Genre: Sci-Fi?  It’s almost a genre all its own

Notes: This is a book to savor over many nights.  It’s too pretty to gobble up at once.

Review: If you haven’t read any of David Mitchell’s books, stop reading this post and run to the library ASAP.  He is rapidly becoming one of my favorite authors.

Cloud Atlas is a novel that takes a variety of characters from different times (sometimes displaced by hundreds of years) and different places and tells their stories from their Point of View.  The way Mitchell inhabits each voice so well and makes all of these characters seem so real is breathtaking.

We begin with the diary of Adam Ewing from San Francisco, CA while he sails around the South Pacific.  He chronicles his experiences and his slow descent into death while a doctor on board treats his “brain parasite.”  Ewing trusts this doctor completely and doesn’t realize he is slowly being poisoned with a mixture of arsenic and opiates.

The second story takes us further into the future with a composer named Robert Frobisher as he writes letters to his friend, Sixsmith.  Frobisher is under the tutelage of a well-known and respected composer and becomes his assistant.  From reading the chapter, we get the impression that Frobisher is not well liked.  His parents kicked him out, he is bi-sexual, and doesn’t have very many friends.  Frobisher begins an affair with the composer’s wife and falls in love with their daughter, Eva.  Frobisher is a mess, but an entertaining read.  And he takes us to the next character, Luisa Rey.

The connection between these two characters was much easier to figure out.  Luisa Rey is a reporter who became stuck in an elevator with Sixsmith.  Sixsmith gives her the scoop of the century about a very powerful, very corrupt energy company and the instability of their reactors.  Luisa tries her best to get the story out, but faces death at every turn as the company tries to silence her.

From Luisa, we follow a man by the name of Cavendish.  As he tries to run away from some thugs trying to settle a debt, he checks himself into a hotel only to realize it is actually a senior care facility.  They essentially keep him prisoner until he figures a way to bust out.  While stuck in this horrid place, he begins to read a novel about Luisa Rey, fearless reporter.

The next story is far, far into the future in Korea.  This is reminiscent of The Matrix where humans are completely reliant on technology for everything.  The Corporation manufactures servants to make life more comfortable for the “Souls.”  Souls have a microchip embedded into the tip of their fingers while the fabricants (the servants) do not.  However, we follow one fabricant, Sonmi (who has coincidentally begun watching a film based on the live of Cavendish) whose has made it her mission to show the world that fabricants are people too.  We get her story through an archivist as she sits in death row for crimes unmentioned.

Finally, we go to the final character in the novel.  This part of the novel used its own language, sort of reminiscent of “A Clockwork Orange” and took just as much patience to figure out.  Once you get the hang of the language, the novel reads a little easier.  We follow a character in a tribe on the island of Hawaii so far into the future that it feels like we are in the past.  Civilization collapsed on itself and the population of humans left on earth form tribes and live off the land.

After I finished that chapter, I breathed a sigh of relief.  It was SO LONG.  Since it made up the middle of the book, it was double the length of the other chapters.  SO. LONG. After we leave Hawaii, Mitchell takes us through each of the characters one more time in reverse order so we end back where we started with Adam Ewing.

I’m still unsure of the connection between all of these characters.  Each has the same comet-shaped birthmark, so I’m sort of toying with the idea that they are all the same person, simply reincarnated in different bodies and different times.  The theme of slavery and dominance also runs through the novel as each character fights against a more powerful enemy.  Sometimes succeeding, sometimes not.

Bottom Line: If you’re a puzzle-lover, this is definitely the book for you.  I highly recommend if you have the time!