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Cloud Atlas: A Novelby David Mitchell
Winner of The Morning News 2005 Tournament of Books
While it was hard to narrow down my list to just five "best of" picks, I didn't have to think twice about what would be my favorite book of the year. In Cloud Atlas Mitchell again uses the format of connecting short stories with recurring motifs into a larger, almost epic narrative that spans the globe and centuries of human history. Filled with wonderful characters, effortless shifts in style, and more imagination than you can shake a stick at, Cloud Atlas will be a tough book for its author to top. Personally, I cannot wait to see him try.
For readers who enjoy good stories wrapped around an inventive structure. Each tale is obliquely connected to another moving forward through time. And each has a totally different voice and style.
If you haven't read David Mitchell's previous novels, let Cloud Atlas be your introduction to his incredible imagination. Here six convincing and wonderfully realized worlds, filled with surprise and originality, loosely intermingle. Each story, inhabited with equally compelling characters, proves the genius of this amazingly gifted writer.
"David Mitchell is a spookily protean writer. His favored technique — he used it in his first novel, Ghostwritten — is to build a long narrative out of shorter ones, stories told in vastly different voices and styles, then cinch the whole patchwork together with some supernal device that reveals their underlying connections. In Ghostwritten, he couldn't manage to pull off that final, unifying gesture, but his third novel, Cloud Atlas, is far more convincing, a genuine and thoroughly entertaining literary puzzle." Laura Miller, Salon.com (read the entire Salon.com review)
Synopses & Reviews
From David Mitchell, the Booker Prize nominee, award-winning writer and one of the featured authors in Granta's "Best of Young British Novelists 2003" issue, comes his highly anticipated third novel, a work of mind-bending imagination and scope.
A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagan's California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified "dinery server" on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilization — the narrators of Cloud Atlas hear each other's echoes down the corridor of history, and their destinies are changed in ways great and small.
In his captivating third novel, David Mitchell erases the boundaries of language, genre and time to offer a meditation on humanity's dangerous will to power, and where it may lead us.
"At once audacious, dazzling, pretentious and infuriating, Mitchell's third novel weaves history, science, suspense, humor and pathos through six separate but loosely related narratives. Like Mitchell's previous works, Ghostwritten and number9dream (which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize), this latest foray relies on a kaleidoscopic plot structure that showcases the author's stylistic virtuosity. Each of the narratives is set in a different time and place, each is written in a different prose style, each is broken off mid-action and brought to conclusion in the second half of the book. Among the volume's most engaging story lines is a witty 1930s-era chronicle, via letters, of a young musician's effort to become an amanuensis for a renowned, blind composer and a hilarious account of a modern-day vanity publisher who is institutionalized by a stroke and plans a madcap escape in order to return to his literary empire (such as it is). Mitchell's ability to throw his voice may remind some readers of David Foster Wallace, though the intermittent hollowness of his ventriloquism frustrates. Still, readers who enjoy the 'novel as puzzle' will find much to savor in this original and occasionally very entertaining work. Agent, Douglas Stewart. (Aug. 24) Forecast: Lots of buzz and a friendly paperback price will ensure strong sales, but like other fashionable tomes (think Pynchon's Mason & Dixon) Mitchell's novel may be more admired than read." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A] remarkable achievement, a frightening, beautiful, funny, wildly inventive, elaborately conceived tour de force....Each of these tales more than earns its keep. Collectively, they constitute a work of art." San Francisco Chronicle
"Great Britain's answer to Thomas Pynchon outdoes himself...maddeningly intricate, improbably entertaining....
"Mitchell has a gift for creating fully realized worlds with a varied cast of characters. However...while the clever construction serves to highlight the novel's big ideas, the continual interruptions may distance the average reader." Library Journal
"The novel as series of nested dolls or Chinese boxes, a puzzle-book, and yet — not just dazzling, amusing or clever but heartbreaking and passionate, too. I've never read anything quite like it, and I'm grateful to have lived, for a while, in all its many worlds, which are all one world, which is, in turn, enchanted by Mitchell's spell-caster prose, our own." Michael Chabon, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
"This rich, imaginative novel parcels out its surprises with impeccable timing, and the less you know in advance, the more pleasure it gives....Exhilarating, challenging, full of invention, this book may show where the future of the novel — and of humanity — is headed." Orlando Sentinel
"Cloud Atlas is no novel for the casual reader in search of easy entertainment, though much of it reads with the ease of a commercial page-turner. It is a finely wrought text, examining both past and future, for our time." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Mitchell's talents for riotous incident and energetic prose keep the pages turning, but Atlas' disparate strands are linked only by the flimsiest of pretenses....The six cylinders never function as one engine. (Grade: B)" Entertainment Weekly
"Mitchell's exploration of power and greed is riveting, and the way the stories come together, through time and cultures, is astonishing. Cloud Atlas is a novel not to be missed." Rocky Mountain News
"Mitchell possesses an amazingly copious and eclectic imagination." William Boyd
"Mitchell is, clearly, a genius. He...can evidently do anything, and his ambition is written in magma across this novel's every page. But Cloud Atlas is the sort of book that makes ambition seem slightly suspect..." Tom Bissell, The New York Times Book Review
"A boomeranging historical novel moving from the Age of Discover to post-apocalyptic Hawaii with stops on the way in China Syndrome-era California and dystopian capitalist Korea. An amazing performance of ventriloquism and brains." Tin House magazine
"Watch out for Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, a work of free-wheeling fantasy by a cutting-edge writer." David Robson, Sunday Telegraph (U.K.)
"Mr. Mitchell is on record that his goal was a reading experience akin to taking apart a Russian doll, then putting it back together. To this extent, he has certainly succeeded....For all its dazzle, though, Cloud Atlas is substance still searching for style." Dallas Morning News
"[Mitchell's] previous novels, Ghostwritten and Number9Dream, also feature stories that are interconnected, but tenuously. His handling of the technique in Cloud Atlas is more dexterous." The Oregonian (Portland, OR)
"Some of Mitchell's sections are quite brilliant and moving, while a couple devolve to the pedestrian, marring the overall effect of the novel." Chicago Tribune
"[A] remarkable book....It knits together science fiction, political thriller and historical pastiche with musical virtuosity and linguistic exuberance: there won't be a bigger, bolder novel next year." Justine Jordan, The Guardian (U.K.)
"David Mitchell is by no means a complete unknown, but I shall be very surprised if...Cloud Atlas doesn't propel him into the front rank of novelists." D J Taylor, The Independent (U.K.)
"One of the biggest joys of Cloud Atlas is to watch Mitchell sashay from genre to genre without a hitch in his dance step. Whether you are a fantasy-book reader or a thriller reader...you will find Cloud Atlas maintains a startling level of authenticity throughout." Hartford Courant
"A daunting talent, adept with the global canvas, and able to move from the technological to the spiritual with supernatural ease." Suzi Feay, Independent on Sunday (U.K.)
In his captivating third novel, Mitchell erases the boundaries of language, genre, and time to offer a meditation on humanity's dangerous will to power, and where it may lead.
Now a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, and Hugh Grant, and directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer
A postmodern visionary who is also a master of styles of genres, David Mitchell combines flat-out adventure, a Nabokovian lore of puzzles, a keen eye for character, and a taste for mind-bending philosophical and scientific speculation in the tradition of Umberto Eco and Philip K. Dick. The result is brilliantly original fiction that reveals how disparate people connect, how their fates intertwine, and how their souls drift across time like clouds across the sky.
About the Author
David Mitchell is one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists 2003. His first novel, Ghostwritten, won the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and his second, number9dream, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. He lives in Herefordshire, England.
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