A Slice of Fried Gold

Cloud Atlas

Monday, June 22, 2009

#7 - Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

This has to be one of the most difficult books to review ever. It's pretty bizarre and is really six stories tied into one (a historical record of a man traveling home from Australia by ship, a seedy story told in letter form of a musician greedily becoming the apprentice to a master, a mystery set in 1970's California about a reporter and a morally depraved fortune 500 company, a psychological comedy about an aging book editor set in the future, a dystopian future in the vein of Blade Runner about a clone that becomes sentient, and a post-apocalyptic study of a primitive future), with each story existing in different times, being massively different genres, and incorporating incredibly disparate writing styles. Really, it's like six entirely different books weaved together by a common theme and one curious birth mark.

Honestly though, while the storylines are all very interesting and the theme becomes clearer and clearer throughout (essentially that if people cannot survive each other, how is the world supposed to survive - or as Mitchell says at the end in response to a characters father saying that his son's life is nothing but a drop in a limitless ocean, "yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?"), it really is the language Mitchell uses that makes this book so special. The way Mitchell segues from era to era and adopts the syntax of that time, the way he genre jumps so effortlessly, it's just an unbelievable feat. There would be times I would be reading and immediately want to share even the most simple lines with people around me.

Example: "To the simple man, potato peels are haute cuisine."

That line is freaking fantastic. It is said by an editor referencing his acquisition of some trashy novels while stuck in a retirement home. The book is just full of gems like this, and they are what drives the book onwards.

The stories are written so the first half of the first five stories are told, with the sixth story told to completion, and then the latter half ot the first five stories, and the structure is as superb as the lingo. It's told in a way to keep driving you forward, as you not only want to get further in the current section of the story, but you want to get to the next half of the story you were just on. It is occasionally maddening though, because you'll get to the end of a section and become quite annoyed at the fact the book is temporarily robbing you of the completion of the story.

Really, I've tried to explain it a number of times before, but it really is an impossible book to sell. I can just say that it was one of the most unique books I've ever read, and linguistically speaking it has to be the best book I've ever come across. While it was hard to get this book finished (3 months!!!), it was worth all of the work I put in.

Check it out if you have the chance, regardless of my abstract and less than fantastic review.

Cloud Atlas: A-


Post a Comment