Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell: The Review

Pater’ll sigh, “It’s no Eroica, is it?” and stuff it into a drawer; but it’s an incomparable creation. Echoes of Scriabin’s White Mass, Stravinsky’s lost footprints, chromatics of the more lunar Debussy, but truth is I don’t know where it came from. Waking dream. Will never write anything one-hundredth as good. Wish I were being immodest, but I’m not. Cloud Atlas Sextet holds my life, is my life, now I’m a spent firework; but at least I’ve been a firework.

An ambitious, well thought out attempt to engineer a

The Concept
Picture six different stories, each of a different genre,
occurring in its own independent time span, each
written differently, and for all intents and purposes
unrelated to each other except that the author of the
current story happens to stumble on the previous one,
and becomes somewhat obsessed with it.

Then split each of these six stories into two, arrange
the first six in chronological order of occurrence and
the next six in the reverse order, so that the chronological
end is somewhere in the middle of the book.

Make them fit as a single book, make the book
enjoyable to read.

The Story
Each story, a different genre exploring its own unique
(if not totally original) subject matter linked by main
characters who may be related by blood, mysticsm,
ideology or maybe not at all.

The story of the book as opposed to the stories of the
book is one of human nature, human societies and
what they portend for the future of human existence.

(Funny therefore that there's no story about romance.
Mr. Mitchell can't write a romance novel? Of course
he can but serious young writers leave romance to

The Writing
Very well written all through. You should be warned
however that Mr. Mitchell fancies himself a mental
wrestler, challenging his readers' minds with big words,
difficult language, foreign languages, made up words,
and generally doing whatever he can to best the reader.

The consolation if you are looking for one or the real joy
is that it is packed with so many good quotable quotes.

The Resolution
At times a bit challenging to switch from the end of
one story straight into the middle of the previous one.

But the end, despite not being the real end, deserves
by virtue of its gravitas to be the end.

The LetDowns
Of the stories that showed real potential very early,
only the journal manages to sustain the momentum.
The Sonmi story comes to a rather quick, ordinary
conclusion whilst the Rey mystery goes on for a tad
too long. On the flipside the stories that start slow, pick
up on the backend.

It felt like the Kendrick Lamar album, Good kid, m.a.a.d
city to me. A great concept, a number of good stories,
each very well told, but lacking the one big hit song to
define the album.

The Verdict
It's not a question of if it's a great book, it is. It's not a question
of if you should read it, you should, its a question of if it is
perfect book, it isn't.

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