Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Cloud Atlas (by David Mitchell)

Cloud Atlas was my California book club selection this month, and Weetabix and I are running a satellite book group, so we read the book too. I don’t know what the Californians thought about the book, or what Weetabix thinks either, for that matter, since I’m writing this before anyone has met to talk about it. But I read it, and I want to talk about it before I forget what I want to say.

Cloud Atlasfeatures six interlocking stories in different genres (although they are each unique, they are not so different than I found myself thinking “I can’t believe the same guy wrote all of these!”) My favorites were, in order: (1) Sonmi-451’s story, which is set in future Korea, in a corporate dystopia. I thought the world was persuasive and the story compelling and well done--my only quibble is that I don’t fully understand the implications of the ending. (2) Robert Frobisher, who reminded me strongly of Charles Kinbote, although obviously slightly more sympathetic. He’s a bisexual Belgian composer, and the second half of his story is particularly beautifully written. This was pretty close to being #1, except that Sonmi was the one I couldn’t put down and couldn’t get out of my head. (3) The Luisa Rey pulp fiction mystery, which was not brilliant but was compelling, and I liked Luisa as a character, and Bill Smoke as a villain. Also a nice thematic note, contributing the whole. (The theme of the book is, very loosely, the inevitable exploitation throughout history of the weak and poor by the strong and wealthy. In this case, the strong and wealthy is an evil corporation, kind of like I imagine Halliburton to be.) (4) Adam Ewing. The first half has a great payoff in the last (chronologically last) section of the book, and the second half is great drama. I also enjoyed the writing style here, as well as the character of Adam. (5) Timothy Cavendish. I guess many readers found this story funny, but I found most of it to be uncomfortable, and it didn’t start getting funny to me until it was almost over. (6) The Sloosha’s Crossin’ section. I thought it was wonderful the way everything came completely full circle for humanity (the carved wooden idols being the first clue) but the dialect drove me crazy. This was the only part I had to force myself to keep going through; everything else had me hooked.

The book is like a big puzzle, and although I enjoyed the clues sprinkled throughout, I think there are probably as many more that I missed entirely. It really sucked me in and left me wanting more when it was over. A big, juicy read, with something in it for everyone, I’m betting. Marvelous.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any chance of updating this? I'd love to hear what you thought of this book.

12:22 PM  
Blogger mo pie said...

Thanks for reminding me! I will post it post haste.

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for the update! I'm sort-of calibrating your book taste against mine, and looks like we match pretty well. Cool beans, say I, time to start checking my library for the things you like!

I stumbled across "Cloud Atlas" in my local bookstore and bought it based solely on the blurb by A.S. Byatt on the back cover. Yeah, I know, author blurbs, scratch my back, I'll scratch yours and all that. But still... she's an author whose work I very much admire. Mo, if you haven't read her book "Possession" yet, please do!

Anonymous (and yes, the same anonymous who posted the first time)

4:14 PM  
Blogger mo pie said...

Ah, my good pal Same Anonymous!

I actually did read Possession and wrote about it on this page. I had one major issue with it, which was that the poetry was not that good. I unfortunately have a degree in poetry so my standards are kind of whack, maybe?

5:29 PM  

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