Posted by: Matt | June 4, 2007

Review of Cloud Atlas

Cloud AtlasIn the mid 1800s, a notary from San Francisco travels the South Pacific on a ship of wicked men. A young British composer travels to Belgium to work under an early 20th century master. The daughter of a hard-hitting journalist tries to break her first big story revealing the potentially catastrophic problems in a nuclear power plant in the 1970s. A modern day publisher is wrongly imprisoned in a care facility for older people. Corporations rule the earth and a clone bred as a servant attempts to rise above her station in the future. And the distant future brings a descent into savagery as one tribe attempts to destroy a peaceful agricultural community on Hawaii. These stories are Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.

The book progresses from the first story to the sixth in the first half and then descends from the sixth to the first in the final half. Each story is tied to the next in intriguing ways. And characters in each appear to have some connection that isn’t completely apparent. This is a clever book, written by a most certainly clever author.

This is a most unusual novel, often leaving the reader hanging out to dry. Each story involves the reader and just as you are drawn in you’re whisked off to the next chapter. Even going as far as to leave one story mid-sentence. At first this can make for a confusing read, but it is entirely engrossing. By the end, the reader is left with some answers while being left to find the rest on their own.

This is a terrifically written book. Each story has its own feel, each character his or her own voice. Each one is unique. David Mitchell could have easily fallen into the trap of making each story derivative. But that trap was successfully avoided. Cloud Atlas is an entertaining book which I have been left thinking about since I finished, an uncommon result for me.

Rating: 4.5



  1. I’m so excited you liked this book!! Great review! I have it on my list of books for the Dystopian challenge and I’m really looking forward to reading it!!

    You should definitely sign up for the Book Awards Challenge. Actually the Yahoo group is a lot of fun and we discuss a book a month as a group!! You should consider it!

  2. Ah, yet another book that I’ve heard so much about and need to add to my TBR list. I like books that stretch the genres in their stylisation of the text; if only I hadn’t bought over 10 new books over the last fortnight already!

  3. Great review, Matt, and now I’m intrigued by the book. I’m going to put it on my list, darn you… 🙂

  4. I really liked the review of this book, which I’ve been meaning to read for ages (and now, no excuses, I must). I also really enjoyed the interview you did with Dewey Monster on Atonement (yet another book in the TBR pile!)

  5. Well it’s already a certain read, but now I’m extra excited! Forgot to warn you also, the wacky Wind-up Bird Chronicle was the book to hook me on Murakami. Prepare yourself for quirkiness and a few chilling war scenes.

  6. Wasn’t it a wonderful book? I liked how each story was so very different. I like to imagine Cloud Atlas the book to be Cloud Atlas the piece of music in word form.

  7. Stephanie – I’m not even sure how to find a Yahoo group so I can sign up for it. 🙂

    Siew Cooper – You might have to buy one more! This is certainly a unique book and worth reading.

    Sam Houston – You’re welcome, uh, I mean sorry for adding another book to your list. I don’t think you’ll regret it! 🙂

    Litlove – Glad you liked the review and the interview. Hope you get to Cloud Atlas soon!

    Literary Acquisitionist – I am ready for quirkiness, you’ve got me even more excited for The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles. Guess we’re even now.

    Stefanie – I think the author may have wanted the reader to make the connection between the book and the music. When he mentioned the music and listed the instruments it was written for I tried to determine which story was which instrument.

  8. Thanks for the wonderful review–I’m not quite finished with Cloud Atlas yet (no time for reading–the kids have had a busy week, and I think the baby has pinkeye–yikes!), but when I finish let’s talk!

  9. gentle reader – You’re welcome! I can understand not having time to read, and my wife can definitely relate. She would love to get a lunch break like I do.

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