Title: Cloud Atlas
Author: David Mitchell
Page Count/Review Word Count: 536
Cloud Atlas scored rave reviews from pretty much everyone who read it, but in many ways, I just don’t understand what all of the fuss is about. I mean, sure, it is a decent enough read, but I also think that it failed to live up to the hype.
It’s difficult to explain what the story actually involves, because the manuscript consists of six different stories which move between different times and locations. It makes it kind of difficult to follow, although it all makes sense at the end – there’s a sort of slow sense of a dawning realisation that pounces on you properly towards the end of the book.
And it’s interesting to note that the novel was largely a critically-acclaimed success, selling plenty of copies and being released as a movie of the same name. On top of that, it won the British Book Awards Literary Fiction Award and the Richard & Judy Book of the Year award, and it was also short-listed for the 2004 Booker Prize, the Nebula Award, and the Arthur C. Clarke Award.
At this point, I feel as though I should point out that the David Mitchell who wrote this book is not the same David Mitchell who stars in Peep Show and who’s made a name for himself as a comedy writer. This David Mitchell is the author of a half dozen or so other novels including number9dream, The Bone Clocks and Ghostwritten.
I’ve got to be honest, I prefer the work of the other David Mitchell, and there will be reviews of some of his books coming soon. That said, I can certainly appreciate that there’s a place in the world for more experimental stuff like Cloud Atlas, and I certainly can’t deny that Mitchell has followed his concept to great effect.
I think that the heart of the problem lies with the length of the book, which you could argue is necessary to allow for full experimentation with the innovative form. Personally, though, it seemed a little excessive, and by the time I was two thirds of the way through the book, I was counting down the pages until I reached the end.
But I’ve focused largely on the negatives here, and while admittedly there are a lot of them, that doesn’t stop this from being that rarest of rare things – a truly good read, with an interesting (and confusing) story line and characters which, whilst they might not be relatable, do at least remain consistent. There are no rookie mistakes here, this is a professional quality effort – that’s why I had to still give it an 8, even though I wasn’t blown away by it.
So if I was you, and I was thinking about buying this book and giving it a read, I’d have a real think beforehand. It might be worth watching the film first, just so that you at least know what you’re getting yourself into. It’s the sort of book that serious readers should read just so they can say that they’ve read it, but also that casual readers should avoid like the plague.