearest bookery, ran to your house ignoring the police sirens (more idealism, the theft of a book being grounds for a manhunt), and barricaded yourself inside using enough dressers, piles of rocks, and other books (I suggest Infinite Jest, Atlas Shrugged [further, one should only keep Atlas Shrugged, or any other Rand book, in one's immediate vacinity in order to assist in defensive barricades or as weapons and nothing else {"I'll give you my Rands when you pry them from my cold, dead hands!"}], the letters of Thomas Wolfe, Rabelais's complete works, Joshua Cohen's Witz, Joseph McElroy's Women and men, William Gaddis' J R and The Recognitions [get the editions with the introductions by Frederick R. Karl and William H. Gass, respectively, to add an extra two ounces of paper {you'll need all the help you can get!}], and every book of criticism and interpretation you can possibly find of finnegans Wake) to insure you will have just enough time to read its two hundred pages before the police mens get finished kicking down your door and start to arrest you assuming it was literarily, stylistically, thematically or otherwise going to be A Naked Singularity Part II: Electric Boogaloo, you're going to be disappointed.
Personae ain't no smartpulp, is what I'm sayin'.


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