A CLOUD ATLAS Thread for the Sandbox

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I thank you.

Ray Cummings (skateboardr), Friday, 8 December 2006 15:22 (fourteen years ago) link


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 clich├ęs 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 (fourteen years ago) link

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 (fourteen years ago) link

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