Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas is a fascinating book by David Mitchell. Structured in a way that has the first plot stop mid-sentence and conclude at the end of the book, the entire book is made of nested stories. Each story takes place further in the future than the last, with the one uninterrupted plot at the center of the book taking place in a far-future post-apocalyptic society of isolated primitives, and each story contains an element from the earlier narrative. The language is standard English suitable for its time, and the central story uses language that reminds me of that used in Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker.

from the back of the book:
A postmodern visionary who is also a master of styles and genres, David Mitchell combines flat-out adventure, a Nabokovian love of puzzles, a keen eye for character, and a taste for mind-bending philosophical and scientific speculation in the tradition of Umberto Eco and Philip K. Dick. The result is brilliantly original fiction how disparate people connect, how their fates intertwine, and how their souls drift across time like clouds across the sky.

A.S. Byatt wrote the review in The Guardian and says, "Trust the tale. He reaches a cumulative ending of all of them, and then finishes them all individually, giving a complete narrative pleasure that is rare." calls it "a genuine and thoroughly entertaining literary puzzle." The New York Times says,
It is a devious writer indeed who writes in such a way that the critic who finds himself unresponsive to the writer's vision feels like a philistine. So let it be said that Mitchell is, clearly, a genius.... The novel is frustrating not because it is too smart but because it is not nearly as smart as its author.


  1. That sounds decidedly innovative.

  2. I did find it fascinating. I've seen comparisons to Calvino's "If on a winter's night a traveler," and I loved that one.