Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, 509 pages
tbr lite, 1% well read
Six stories, stacked within each other like Russian dolls, through time past and present. Or six movements of a musical composition, with connecting themes and overlapping characters. The overall idea and execution of Mitchell's novel worked better for me than the individual pieces. I preferred some stories and characters and writing to others. But the idea that he develops is quite amazing. As the music is described in one section: In the first set, each solo is interrupted by its successor; in the second, each interruption is recontinued, in order. Revolutionary or gimmicky?
There were parts of each that I really liked. From Adam Ewing's diary, I enjoyed the musings on social strata among the races and why some people were conquered. A little history from the Southern Pacific Chatham Islands was interesting. From the Letters from Zedelghem, I liked the connection of characters to Black Swan Green, another book of Mitchell's I enjoyed. Luisa Rey's Mystery was a good old fashioned mystery with espionage and adventure.
The writing in Timothy Cavendish's Ghastly Ordeal was the easiest to read but the story was not as interesting." The Orison of Sonmi-451" was my favorite story. Set in a futuristic corpocracy in Korea, a breakdown in this dystopian world is investigated. The use of words and ideas extended from now to this imagined future was pretty cool. "Sloosh'a Crossin' An' Ev'rythin' After" was the center story, the smallest Russian doll of the book. It was toughest to read with the dialect and bastardization of the English language, and although it slowed me down, it was very well done. Trying to see how it connected to the rest was the best part of this story.
This was nominated for the Man Booker Prize in 2004 and I am surprised it didn't win, if only for the imaginative and ambitious writing. It is such a different book, and while I didn't love it, it will stay with me for a while, thinking of the connections and way the stories layered.