Books, Fiction, Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

This is my first David Mitchell novel and I went for it after watching bits from the movie of the same title the other night. The fact that six stories indulged, intrigued my curiosity to the highest node. Cloud Atlas to me, appeared as a puzzle more than a book. The hexa-combinational book offers a reader six adventures and promise him to have a delightful, mind-boggling experience. This promise is provided by David Mitchell’s writing. It is one of the best book written in last decade that focuses on the structural part and there is no doubt about it.

I can truly understand the feeling when a reader tempted to read Mitchell’s words, coming across the content page and notices the book offers six different point of views which are written over a journal, a series of letters, a novel, a movie, an interview, and the ordinary storytelling. Each point of view is place in a different time, starting from 1850s up to post-apocalyptic world. Each narration is different from the other, consciously, and that is where I thought I’d like to say, ‘Hats off to David Mitchell’. I, myself, tried imagining how an author could indulge himself into six recitals simultaneously and giving a radical touch to each of them. And there only two ways my imagination could hold up to. First, writing each part separately by keeping in mind to amalgamate them later. Second way is to write them as in their present form. I don’t know which way worked out for David Mitchell but whatsoever, it did worked out quite well. A clever idea.

With the narration, the structure of the book goes on quite well too. It elucidate that the book is well planned and researched. These six stories are arranged in concentric rings around one another leaving out the last one, the middle one also. I was amazed on not finding a single cover of the book imagined and designed in that way. However, the main theme resembles the ongoing, never-ending struggle of being a human, and being in power at the same time. The framework starts with the journals of a lawyer named Adam Ewing, in Chatham Islands in 1850, a weak-willed protagonist, who is constantly taken advantage of by others. Interesting side story about the peaceful native Moriori tribe and how they were taken advantage of. The second is of a penniless musician, Robert Forbisher, attempting himself to be an apprentice of an old master musician, going from being overjoyed to have a job to being resentful that the master is using him and stealing his stuff.

Third story is of Luisa Rey, a gossip columnist and a journalist, who by some fate meets an engineer called Rufus Sixsmith who is the leading point to the previous two stories. Fourth is of a Timothy Cavendish, written more in a comical form, but on reading it I observed it appears to be comical but is actually not. There is no humour hidden inside any closet owned by this book editor. Fifth one is set in a futuristic country, Korea, where humans have genetically created clones that serve as slaves. Sonmi- 451 is one of those clones/slaves. Her story is collected as an interview. The last one, about Zachary and his people in a post-apocalytpic Hawaii. Sonmi-451 is their numen now.

As the story advances a reader will not fail to notice that a peculiar thing about the connection inspired by the first half the book is soon lost in the latter half. The connection between the fourth, the fifth, and the sixth one is a set-off. It’s an absurd looking thing and proves Mitchell’s own vision of reincarnating all main characters somewhat wrong.

Literally all of the main characters, except one, are reincarnations of the same soul in different bodies throughout the novel identified by a birthmark…that’s just a symbol really of the universality of human nature. The title itself “Cloud Atlas,” the cloud refers to the ever-changing manifestations of the Atlas, which is the fixed human nature which is always thus and ever shall be. So the book’s theme is predacity, the way individuals prey on individuals, groups on groups, nations on nations, tribes on tribes. So I just take this theme and in a sense reincarnate that theme in another context […]

I failed to find any strong bond or believing that all the six bodies were having the same soul through out the time. For this reason, Cloud Atlas did lose some brownie points. Yet altogether, this book is a great example of a human’s imagination. The reincarnation of the six stories in itself is an engaging point for someone to read. It’s not only a good experimentation from writer’s point of view but also a great experiment from reader’s point of view. Moreover it is carefully and wonderfully written, and covers a basic thrust that how an individual’s actions can influence the basis of someone’s entire life course.

3.5 out of 5!

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23 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell”

  1. Hmmm… I read his book The Bone Clocks this past summer. It was my first (and only) Mitchell read. I loved the characters he creates. That novel also had several narrators and spanned several decades. I felt that the way the stories connected was problematic at times. Still. Original voice. I shall check this one out too.


  2. I bought this novel because the premise seems to be a fascinating read. I looked into some of his other novels and they all seem to be very involved. Originally, I was going to purchase Ghostwritten, his first novel, and go from there. But, since Cloud Atlas seems to be considered his best work, I decided best to start there. Sometimes literary writers have a tendency to exude too much of a sense of self-importance in their work, and a lot of pretension. But, then there are others who are just simply good writers with intriguing tales to tell–such as T.C. Boyle. So, one has to be careful when taking on a literary writer. I haven’t read this yet, so I cannot say how I feel about Mitchell. But, I do look forward to it.


  3. This seems like one of those challenge books you’d dare yourself to read – six stories all linked by a somewhat evasive connection…Bring it on. Cloud Atlas sounds amazing in my opinion, and I guess a few rereads might help in finding Mitchell’s objective with this one.


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