Comment below to play the Great Giveaway Game and win free books.
Okay. Cloud Atlas. You’ve probably heard of it. It won all sorts of awards when it came out in 2004 and it’s kind of a benchmark for any upmarket science fiction book nowadays. The reason why is that it is just ridiculously perfect. I’ve mentioned before that my favorite skill for authors is being able to write many different types of stories/perspectives. Well David Mitchell does that. In fact, he does that six times. In one book. And it actually makes sense.
Let me explain further. Cloud Atlas has six different main characters that live in six completely different time periods. Their stories are nested within each other like those old Russian dolls that you played with as a kid because you thought it looked like they were eating each other (Wikipedia tells me the technical name is Matryoshka doll—easy to pronounce and remember!). So you start the book with the first half of Adam Ewing’s story, and then you get the first half of Robert Frobisher’s story, etc., until you reach the sixth character, Zachry. You get Zachry’s story in its entirety and then you work through the second half of each successive story until you finally finish where you started, with the second half of Adam Ewing’s journal. It sounds complicated, and it probably should be, but Mitchell has such a calm, smooth delivery that everything just washes over you and seems completely normal. It’s crazy.
The characters are rock solid and most of them are really fun to get to know, partly because some of them are the same character. Now, I know that doesn’t make sense technically, but Mitchell plays with the idea of reincarnation throughout this book (keep your eye out for a birthmark shaped like a comet), so even though you are introduced to new characters in each story, it’s almost like you already know them. It’s mastery that feels completely effortless. And for all of you out there that need things to EXPLODE in order to keep your attention, well Mitchell excels in this arena, too. Though the characters reappear, each person’s story is extremely unique and, since he only has one-twelfth of a book to hook you in, Mitchell isn’t afraid to give you the good stuff. Car crashes, homicides, assassins, robots, chases, escapes, deception. Seriously. Lots ‘o stuff happens all the time.
I only have one complaint about this book, and it’s completely invalid. I’m not a huge fan of the writing style that most authors had before the 20th century. I just find it boring and tedious and it makes me want to slam my head into the book until either my skull or the binding is broken. It’s a flaw of mine. Well, part of Cloud Atlas is a written account of a person living in 1850. So, being the amazing writer that Mitchell is, he recreates that 19th century style that his character would have written in. And he does it quite well. Uh-hem. I hated it. Not because it’s poorly written or because it’s faulty or disjointed, but just because I hate that style. I feel almost ridiculous, because this is basically a perfect book. The one problem I find with it isn’t actually a problem with the narrative, just a problem with me. But, that is why I mention in my recommendation that the first part is slow. I had to push past Adam Ewing’s first installment to find the countless riches that exist in Cloud Atlas’s pages.
So, readers, do not be frightened. Yes, it is a larger book. Yes, the beginning might freak you out. But keep going. Pretty soon you won’t want to stop reading and before you know it you’ll be turning that last page and shedding a tear because the journey is over. (Metaphorically shedding a tear, of course. As mentioned in my last review, I = Big Burly Man. Does Not Cry Or Feel Things.)