In 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.