Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Review: Cloud Atlas

June's selection was David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas. I did read it in June, I swear! But I haven't posted the review yet. So here it is:
Cloud Atlas
is epic. It spans several generations, continents, characters and even civilizations. The structure is six separate story lines, taking place in six different places and time periods, beginning in the 18th century and ending sometime in the distant future. Mitchell weaves the stories together with minuscule threads: a birthmark, a repeated phrase, an artifact, an ideology. The result is a fascinating, complex novel at times pure adventure and at others poignant and tragic. Through it all comes a story of human nature, of civilization, of people. His characters are deep, real, and brilliant. Each story centres on a particular character with ties to the previous character - the composer reads the travel journal, the reporter listens to the composer's work, the agent reads a screenplay about the reporter, and so on. Even though each story can stand independent of the others, it is the connection, or the possibility of connection, between the stories that provides the real fascination. The stories deliver a message about human nature that isn't new: parts reflect Pilgrim's Progress, 1984, Brave New World, Lord of the Flies, and so on. It is a narrative pleading for caution and responsibility - beware of excess and greed. It's a green message, essentially, as the Earth loses in all scenarios.
But aside from the potentially overbearing political treatise, the characters are unique, independent and sympathetic. Mitchell writes wonderful prose, as well, which makes for a wonderful read. The novel overall is overwhelming, and certainly epic, but also daring. It is a tough act to tie together such disparate stories, but Mitchell pulls it off. Most importantly, it was immensely enjoyable on several levels, making this a book I would not hesitate to recommend. 8 missing secret documents out of 10.

1 comment:

chRistie said...

I admit that I still haven't read Cloud Atlas (despite your periodic reminders of how great it is), but I will certainly make it happen prior to seeing the film. Which, by the way, looks PHENOMENAL.