Friday, July 31, 2009

Cloud Atlas

It's hard to describe the charm that David Mitchell exerts to draw the reader along in this odd book narrating six different stories in different periods. It is probably the voice in each narrative, so distinct, so different from the others in style and tone. Even the futuristic dialect of a post-apocalyptic world, which could have become simply ennervating in less skillful hands, captivates the reader. Not to mention the pre-apocalyptic but dismal future world where more brand names are generic (all cars are fords, all movies are disneys, etc.).

The sheer imagination used in creating these different worlds, interlinked only in the most subtle way, helps carry the reader along. The individual plots, too, have their own suspense, plus, somehow, the suspense of seeing how these stories are linked.

Thematically, Cloud Atlas glorifies independence of spirit in the face of a cynical and often cruel world. The protagonists triumph in greater or lesser fashion, but they preserve their integrity against often unspeakable corruption. If you subscribe to the theory that they are in fact each one the reincarnation of the previous one, then of course it is a single protagonist who succeeds in this endeavor over the course of centuries. But that is really a superfluous consideration, because each narrative stands on its own, and, related or not, the six protagonists show different ways to maintain integrity.

I now have two further books by David Mitchell on my shelf, waiting to be read. I'm a fan.

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