From the cover: ‘Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies …’ A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagans California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified dinery server on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilisation the narrators of CLOUD ATLAS hear each others echoes down the corridor of history, and their destinies are changed in ways great and small. In his extraordinary third novel, David Mitchell erases the boundaries of language, genre and time to offer a meditation on humanitys dangerous will to power, and where it may lead us.
The novel consists of six nested stories that take us from the remote South Pacific in the nineteenth century to a distant, post-apocalyptic future. Each tale is revealed to be a story that is read (or watched) by the main character in the next. All stories but the last one get interrupted at some moment, and after the sixth story concludes at the center of the book, the novel “goes back” in time, “closing” each story as the book progresses in terms of pages but regresses in terms of the historical period in which the action takes place. Eventually, readers end where they started, with Adam Ewing in the Pacific Ocean, circa 1850.
It’s a very intriguing book. Quite surprising when you’re reading the story about Adam Ewing, curious what will happen next and then it suddenly ends in mid-sentence. Same with the next story. David Mitchell is jumping around in time and it’s up to the reader to discover the link between the stories. The middle narrative, “Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After” isn’t that easy to read because of the strange, but it’s very creative ‘future” english.
My judgement: five stars. I most certainly will recommend this book to everyone.