Book Review: Cloud Atlas


Cloud AtlasI've complained plenty about David Mitchell, ever since Amazon suggested I'd like him because I like (love) Murakami. What a bizarre tangent! 

Mitchell's writing feels often self indulgent, inflated, and crammed with filler. 'Number9Dream' is the best example of this insufferable "and-then-this-happened!" mess. His recent "Bone Clocks" did little to improve my estimation.

It was the nearly-understated (for Mitchell) "Jacob De Zoet" that finally won me over to his skill as a writer and the scope of his imagination. Then "Slade House" came out, and I loved it for its restraint in both length and breadth.

I'm an addict of book club podcasts, and finally, after three or four raving reviews of "Cloud Atlas" (and long after I found the movie underwhelming) I decided I needed to jump in and do it.

I didn't love everything about this book. I found the pace and detail of Adam Ewing's journal laborious. But the closer to the six narratives' center I came, the more I found myself captivated and enjoying it. I LOVED the Somni story. At the midpoint, I worried that the "cheese" of the far-future island-speak would drive me crazy. Instead, I got used to it pretty quickly and got deep into the world Mitchell creates.

I also found myself enjoying several of the narratives more on the way out than on the way in - Frobisher for example.

For all the praise of the "nested doll" genius of Mitchell's structure, I'm not as convinced of the intricate interweaving of the stories. There are thematic consistencies - human oppression, racism, free will... And there are certainly more "Easter Eggs" than I noticed, I'm sure, although I caught the character and geographic allusions to his other books, as all his books seem to contain. A shared universe, so to speak. But despite my enjoyment of the stories, I'm not sure the structure "works" quite as well as it should, for all the attention it's received. 

That said, I really did enjoy "Cloud Atlas," and am sure I'll continue to read Mitchell's forthcoming creations.

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