“A half-finished book is a half-finished love affair.” I loved this quote from Cloud Atlas and will probably remember it forever which is strange since I’m not really a quote girl.
* CONTAINS SPOILERS
Cloud Atlas is the third novel by the British writer, David Mitchell. The book won the Book Awards Literary Fiction Award and the Richard & Judy Book of the Year award. It was also short-listed for the 2004 Booker Prize, Nebula Award and Arthur C. Clarke Award.
Cloud Atlas consists of six nested stories following a number of characters who are connected through time and space, and may or may not be, reincarnations of one another. The characters include a lawyer discovering the racial complexities of a South Pacific island, a scoundrel musician looking for his next benefactor, an elderly book publisher who can’t stay out of trouble, a journalist investigating a conspiracy at a nuclear energy facility, a girl scientifically bred to join a serving class of humans, and the life of a tribesman after the collapse of civilization on Earth.
If you’re saying to yourself WTF?, you would be absolutely right!
Cloud Atlas could have been a disaster, and part of me still thinks it’s too convoluted, but somehow David Mitchell created an animated and challenging story about human relationships and what brings us together (love, faith, survival) or tears us apart (discrimination, greed, war). As bewildering as the story could be, I couldn’t tear myself away because I needed to solve the puzzle. Who are these characters? How are they connected? What is the fate that lies in wait for them? I became invested in the characters and I think that’s why the book ultimately worked for me.
Cloud Atlas has so many great characters, but we barely get to scratch the surface of their individual stories in this very crowded book and I felt like this was a shame. A part of me questioned putting all of them together. Why not let the characters have their own stories, especially when the connections between them were at times weak or a little too convenient or didn’t make sense?
Unlike anything else I’ve ever read, Cloud Atlas is a complex hybrid of genres but remains at its heart a story about what it means to be human. I’m still deciding whether it’s a work of genius or a hot mess. It often was disorienting and felt like a strange literary experiment, but I do feel my patience was rewarded with compelling characters and a story that I won’t forget.