Review of Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell is an enjoyable albeit a challenging read. My first impression of the book is that I think I would have had a very hard time getting into it if I had not seen the movie first. This is mostly because the beginning of the book to be rather slow paced and because it took place in the 1800's the language was often hard to follow(many words the built in dictionary in my Kindle didn't even recognize). I think though that anyone who has had a lot of experience reading classic literature shouldn't have too much trouble with it. Ironically I had hoped that reading the book would help me understand the movie better, but in reality the fact that I had seen the movie helped me understand what was going on in the book better than I would have otherwise. If I had not seen the movie first, I believe I would have given up before I finished the first part. However since I knew what I had to look forward to, I pushed on and really enjoyed later parts of the book.

For those not familiar with the movie, Cloud Atlas is a series of interconnected stories that all take place during different time periods. Three stories take place in the past, one story takes place around the present, one story takes place in the future, and one story takes place far in the future after the fall of civilization. For those that have seen the movie I would say that much of the content is the same, but of course there are differences. One major difference is with the formatting. The stories in the book do not go back and forth nearly as much as they do in the movie. In the book you are presented with the first half of the first five stories, then the sixth story is told in full, then you have the second half of the first five stories told in reverse order. There is a reason it is done this way and I think it's a very interesting literary device. The only annoying thing is that once I got to the second half of each story I'd have to go back to the end of the first half and reread a few pages to remind myself where the story left off.

Overall I think I really enjoyed the book even though it was a challenge for me and I would say that my favorite parts of the book matched my favorite parts of the movie. I really enjoyed reading about the stories in greater detail than was shown in the movie and I thought that the themes of reincarnation and overthrowing oppression were just as strong in the book as they were in the movie. The only thing that disappointed me somewhat is that the endings of each story didn't seem to be as powerful as they were in the movie.