Some of you may be aware of the Matrix siblings latest movie phenomena, which is the adaptation of British author David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. If not here is the trailer, its what prompted me to read the book.
The film does not get its UK release until next Spring, but so far in the USA it has been met with a mixture of confusion and overwhelming appreciation of its beauty. That is in part I think the fault of trying to use the same actors for different parts no matter the race or age – after reading the book you’ll understand what I mean, and I haven’t even seen the movie yet.
In synopsis Cloud Atlas is a story told by Adam Ewing, Robert Frobisher, Luisa Ray, Timothy Cavendish, Sonmi~451 and Zachry, ranging from the mid-nineteenth century up until a post-apocalyptic future. The stories move through the ages until Zachry gets his turn, then the stories go back – providing a conclusion to where the tale of each person abruptly shut off, ending once more with Adam Ewing in the mid-19th century.
Each story is linked to the other in some small way, either with a reference to an author of the previous half-tale or that most intriguing detail, the comet shaped birthmark.
Confusing? A little at first, but then you become utterly absorbed by each tale.
I have to admit to finding the first half of Adam Ewing’s Pacific journal a little trying, it took a while to catch my interest. But once it was caught my interest was held the entire way through, especially in the futuristic world of Somni~451 – theres something about clones that is both scary and likely to come true, bit like zombies.
You’ll note that I’m not exactly giving anything away in this review, which I feel is right and proper for this book. If you cannot get into the story or accept the complexity of Mitchell’s vision, that we are all in some way connected and our actions affect our futures (and that our spirits carry on through a form of reincarnation), then you just won’t enjoy this book so there is no point in me spoiling it for those who will enjoy it.
The characters are vivid and engaging – as stated before I really liked Sonmi~451 but I think Robert Frobisher was my favourite, especially imagining him as Ben Whishaw (the Brit who plays him in the film) makes him completely come to life. A melodramatic and spontaneous character, truly selfish but makes you feel sad for him as only spoiled young men can.
The writing style is varied, as needs to be when embodying so many characters and timelines and genres – from comedy to sci-fi Mitchell holds his own, does not let the differences overwhelm or detract from the underlying principles of the story. It is really well written.
I highly recommend this book. If you have any intention of seeing the film version I doubly recommend reading the book first, because without knowing the complexities I can’t imagine being able to watch the film with any interest – an underlying feature of many reviews that claim Cloud Atlas to be ‘boring’.