By the New York Times bestselling author of The Bone Clocks • Now a major motion picture • Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize
Includes a new Afterword by David Mitchell
A postmodern visionary and one of the leading voices in twenty-first-century fiction, David Mitchell combines flat-out adventure, a Nabokovian love of puzzles, a keen eye for character, and a taste for mind-bending, philosophical and scientific speculation in the tradition of Umberto Eco, Haruki Murakami, and Philip K. Dick. The result is brilliantly original fiction as profound as it is playful. In this groundbreaking novel, an influential favorite among a new generation of writers, Mitchell explores with daring artistry fundamental questions of reality and identity.
Cloud Atlas begins in 1850 with Adam Ewing, an American notary voyaging from the Chatham Isles to his home in California. Along the way, Ewing is befriended by a physician, Dr. Goose, who begins to treat him for a rare species of brain parasite. . . . Abruptly, the action jumps to Belgium in 1931, where Robert Frobisher, a disinherited bisexual composer, contrives his way into the household of an infirm maestro who has a beguiling wife and a nubile daughter. . . . From there we jump to the West Coast in the 1970s and a troubled reporter named Luisa Rey, who stumbles upon a web of corporate greed and murder that threatens to claim her life. . . . And onward, with dazzling virtuosity, to an inglorious present-day England; to a Korean superstate of the near future where neocapitalism has run amok; and, finally, to a postapocalyptic Iron Age Hawaii in the last days of history.
But the story doesn’t end even there. The narrative then boomerangs back through centuries and space, returning by the same route, in reverse, to its starting point. Along the way, Mitchell reveals how his disparate characters connect, how their fates intertwine, and how their souls drift across time like clouds across the sky.
As wild as a videogame, as mysterious as a Zen koan, Cloud Atlas is an unforgettable tour de force that, like its incomparable author, has transcended its cult classic status to become a worldwide phenomenon.
Praise for Cloud Atlas
“[David] Mitchell is, clearly, a genius. He writes as though at the helm of some perpetual dream machine, can evidently do anything, and his ambition is written in magma across this novel’s every page.”—The New York Times Book Review
“One of those how-the-holy-hell-did-he-do-it? modern classics that no doubt is—and should be—read by any student of contemporary literature.”—Dave Eggers
“Wildly entertaining . . . a head rush, both action-packed and chillingly ruminative.”—People
“The novel as series of nested dolls or Chinese boxes, a puzzle-book, and yet—not just dazzling, amusing, or clever but heartbreaking and passionate, too. I’ve never read anything quite like it, and I’m grateful to have lived, for a while, in all its many worlds.”—Michael Chabon
“Cloud Atlas ought to make [Mitchell] famous on both sides of the Atlantic as a writer whose fearlessness is matched by his talent.”—The Washington Post Book World
At once audacious, dazzling, pretentious and infuriating, Mitchell's third novel weaves history, science, suspense, humor and pathos through six separate but loosely related narratives. Like Mitchell's previous works, Ghostwritten and number9dream (which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize), this latest foray relies on a kaleidoscopic plot structure that showcases the author's stylistic virtuosity. Each of the narratives is set in a different time and place, each is written in a different prose style, each is broken off mid-action and brought to conclusion in the second half of the book. Among the volume's most engaging story lines is a witty 1930s-era chronicle, via letters, of a young musician's effort to become an amanuensis for a renowned, blind composer and a hilarious account of a modern-day vanity publisher who is institutionalized by a stroke and plans a madcap escape in order to return to his literary empire (such as it is). Mitchell's ability to throw his voice may remind some readers of David Foster Wallace, though the intermittent hollowness of his ventriloquism frustrates. Still, readers who enjoy the "novel as puzzle" will find much to savor in this original and occasionally very entertaining work. Mitchell's novel may be more admired than read.
Trusting the Author
I came to this book without knowing anything about it. It's quite an unusual book, or rather five or so books, interrelated. One of the "books" is science fiction and future dystopia - something I would never willingly subject myself to. The other parts of the book were so captivating that I consciously decided to trust this writer (he'd gotten me this far, hadn't he?) and I took the sci-fi plunge. Brilliant, exciting captivating! And then back to my other favorite characters.
Very fortunate to have found this book and this author.
This is one of my all time favorite books. After several readings, it still entertains and reaches a level of uncommon excellence. Just read it!
Sometimes I sit on my balcony, watch the traffic and just think about life. What is it all about; what’s the point? What does my life amount to? I don’t mean this in the whiny or sad way, more in the pensive/intellectual way. I had always kind of come up with a blank at the end of my thoughts, that is, until I read Cloud Atlas. I know that the book, and subsequent movie, are quite divisive, so I’m not going to tell you that this book is going to change your life or that it’s going to be some majorily profound expereince for you. However, in some small way, the book did change mine. David Mitchell’s masterpiece somehow managed to teach me about what it’s all about.
There’s one other interesting thing I learned reading this book. The simplest of all messages can take in excess of 500 pages to really convey. It’s the beauty of the written word, and something that Mitchell thoroughly taps into. To be honest, the central message of this book has been done before. It has just never been done quite like this—or anything like this for that matter.
This is one of those books i’ll be coming back to for a very long time.