Sunday, 22 May 2011

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Release Date: March 2004
Publisher: Sceptre
Pages: 544
Buy The Book: Amazon

"Six interlocking lives - one amazing adventure. In a narrative that circles the globe and reaches from the 19th century to a post-apocalyptic future, David Mitchell erases the boundaries of time, genre and language to offer an enthralling vision of humanity's will to power, and where it will lead us."

Although not a particularly YA novel, which I mainly intended to post about on this blog, I couldn't not review this book. To adequately describe the storyline I'd be here for at least an hour, so I'll try and condense it down as much as possible. The story begins with the journal of Adam Ewing, travelling across the Pacific on the Prophetess. His journals are discovered by Robert Frobisher, a composer who spends most of his narrative in Belgium writing letters to Rufus Sixsmith, who is later murdered for his involvement in the cover-up of a potential nuclear disaster (keeping up?). Sixsmith gets stuck in a lift with Luisa Rey, a journalist who attempts to uncover the story Sixsmith first shed some light on. The narrative then jumps to an almost dystopian world dominated by a single corporation, where humans are genetically engineered to be used as slaves and even the moon is used as advertising space. The last section, taking place after the 'Fall' of this futuristic world follows Zachary, a Pacific Islander who welcomes a foreigner to his land.

To say this book is bold would be a massive understatement. The creativity and imagination which has gone into it astounds me, and it is nothing short of a masterclass in vocabulary and style. Each narrative is starkly different, each character is vivid and interesting, each section has mysteries, romance, comedy, action and everything else you could ever want from a novel. As someone interested in music I particularly enjoyed Robert Frobisher's first excerpt where he moves in with a distinguished composer and attempts to aid him (not so much his second section, where he becomes hung up on his landlord's daughter, goes a little bit insane and forgets to shave). The prose is fluid and elegant and it's obvious that David Mitchell is well-read when it comes to classical music; he can describe it perfectly. 

The most fascinating part for me was Somni's first section, set way into the future in a terrifying glimpse of what greed, money and power could do to humanity. Corporations, or rather, a single all-owning corporation, has taken over and technology has advanced so far that it's possible to genetically engineer humans (or 'fabricants') to act as slaves. One of these slaves manages to break free from her enforcers and we see this new world through her eyes; coffee is now simply called 'starbuck', cars are called 'fords', a watch is simply named a 'rolex', a photo is called a 'kodak'. When we hear about the 'golden arches' of the fast-food establishment from which Somni escapes, it's not hard to imagine what company that could be years into the future. The sheer inventiveness of this section astounded me, although this meant that the rest of the book didn't quite live up to the fantastic level set by this narrative. A special mention has to go to Luisa Rey's section, which I felt could have been a novel in itself. 

I would recommend this book to anyone with a brain. It's not an easy read, some sections are very difficult to digest (Zachary's excerpt written entirely in Pacific Islander dialect being the case in point) and even I felt that I had to force myself to push on through some parts. But it's a fantastically rewarding novel - I feel like a better person for reading it, as cheesy as that sounds. Although not a YA author, David Mitchell has leapt onto my author-radar and I'll definitely be buying more of his work in the future - I recommend you all do the same!

1 comment:

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