Literary Review: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

This was probably one of the more unique ways of storytelling that I have seen in a very long time. Taking six seemingly independent short stories and tying them together where not only does one influence the next, but they all have common threads and tie-ins with one another… rather fun to see and watch.

Now… I know there is a film out there that was inspired, adapted from the book itself, but I haven’t seen it and I still have yet to decide if I really wanted to… so until then I will focus more on the short stories and what I liked and didn’t like… come to think of it lets my life easier and just do a quick list first:
1: The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing – Meh
2: Letters from Zedelghem – Meh
3: Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery – Love
4: The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish – Like
5: An Orison of Sonmi~451 – Love
6: Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After – Meh

So the second half of the post I would focus on those that I either liked or loved and those that got a “meh” I might go ahead and talk a little about them, but not really… mainly because they were just “meh” to me.

Anyway, the novel opens with a short story that goes into the past and continues until it reaches a particular climax when it then opens the next story in chronological order and stops when that hits the climax and rinse and repeat until the sixth story in the series when it goes uninterrupted until a moment in time when the action has ended and the protagonist (or relation thereof) goes back to the story, film, inspiration that drove some of the action in their particular thread and opens to the climax of the previous story and so on…. confused yet?

Well… let’s look at it from a numeric point of view:

first half of story 1 –>
first half of story 2 –>
first half of story 3 –>
first half of story 4 –>
first half of story 5 –> story 6 –> second half of story 5 –>
second half of story 4 –>
second half of story 3 –>
second half of story 2 –>
second half of story 1

It is like opening a book in the middle and placing another book in it and opening that in the middle and rinse and repeat for up to six books and then just read all six books straight through like that. A little disconcerting to be sure, but fun to me nonetheless.

So now let’s go into the short stories… shall we?

Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery
Maybe this is because it touches upon science added with a bit of mystery and a touch of a thriller and that the protagonist is a very strong female… perhaps it is a combination of all the above pieces that caught my interest.

Well… it is probably because the climax was when the protagonist was forced off the cliff and she may or may not have drowned in the process… and if she didn’t, then how was she going to be whistleblow the top off of a major scientific breakthrough that turned out to be not so safe? Who knows.

Something about this particular short story drew me in and who knows what is it… all I know is that if I ever see the film, this is probably the short story I will consider watching first.

The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish
The “protagonist” in this particular short story has a dry sarcastic sense of humor… something that I definitely appreciate. He is also much older and was duped into signing himself up for an old folks home at the north end of the country. Oh and what hi-jinks it took for him to 1) realize what happened to him and 2) how the hell was he going to get out of it?

Granted the expository was slow going, and there were times when I really just wanted to smack him so hard because he was either being really stupid or really blind to what was going on. However, he did grow… in a way… and because of that he realized his situation and did try to change it enough so he could get out of it.

Perhaps that is why I liked it, because of all the short stories, this one provided a glimmer of growth of the protagonist (though he is probably more like an anti-hero to me). Thus by the end of the story he is slightly better off… though how long that was going to last is as good as anyone’s guess.

An Orison of Sonmi~451
Much like the Mystery of Luisa Rey, this featured a female protagonist, though albeit she was technically a fabricant aka clone than a real person. She drew me in because she is a bit like Commander Data from Star Trek’s The Next Generation… or rather she reminded me of him due to her “Ascension”.

What is her “Ascension”? Essentially despite being a clone she had achieved a higher sense of being and self outside of being a fabricated being. She achieved the curiosity of a traditional “human” and in many ways became much more human than traditional “humans” if that makes any sense.

Towards the end of her story, she revealed that she knew her being tagged for execution as it were was more of a massive governmental plot as opposed to the government trying to try her for rebelling. It is odd really… because looking back I could see a lot of similarities between her and Data.

However, the one scene that really hit me hard was when it was revealed what actually happened to fabricants like herself… and it wasn’t exactly retirement. This forces the reader to come to terms that even though we may not see what is happening it doesn’t exactly me that it isn’t happening. Then again it is more or less human nature to ignore the world around us and just be happy with what we see in front of our noses…. *sighs*.

Anyway… I digress…

What? Did you think I was actually going to give away plot points? Good luck with that… go read the book! Or better yet… go watch the film, because if rumors are to be believed… I am actually curious enough to watch the film adaptation of this novel just to see how they had visualized those short stories that I actually enjoyed.

You know what? Maybe I will…

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