Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Cloud Atlas book cover
Rating 9.4/10
David Mitchell is a great story-teller and he beautifully weaves a tale of six lives brought together in time and significance by convergent fates

Cloud Atlas, by English author David Mitchell, was first published in 2004. A speculative fiction novel, featuring both fantasy and science fiction elements, it met with an almost overwhelmingly positive reaction. I am whole-heartedly on the positive side of the fence. In fact, I loved this novel, finding it utterly charming and beautifully written.

The novel features six characters in interlocking stories, each interrupting the one before it: 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 civilisation. 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.

The joy in reading this novel is found in the complete engagement experienced whilst reading the six interlocking stories. And as you read you become aware of a link (in the shape of a comet-shaped birthmark) connecting each narrator, and how the actions of each affects the lives of future incarnations. The novel moves seamlessly between timelines, taking us from the eighteenth century to the distant future, and each story is told in a different writing style, including speculative science, post-apocalyptic and mystery thriller fiction. Mitchell’s undisputed talent is showcased in his ability to write so well and successfully across each genre.

This is a book for those who like to think, who like being challenged, who enjoy having their imagination stretched. David Mitchell is fundamentally a great story-teller and in Cloud Atlas he beautifully weaves a tale of six lives brought together in time and significance by convergent fates.

 “An impeccable dance of genres... an elegiac, radiant festival of prescience, meditation and entertainment.”  The Times

“A singular achievement, from an author of extraordinary ambition and skill.” Independent on Sunday

“David Mitchell entices his readers onto a rollercoaster, and at first they wonder if they want to get off. Then - at least in my case - they can't bear the journey to end.” AS Byatt

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