Cloud Atlas

10/24/2017 at 11:21 PM (Books, Movies, Science Fiction, Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

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I don’t think I’ve read a novel so surprisingly excellent since Jonathan Strange Mr Norell. Actually, I have. What I meant to say is that I’ve read nothing as epic. My attempts to explain Cloud Atlas to people have met with changed subjects.  Let me try: the book is like 6 perfect little novellas, arranged as Russian dolls, and as you read, you bore in, and bore back out. Each doll is a different period in time, the outermost being in the early 19th century, the latest being somewhere around 2200. Four of the six are genre pieces: historical maritime fiction, crime novel, dystopian sci-fi, and post-apocalyptic sci-fi, with all their tropes rendered with loving affection. But they are just written so well that they are irresistible. The pieces placed in the 1930s and the present day are also wonderful, but certainly aren’t the type of fare I normally seek out. I am far from being a fan of science fiction.

But yes, exceedingly well written. What’s it about? Well, there’s the journal of an American notary returning home from the Chatham Islands aboard a suspect ship in the 1830s; a young composer cuckolding an older colleague while helping him write new works, who documents his affairs and foibles in letters to his former lover; there’s a true-story thriller about a Californian journalist in the 1970s planning to out a corrupt and deadly energy company for concealing a safety report damning their new nuclear energy plant; the soon-to-be-filmed chronicles of a publisher in the present day whose attempts to escape the extortionist cronies of his gangster star author land him in a Draconian nursing home reminiscent of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest from which he cannot escape; there’s the future testimony of a Korean clone bred for service in a fast food joint but who, via the machinations of forces many and penumbral, gains full consciousness; and finally “the Huck Finnish tale of a post-apocalyptic Hawaiian ‘primitive’ and the ‘civilized’ researcher sent to study his society”. Whew! The characters of each story find themselves reading their predecessor, and sometimes characters overlap a little. Each story features a character with the same birthmark, and they all seem to experience deja vu from characters in other stories. Now it sounds corny. But my promise to you, is that it is cool.

I guess the book is primarily about the will to power. Slavery and subjugation, small personal cruelties, corporate greed. Its premise is something I still don’t know.  Please read this book so, at the very least, you can explain it to me. A movie might be easier to watch than reading Cloud Atlas.

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