This book has been on my “to-Read” list for quite some time. What sent me over the edge to buy it? Michael Fassbender. Yup, I read an interview with him and that was the book he was reading at the time. Then, I saw the new trailer for the Cloud Atlas movie starring Tom Hanks and Halle Berry and knew I needed to read the book before going to see it. I had a lot of emotions when reading this novel. I truly had no idea what to expect from it. Cloud Atlas is a spectacular epic that spans from the last 1800′s to a post-Apocalyptic future. Mitchell writes 6 novellas and intertwines them perfectly to fit together from beginning to end. Each story has its own voice and language, and it is quite incredible how well-written this novel truly is. It is so well-written that I almost gave up during the “Huck Finn Meets Post-Apocalyptic Future” section because it was very difficult to read. Each story forms the Cloud Atlas Sextet, a movement that really makes you think days after finishing the book. Even the layout of the text fascinated me. Matt actually read the book first and got so upset after the first section because the story just ENDS on page 46. Each story is broken up into two parts other than the sixth story which is told in full. Then after #6, the earlier stories are concluded in descending order. As I mentioned before, each section ties in with the section before it, and you learn many things about characters in different sections told in the past/future. Are you confused yet?
1. THE PACIFIC JOURNAL OF ADAM EWING
It helped that the beginning of the book starts on my wedding date, November 7th. This is a journal about Adam Ewing’s trip from the South Pacific back home to America. He is an American on a ship with an interesting crew of characters that experience a Maori camp, a new Bethlehem, and an interesting parasite. I didn’t really understand this one very much until the ending. This story is a lot like Moby Dick in how it is written.
2. LETTERS FROM ZEDELGHEM
A disenchanted musician, Robert Frobisher, writes about his interesting life and tribulations of Belgium to a man named Sixsmith. Frobisher, who is in major money trouble and is escaping from his family decides to seek out a well-known musician, Vyvyan Ayrs, and become his protegé. Ayrs, an elderly gentleman married to a beautiful wife, suffers from syphilis and overall crankiness. Frobisher cuckolds ole Ayrs while living under his roof. The main focus of this story is on Frobisher’s music as he writes his own Cloud Atlas Sextet. Frobisher finds Adam Ewing’s Journal, which is ripped in half.
3. HALF-LIVES, THE FIRST LUISA REY MYSTERY
Out of all the novels, this was my favorite. Written like a true-crime story/thriller/mystery, we follow heroine Luisa Rey on the case of a major nuclear meltdown in America. Luisa is the daughter of a famous cop, but she works as a reporter at a lackluster magazine in California during 1975. One day, she meets Rufus Sixsmith (the man addressed in Part II) in an elevator during a blackout, and her life is drastically changed after this moment. Sixsmith is on the run since he has evidence that the company he works for is hurting the environment and lying to the world. I love short and concise paragraph and chapters, so I really got into this part. I felt as if Luisa’s character development was more flushed out than others in this story. Also, I am a sucker for true female heroines. I also really loved Sixsmith.
4. THE GHASTLY ORDEAL OF TIMOTHY CAVENDISH
Timothy Cavendish is a sixty-something publishing agent running for his life. After making too many bad decisions and accruing bad debt, thugs are after him since they have not been paid royalties on previous published books. Since I work in the publishing industry, I got a little kick out of the publishing terms thrown around. I actually nodded my head a few times since the author (in 2004?) seemed to know the direction of publishing in the future, so I felt a little weird reading about that. Before he tries to escape his publishing house, a novel is sent to him entitled “HALF-LIVES, THE FIRST LUISA REY MYSTERY.“ After a few bizarre twists and turns, Timothy Cavendish finds himself an occupant of a nursing home led by an evil Nurse Ratched type character. I kept thinking this was One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, and I kept waiting for the Indian to come out of nowhere. (Too bad he turned out to be Scottish).
5. AN ORISON OF SONMI~451
Welcome to a dystopian Korea where regular people are called purebloods and fabricants (manufactured people in tubes) are the ones making the world go round. These fabricants look the same and are the worker bees in society. Sonmi-451 is telling her Archivist the story of her life which is told in a Q&A type format. I kept thinking about Bladerunner during this section. In this time, typical words are replaces with name brands (car = ford, coffee = starbuck, movie = disney, sony = iPad like device?) Sonmi- 451 is a fabricant (I seriously typed replicant, see I told you Bladerunner and hello “451″ from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheir 451) that gains consciousness and becomes sentient that she is a slave. Meanwhile, her favorite disney is The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish.
6. SLOOSHA’S CROSSIN’ AN’ EV’RYTHIN’ AFTER
This shall be called THE HARDEST SECTION EVER. The last section details Zachry the goat herder’s life in a post-Apocalyptic Hawaii. Zachry is a simple man trying to survive, but soon a woman named Meronym comes to learn about his ways. Zachry is a Valleyman who is uncivilized and believes in the God known only as Sonmi. Meronym is a Prescient, which is a civilized person with a scientific background. They explore an abandoned space observatory in Hawaii and search for the meaning of life in a way. It took me WEEKS to read this since Mitchell created his own language in some ways.
Overall, this book has many reoccurring themes like slavery, civilized meeting uncivilized, human nature, the power of man, how the world should be run like a business, and of course mankind’s obsession with domination. This book will make you think about it days later, and that makes a very interesting and wonderous book. I truly recommend this one, but definitely take a lot of time out to think.
Jen’s Rating: **** (It would have been 5, but that damn section 6!)
Sidenote: I am really excited to see the movie, but I am really wondering how it will look! See the trailer here.