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Cloud Atlas
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message 1: by Ph (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:03PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ph | 12 comments Has anyone completed Cloud Atlas? If so, I was curious what you thought. Everyone on goodreads has basically said it was the greatest book that they've ever read. I'm curious if everyone on here agrees.

message 2: by Yelena (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:03PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Yelena Malcolm | 109 comments I read it a couple of weeks ago. It was not the greatest book I've ever read, but it was quite engaging and really well written. I'm a fan, personally, of non-traditional narratives, though I can see how for some it might be distracting. When I finished it I mentioned that in order to increase my enjoyment of the novel I had to remind myself that it wasn't merely a poor man's if on a winter's night a traveler, but rather another novel using a disjointed narrative and interwoven stories.

Of the books I've read thus far on this list (that I hadn't read previously), it is certainly one of the better ones.

message 3: by Ph (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:06PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ph | 12 comments i agree with that, it was very engaging and well written. i'm just slightly confounded by the number of people that label it as one of the greatest books ever.

message 4: by Amy (new) - added it

Amy (bibliocrates) | 30 comments I will be reading Cloud Atlas this week. I will post my thoughts on the book when I finish. I've heard great things!

message 5: by Emma (last edited Sep 22, 2009 09:40AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Emma (mnium) | 138 comments I was going to start a discussion on this book if there hadn't been one already. I really want to talk about the comet-shaped birthmarks and some of the things that repeat from story to story and connect the pieces. Does anyone else? So who had the birthmark? First mention is Frobisher, right? Then Luisa? Then Sonmi, was it? Did Timothy Cavendish? And Meronym? What's the significance? What do these characters have in common?

Looking back for what I think is the first reference to the birthmark on page 85, I reread the passage on Ayrs's dream on page 79 and realized it's about Papa Song's and the fabricants.

Oh, and how did Zachry end up surrounded by young, were they, Valleysmen? Did he and Meronym have kids, or did he meet back up with the Kolekole girl somehow?

All-in-all, I did think the book was genius, but don't think Mitchell needed to moralize and wish he had refrained.

message 6: by Ruth (new) - rated it 1 star

Ruth (miss_spookiness) | 12 comments I actually really disliked it and found it boring - so much so that I only read three quarters of it, which is rare for me as I hate to not finish a book, even if I dislike it. Some of the stories were ok, but I generally found there wasnt really anything which made me care about the characters or want to find out more about them.

Cindy (newtomato) | 196 comments Yay, Emma - I'm so glad your revived this thread!

About the comet birthmark: I've seen some discussion about the idea of reincarnation. That the protagonists in each story are literally the same "comet-soul." I guess the author, Mitchell has said, "All of the [leading:] characters except one are reincarnations of the same soul ... identified by a birthmark. ... The "cloud" refers to the ever-changing manifestations of the "atlas", which is the fixed human nature. ... The book's theme is predacity ... individuals prey on individuals, groups on groups, nations on nations."

On a first reading, I can't say I really thought of the reincarnation, especially because I don't remember Cavendish having the birthmark. In fact, he thinks the manuscript for Luisa Rey is weak because she thinks she's Frobisher reincarnated. He said "Far too hippie-druggy-new age." If Mitchell really wanted to discuss reincarnation, I thought he'd be a bit more obvious about it.

That said, I kind of wish there were a few more connections between the stories, besides the obvious finding the diary, record, Orison, etc. I was hoping for some twisty connections, like a mysterious letter opener, or seeing the same person in each story, or something else "Lost"-like. It sounds like you found one - I'll have to go back and re-read Ayrs's dream.

I totally agree with you that the end got really preachy, and really, really didn't have to. By then the reader gets it: the stories are all about subjugation of the "weaker" person. I also thought the Ewing story was dull and I had a tough time getting through it. My favorite section was An Orison of Sonmi-451, but I love sci-fi.

Which sections did/didn't you like?

Susanna (jb_slasher) Cindy wrote: "My favorite section was An Orison of Sonmi-451, but I love sci-fi."

That section was also my favourite. I'm just now entering the world of scifi, and that unexpected "exposure" to it was really fascinating. I also like the God aspect in the sixth story (I have a weird relationship with religion) but the language in the story was really difficult to read. (Might have been the translation.)

Emma (mnium) | 138 comments I think I was least engaged by the Timothy Cavendish story at first. And I never warm initially to sci-fi, so when I got to the Sonmi section and the central post-apocalyptic section, I thought, oh no, will it just keep going into the future now. But in the end I enjoyed every section. I didn't know it was going to fold back in on itself because I didn't let myself read any of the blurbs and didn't look ahead even though I was dying to, until I was nearing the end of the central piece. I was relieved when I saw that each piece was to be revisited. And I liked that the clouds on the tops of the pages moved in toward the center of the book and back out again.

I found the Frobisher section very sad and depressing. I feel cold just thinking about it now. The idea of this man, who's not very likable, having been disinherited. He is a funny character though. He knows that Dr. Goose is a vampire of sorts, and I didn't believe him, and then, when I got back to that section at the end, I was like, well, I'll be damned, Frobisher was right. Which of course he was.

There were a couple of other echoes I can remember now, Cindy, but I've had to return my copy to the library. In the second half of the Luisa Rey story, when she and Napier are at the marina, the boat from the Ewing piece, the Prophetess, is in the marina there and its restoration is commented on. Luisa gets a sense of deja vu there.

But I think I did want it to be more of a game with puzzle pieces that would fit together and amount to something more, not that the simple echoing isn't nice.

I also noticed that Timothy Cavendish spins a globe in his office at some point and then I noticed another character or two in other sections doing this. Maybe someone in Sonmi's story. And there was Meronym's cartography. So there's the atlas being "the fixed human nature" as Mitchell says, Cindy, but there's that map sense of the word too.

Another reaction that I had, and I'll close with this, is that when I started reading the detective story section, which I enjoyed very much because I like detective fiction, I was so disappointed to realize that it was "fiction." Sixsmith showing up in a detective story made it unreal to me and made me question, so is this all fiction? I wanted it all to be true. I can't even describe it, but I think this is one of the things Mitchell is playing with. It's of course all fiction of his invention but I was enjoying the idea that Ewing's was a real journal and that Frobisher's letters were real, but then it makes no sense for this real person, Sixsmith, to show up in a detective story and I was let down about the direction I thought the book was taking. But maybe the detective story is based on actual events...

I'm not making any sense, but it messed with my mind is all I'm trying to say! :D

Jamie (jlynnd1977) I hated the book. Based on the reviews, I was expecting a big finish to justify the read. I thought it was horrible and that the connection between the narrative plots was easily manufactured. I found it very disappointing.

message 11: by Emma (new) - rated it 5 stars

Emma (mnium) | 138 comments Jamie wrote: "I hated the book. Based on the reviews, I was expecting a big finish to justify the read. I thought it was horrible and that the connection between the narrative plots was easily manufactured. I..."

Part of me wonders if this is why I'm looking so hard for deeper meanings and connections...

message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

I read Cloud Atlas earlier this month. I enjoyed it, no doubt about that, it is a stunningly rendered vision of humanity that doesn't feel the need to preach from an altar and each individual piece is ingeniously integrated into the whole scope of the book. However, it is NOT the greatest book ever written. This is possibly a fact. :)

Cindy (newtomato) | 196 comments Thanks for reviving this thread, Dan!

Just last month the BBC World News Service book club read Cloud Atlas. They did a really excellent Q&A with David Mitchell. It's an hour, but trust me, it's totally worth it. I wish more author readings could be like this.

2 interesting tid-bits:
* He said when he wrote the book, he started with the structure, then came up with the worlds, then came up with the characters.
* In the Frobisher section, he describes writing his musical composition, Cloud Atlas, and the description is a mini-version of the whole book. D.M. says that he tries to incorporate a mini-summary somewhere in all of his books.

message 14: by Liz M (new) - added it

Liz M David Mitchell was also recently featured in an article in the New Yorker

Ginny | 165 comments I really didn't like the book that much. I did finish it, but remember it not being a very enjoyable experience-much like eating brussel sprouts. The one part I did enjoy was the sci-fi part. I thought that was good, but the multiple stories were confusing. So far, it isn't the worst book I've read from the list (I had more problems with Cloudsplitter than this one),but I'm glad I'm done with it.

anothercookiecrumbles | 4 comments I thought this book was well-written, and I did get absorbed in the story, although I found the pidgin writing chunk quite annoying.

Personally, I do think Mitchell was talking about re-incarnation based on the quote:

"Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies, an’ tho’ a cloud’s shape nor hue nor size don’t stay the same it’s still a cloud an’ so is a soul. Who can say where the cloud’s blowed from or who the soul’ll be ‘morrow?"

Emma, I loved your post, and found myself nodding along with some parts of it. Yeah - it did mess with my mind as well, but I'm also glad I read it. Such a worthwhile read, in my opinion.

Kathy I just started reading this book and am curious as to which side of the fence I'll be sitting on when I finish. Seems that people either love it, or aren't very impressed with it.

I'm glad that I read this post in regards to the re-incarnation possibility of the book, as I can keep it in mind when reading. Considering the size of the book, and the different storylines, I hope I can stay motivated to finish it.

Andrea | 90 comments I just finished this one and I agree with many of the points you all made. I was hooked throughout the book trying to see how each part would be connected but I expected more from the ending. I don't feel as though the connection/reincarnation of the main characters really got across. That kind of ruined it for me.

I really struggled with the middle section and I think it's because of the language change. Plus I completely missed that it was post apocalypse so I guess I was confused as to why society now appeared to be unintelligent. My favorite section was probably Louisa Rey. With Timothy Cavendish at a close second. I know most of you said you didn't like it but I thought it was hilarious when he ended up at Aurora House.

Another thing that ruined it for me was watching the movie trailer while I was in the middle of it. I had told myself I wouldn't and I would wait til I was finished reading, but I couldn't wait anymore. So seeing the preview and being really excited for some awesome ending revealing complete connections didn't help when I wasn't given that.

message 19: by Cecily (last edited Oct 08, 2012 05:10AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cecily | 27 comments I read it when it was first published. I enjoyed it, and thought it clever and well done, though I wouldn't class it as "the greatest book that I've ever read". I preferred the subtlety of "Ghostwritten" (which echoes the reincarnation themes) and his recent historical novel "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet" is arguably a better book (though less to my taste).

I do plan to reread Cloud Atlas soon, and I certainly won't see the film without doing so.

My reviews of his five books are here,, but the older ones are rather brief.

Andrea | 90 comments I saw the movie yesterday. I have to say I was happy with it. I enjoyed seeing the whole picture and actually being able to see the connections better. I think I had an advantage since I had read the book. My mom seemed to have been lost at parts and we definitely agreed it's the kind of movie you'll have to watch 3 times before you feel like you've seen everything in it. I'm walking away from this one saying you should read the book and see the movie.

Melissa Kohlhof | 19 comments Dido Andrea. I really liked the book and the movie. Think most people would be lost if they saw the movie, and not read the book. Movie surprisingly covered most of the key points, but it did change some things.

message 22: by Cecily (last edited Nov 14, 2012 12:19AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cecily | 27 comments I'm now rereading the book, but have discovered that the film won't be released in the UK until February 2013. :(

message 23: by Ruth Wilson (new) - added it

Ruth Wilson | 9 comments Cecily wrote: "I'm now rereading the book, but have discovered that the film won't be released in the UK until February 2013. :("

I really enjoyed the film, but my husband was left flat and felt the movie was lacking. Neither of us have read the book; we thought it was similar to our reaction to "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy." We haven't read that, and as a consequence, thought the movie was missing something.

Cecily | 27 comments I hadn't read TTSS (or seen the TV series years ago), but I thought the film was brilliant. If I missed something, it certainly didn't impair my enjoyment.

message 25: by Ruth Wilson (new) - added it

Ruth Wilson | 9 comments Cecily wrote: "I hadn't read TTSS (or seen the TV series years ago), but I thought the film was brilliant. If I missed something, it certainly didn't impair my enjoyment."

We were tired. LOL It's a thinking movie, for sure, and not fluff. This may have impeded our enjoyment. I have the DVD to watch again.

Karena (karenafagan) We just read this for my other book club last month. It had its moments, I think. I did get too caught up with trying to find the connections rather than just reading the book and some of the dialogue was a bit difficult to get through, specifically Zackry's story and Adam's story. I am interested to see the movie though.

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