Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Review: Cloud Atlas

Author: David Mitchell
Publisher/Format: Ebook, Random House 448 pgs; also audio by Books on Tape, approx 20 hours - large cast of narrators
Genre: Novellas- science fiction, letters, journal, fictional narrative
Source: My shelves (ebook); public library: audio

I have been reading this book for months.   I was trying to stretch my reading horizons by reading some science fiction, and all my LT friends said this was the one to read.  So, I tried it......and found myself saying WHAHHHH?????

I abandoned it....I just couldn't figure out the subject, the meaning, the language, etc. Then a group on LT started a group read online, and I figured ok, I'd try it again.  One of the group suggested I skip the first chapter, and start with the second.  Later, she assured me, the 2nd would make sense.  She was right.   The group also pointed me to a podcast by the author that was accessible on the BBC World Book Club site.  Listening to David Mitchell talk about this work really helped me understand what he had written.

I admit there is a lot I didn't understand, but I can still appreciate the greatness of the writing. I read this on my NOOK, and (this is important) listened to the incredibly well-done audio book by Books on Tape. They had a multi-membered cast reading these different stories. The cadences and the inflections really added to my understanding and my ability to immerse myself in the story. I finally finished it, and it's positively incredible.

Essentially it is six novellas, each split in two.  They are interwoven, but in different genres, different voices, different time frames.  Science fiction, fantasy, history, philosophy, metaphysics.  It has positively everything.  And it is almost impossible to review without taking the time and energy to write a doctoral dissertation.  The settings wonder from the south seas in the late 1800s to 1930s Belgium, to the American southeast, to a futuristic society set in what appears to be Korea.  The book is mind-boggling, but a book I know I'm going to read again and re-read many more times.  And I suspect that everytime, I'm going to get more from it, and like it more.

As Mickie says in the cereal commerical "Try it, you'll like it."


  1. golly, that sounds a bit complicated. not sure I would be willing to give it that much effort, to tell ya the truth..and I am not sure most readers would, even if it turns out good.

  2. Now I know for sure that my husband, also David Mitchell, doesn't have a secret life as a writer. This sounds terribly complicated and I'm going to pass.


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