Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

When I first saw the trailer and extended first look for Cloud Atlas back in July 2012, I got pretty excited that the Wachowski Brothers Siblings were getting back behind the camera. Their ‘Director’s Commentary’ video pulled me right in and I was determined to make this my must-watch movie of the year.

Following on from other epic’s such as The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, I’m always hearing how the movies don’t really live up to the original books so for Cloud Atlas I decided I had to put this theory into practice. Luckily my birthday was fast approaching and a few subtle hints ensured that I was gifted a Kindle and Amazon vouchers – so Cloud Atlas was my first purchase.

“My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?”

The plot – without giving away too much - centres around the theme of everything being connected. How souls travel through different bodies over time and how we are all ‘one’. It begins with a Californian lawyer’s (Adam Ewing) account of his journey home across the Pacific from New Zealand aboard a slave ship in the mid 1800′s. His tale appears (torn in two) in the library of a Belgian composer in the 1930′s – found by his amanuensis (Robert Frobisher) who forwards the second half, along with regular letters to his lover in Cambridge. These letters wind up on in the hands of a 1970′s reporter (Luisa Rey) investigating the local nuclear plant in California. Her investigation turns up as a manuscript at the office of a London publisher (Timothy Cavendish) who winds up in a nursing home against his will. His eventual tale of escape becomes a film which is seen by an android (Sonmi-451) in the distant future who manages to escape the life she was engineered for and become a leader of a revolution. Finally, meet Zachary in post-apocalyptic Hawaii which suggests links to the first chapter – thus sending the whole story full cycle. Each story echoes into the next in a beautifully intricately written book which explores different languages and dialects (and somewhat invents its own language).

What really sets Cloud Atlas apart is its structure. Each of the six stories are presented in two halves (bar 1 which is the pivot point of the book) in a A, B, C, D, E, F, E, D, C, B, A structure. At first this can be a little annoying - especially with the first chapter; ‘The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing’ where the chapter ends mid-sentence which feels like a printing error, however as the book progresses you realise why this structure is used (and the real reason for cutting the story mid-sentence).

“A half-read book is a half-finished love affair”

The fact that the chapters jump around like this means that I did need to go back and read the last page of say Chapter 3 before starting Chapter 9 – but I found that this allowed the events of each chapter to remain in your mind up until the very end. If everything had been in chronological order, I’m sure that the early chapters’ content would have been forgotten by the end.

I’ve given Cloud Atlas rave reviews to everyone I happen to speak to about it and I’m sure the book will stay with me for a long time.

Highly recommended. 5 Stars

Get it on Amazon