Writer: David Mitchell
Publisher/Edition: Sceptre Paperback Edition 2012
Bought at: Periplus Soetta (IDR 98k)
Hokay. First of all, this is not an easy book to be reviewed. And second of all, I’ve finished reading Cloud Atlas a few months ago, and kept postponing to review it, so my memory is a bit hazy now. Please forgive the inadequacy of this review!
Cloud Atlas told six different stories with multiple point of views in multiple forms of writing, multiple settings, and multiple time frames.
1) A diary of an American notary who was stranded in one of Pacific islands in 18th century, waiting for a ship that will take him back home, together with other stranded people. Adam Ewing, the notary, wrote the journal and told stories about an endangered culture of Pacific islands, his adventures crossing the ocean, and his friendship with an English doctor, Dr. Henry Goose.
2) A collection of letters from a musical prodigy, Robert Frobisher, to his bestfriend Sixsmith, in 1930s. Robert was a struggling musician, ready to take any necessary step to enhance his career. His journey ended temporarily at Chateau Zedelghem, Belgium, to become an apprentice of the legendary (and sick) musician, Vyvyan Ayrs. In this mansion, Robert was involved in the conflicts of the family, including having affairs with various members of the household.
3) A chronological story of Luisa Rey, an American journalist living in the 70s who tried to uncover a big story, involving a giant company that will launch a nuclear reactor- that is actually dangerous and can create chaos in the world. One of Luisa’s sources was Rufus Sixsmith (see no.2 above), and their lives were totally in danger.
4) In the more recent period, Timothy Cavendish lived in England as an editor. A huge financial problem involving the mafia forced him to runaway, and somehow he ended up (involuntarily) in a nursing home at the countryside. Timothy tried to escape and found his freedom, but things were not as easy as he thought.
5) In the new millenium- sometime in the future of Korea, humans has successfully created clones that can help them doing works. A recorded interview with one of the clones named Sonmi-451 told a story about the life of the clones and the historical event when they tried to free themselves from becoming the slaves of humans. Sonmi believed in a paradise called Hawaii.
6) In post apocalyptic era, in a land that used to be Hawaii, the world is full of war, and at the edge of civilization. People are killing each other and the strongest tribe holds the power. Zachary, a boy who thinks he was a coward, tries to amend his mistakes in the past and becomes a hero for his people.
These six complicated plots are intertwining with each other, and after Zachary’s story ends, we were brought back to listen Sonmi’s interview, then continued with Timothy Cavendish story, all the way back and ended by Adam Ewing’s journal. A neat, over the top, ambitious way to tell a story!
David Mitchell is a genius, this is a fact that I will support wholeheartedly. I have read his book before, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, and although the story is very different, but the rich, wonderful words and plots are still the same.
Cloud Atlas told a story about civilization, human relations, the past and future of our world and how every phase of history is actually connected with each other. How every person’s story could become another person’s memory, or even could help to define other people’s futures.
The message of this book is very deep, a bit pretentious in some part, but what mesmerized me so much is the way the stories were told, the richness of the settings and characters and the vast range of issues covered by Mitchell. This is a crazy journey- I haven’t seen the movie yet but people said the movie portrayed the book with justice 🙂 Let’s see.