A CLOUD ATLAS Thread for the Sandbox

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...because I'm most of the way through, having skipped around a bit, admittedly, and this is easily the best fiction book I've read in I dunno how long, so involving and moving and touching. Structure's ingenious. Haven't ventured into the "fabricant" chapters or the one where the protagonist seems to be a Faulkner miscarriage yet because the only time I have to read the book is just before bed and I'm afraid if I tried to tackle them I'd have a hard time falling asleep.

Anyway, I never would've even heard of this book if it weren't for ILB, so thanks. here's an email I sent a friend this morning about CB:

"There’s a book I hope you’ll read (promise me, Your life will be enriched) whenever you’ve made it through whatever’s on your desk right now – it’s a work of post-modern fiction titled CLOUD ATLAS by a writer named David Mitchell, sort of a take on history as concentric circles that are related to each other in one way or another (I stayed up late last night reading it, not done yet, the middle sections are weird and set sometime in the future and if I read them at midnight I don’t think I’d be able to sleep too well!) – all rendered in non-linear formats, i.e., the journals of an american notary at sea in the 17th or 18th century, the microscopicly cinematic letters written from a british composer in the early 2oth cen to his american physicist soulmate from france (from now on i will endeavor to make my letters to you more like these), and so on, newspaper columns and Q&As and on and on, then the pendullum swings the other way and we pick up with the 2nd half of each seperate story....it’s totally addictive you have to read this! I’d send you the copy i have but it’s from the library."

Ray Cummings (skateboardr), Wednesday, 6 December 2006 16:25 (twelve years ago) Permalink

"CA" duh!

Ray Cummings (skateboardr), Wednesday, 6 December 2006 16:33 (twelve years ago) Permalink

oh, no-one wants to talk about this book anymore - could somebody direct me to the archived link to the prev. ILB conversation?

Ray Cummings (skateboardr), Friday, 8 December 2006 12:50 (twelve years ago) Permalink

What do you think of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas?

I initially wrote a long reply to this thread, but discarded it, as it more or less boiled down to
a) I read the first chapter and a half in a library copy. Loved it. Wanted my own copy.
b) Bought my own copy. Oh, 18 months ago or so.
c) Not read it.

I'm fascinated by your email, though. One gargantuan run-on sentence, followed by a pithy Pink Floyd allusion. Good stuff. Despite (perhaps because of) its breathless nature, I actually got an urge to finally pick up the book again. So, thanks.

Øystein (Øystein), Friday, 8 December 2006 13:12 (twelve years ago) Permalink

I thank you.

Ray Cummings (skateboardr), Friday, 8 December 2006 15:22 (twelve years ago) Permalink


I found Cloud Atlas rather a struggle to begin with, and only really got into the swing of it at around the halfway mark, and then read it compulsively until the end. Ultimately, though, I have to say I was not really convinced. My biggest problem with it is that the six stories, when taken in isolation, are really nothing but reasonably well executed pastiches. And as such, they fall into the same old clichés of the genres they pastiche. The dystopian future peopled with genetically engineered clones, one of whom makes her bid for freedom, Logan's Run style... this kind of thing was done decades ago by the sci-fi writers of the 50s and 60s, and often done better. And I think this criticism is pretty much valid for all the sections. The Luisa Rey section is a mediocre pastiche of the 70s thriller genre with its bland wisecracks and industrial conspiracies. The far-future post-apocalyptic section is yet another pastiche that sounds like it could be a Dr Who episode. And so on and so forth.

Given that I don't feel the stories stand up on their own, do they gain in strength by being put together? Again, I don't really think so. The reincarnation theme seems a hokey conceit to me (and also swiped from a Mishima novel series, where if I remember correctly a mole on the skin serves the same role as the comet birthmark does here). Even Mitchell doesn't seem too sure about it, since he has his Cavendish character musing that the reincarnation theme is too "hippy drippy" in the Lusia Rey manuscript he's reading. The way Mitchell ties the stories together - character in story 2 reading story 1 in manuscript form etc etc - seems forced to me. And the fact that a character is composing a sextet with a structure that exactly matches the novel's structure seems doubly forced and spelling things out rather too explicitly. It's all trying a bit too hard and the novel is structurally too pleased with itself, which makes it difficult to feel anything emotionally about it or the characters. There's a more general theme that unites all the stories - that of individuals fleeing oppression - but I don't feel he ultimately does anything interesting with it. Yes, David, strong people tend to oppress weak people, and your point is?

That said, Mitchell obviously has huge talent and in particular knows how to pace a narrative and keep up the tension. I'm not sure I'm going to want to read his earlier novels, but I'll be interested to see what his latest "straight" novel is like.

G. Samsa (G. Samsa), Friday, 8 December 2006 15:51 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Thank you, David Mitchell, for ruining my taste for fast-food in your "Orison" chapter and spooking the ling f*ck out of me in general.

(I still haven't read the central story, perhaps tonight.)

Ray Cummings (skateboardr), Monday, 11 December 2006 16:28 (twelve years ago) Permalink

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