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Cloud Atlas [Paperback]

David Mitchell
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (579 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

22 Nov 2012

By the author of THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET, David Mitchell's bestselling and Booker Prize-shortlisted novel, one of Richard & Judy's 100 Books of the Decade, CLOUD ATLAS has now been adapted for film. The major motion picture, directed by the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer, stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, Jim Broadbent and Hugh Grant.

The novel features six characters in interlocking stories, each interrupting the one before it: 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 Reagan's 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 other's echoes down the corridor of history, and their destinies are changes in ways great and small.

Mitchell's other novels are GHOSTWRITTEN, BLACK SWAN GREEN and NUMBER9DREAM, all published by Sceptre.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre (22 Nov 2012)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1444730878
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444730876
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (579 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 10,957 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in 1969, David Mitchell grew up in Worcestershire. After graduating from Kent University, he taught English in Japan, where he wrote his first novel, Ghostwritten. Published in 1999, it was awarded the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. His second novel, number9dream, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and in 2003, David Mitchell was selected as one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists. His third novel, Cloud Atlas, won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial and South Bank Show Literature prizes and the Richard & Judy Best Read of the Year. It was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and adapted for film in 2012. It was followed by Black Swan Green, shortlisted for the Costa Novel of the Year Award, and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which was a No. 1 Sunday Times bestseller. Both were also longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

In 2013, The Reason I Jump: One Boy's Voice From the Silence of Autism by Naoki Higashida was published in a translation from the Japanese by David Mitchell and KA Yoshida. It was an immediate bestseller in the UK and later in the US as well. David Mitchell's sixth novel is The Bone Clocks (Sceptre, September 2014).

He now lives in Ireland with his wife and their two children.

Product Description

Amazon Review

It's hard not to become ensnared by words beginning with the letter B, when attempting to describe Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell's third novel. It's a big book, for start, bold in scope and execution--a bravura literary performance, possibly. (Let's steer clear of breathtaking for now.) Then, of course, Mitchell was among Granta's Best of Young British Novelists and his second novel number9dreamwas shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Characters with birthmarks in the shape of comets are a motif; as are boats. Oh and one of the six narratives strands of the book--where coincidentally Robert Frobisher, a young composer, dreams up "a sextet for overlapping soloists" entitled Cloud Atlas--is set in Belgium, not far from Bruges. (See what I mean?)

Structured rather akin to a Chinese puzzle or a set of Matrioshka dolls, there are dazzling shifts in genre and voice and the stories leak into each other with incidents and people being passed on like batons in a relay race. The 19th-century journals of an American notary in the Pacific that open the novel are subsequently unearthed 80 years later on by Frobisher in the library of the ageing, syphilitic maestro he's trying to fleece. Frobisher's waspish letters to his old Cambridge crony, Rufus Sexsmith, in turn surface when Rufus, (by the 1970s a leading nuclear scientist) is murdered. A novelistic account of the journalist Luisa Rey's investigation into Rufus' death finds its way to Timothy Cavendish, a London vanity publisher with an author who has an ingenious method of silencing a snide reviewer. And in a near-dystopian Blade Runner-esque future, a genetically engineered fast food waitress sees a movie based on Cavendish's unfortunate internment in a Hull retirement home. (Cavendish himself wonders how a director called Lars might wish to tackle his plight). All this is less tricky than it sounds, only the lone "Zachary" chapter, told in Pacific Islander dialect (all "dingos'n'ravens", "brekker" and "f'llowin'"s) is an exercise in style too far. Not all the threads quite connect but nonetheless Mitchell binds them into a quite spellbinding rumination on human nature, power, oppression, race, colonialism and consumerism. --Travis Elborough --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


A remarkable book ... there won't be a bigger, bolder novel this year. (Guardian)

An impeccable dance of genres ... an elegiac, radiant festival of prescience, meditation and entertainment. (The Times)

His wildest ride yet ... a singular achievement, from an author of extraordinary ambition and skill (Matt Thorne, Independent on Sunday)

David Mitchell entices his readers onto a rollercoaster, and at first they wonder if they want to get off. Then - at least in my case - they can't bear the journey to end. (AS Byatt, Guardian)

Mitchell's storytelling in CLOUD ATLAS is of the best. I was, appropriately, captivated. (Lawrence Norfolk, Independent)

The best novel of the year so far ... a thrilling ride of a story (Philip Hensher, Summer Reading, Observer)

Impeccably structured novel of ideas in many voices by a talent to watch. (Literary Editor's Best Books, Observer)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
726 of 731 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unexpectedly enjoyable 28 April 2010
I was expecting to hate this book. I forced myself to try it because people had gone on about it so much, but I really didn't like the descriptions I'd heard: 500-plus pages, visions of a dystopian future, a fractured timescale with six loosely-linked narratives each nested within the previous one, and so on and so on. It just reeked to me of a self-regarding author determined to show the judging panels of literary prizes how terribly clever he was, and with no interest whatsoever in whether anyone normal would actually be able to read the thing.

Well, I was completely wrong. I thought it was absolutely terrific. Interesting, thoughtful, readable and - most surprisingly of all - page-turningly suspenseful and exciting quite a lot of the time. I thought it had a lot of thoughtful and thought-provoking things to say about exploitation and the abuse of power, and about the possible consequences of both humanity and inhumanity. The different voices are really well done, with the historic and present-day(ish) ones sounding absolutely authentic and the future ones chillingly believable both in the language they use and what they say with it. The stories are involving, occasionally humorous, sometimes sad and sometimes extremely touching. For example, the few paragraphs when a character in a train passes some of the places of his youth and sees them much changed are really affecting, I thought, even though the character himself is thoroughly odious.

I doubt whether many people, if any, will read this review among the hundreds of others here, but if you do I would urge you to try the book. Plainly quite a few other reviewers hated the book and did find it as terrible as I expected to. You may hate it too, but you won't have lost much. On the other hand, you may be surprised to find it as enjoyable and rewarding as I did. It's worth the risk - if you do find it's for you, you'll never forget it.
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120 of 125 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To read, or not to read... 2 April 2010
With the mixed reviews, that is the question!

This is a big read. Quite long, and filled with connections, but it is very rewarding.

So, read it if you have the time and the mental energy. On holiday, for example. Do not get this book and think you can do 20 pages a night and just dip into it. It will need your time.

It will also need your patience. I found it hard to get into, and nearly gave up during the first part. Just as I was getting into the first part, it finished and the second part started and I felt like I was starting again.

But keep going and you will get to the point where it all starts to come together.

I would also suggest that you find out as little as possible about the plot. Let the plot reveal itself. Don't read the reviews that give it away and don't surf around looking for comment and insight into it. Let the intricateness reveal itself naturally.

If you have the time and patience you will find a wonderful book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Absurdly overrated 2 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Many reviewers seem to have been sufficiently dazzled by the Matryoshka-doll construction of this book that they haven't noticed the weakness of the individual strands.

The science fiction episodes are particularly poor, especially the central section which reads like a woefully bad imitation of Riddley Walker (a very much better and more thought-provoking book.)

Mitchell seems to have a problem shared by many a mainstream author who tries his/her hand at science fiction. Having noticed that (say) Isaac Asimov is no Tolstoy when it comes to characterisation, they seem to come to the conclusion that SF is an easy enough game to play, the while remaining blissfully ignorant of what exactly it is about great science fiction that makes it great within its own genre. They end up writing stuff which is greatly praised by mainstream critics of the sort who don't generally read SF, who tell us all about how daring and innovative the author is, and how much better their work is than all that ordinary SF with its cardboard characters and its talking squids in outer space ....

Not too taken with the first/last section either; the 19th century pastiche is remarkably inaccurate, on the face of it surprisingly so for an author who has shown elsewhere that he can do historical fiction pretty well when he tries. This is very probably deliberate (there's plenty of trendy self-referential po-mo playing within the book casting doubts on the authenticity of pretty much every strand) but I found it just plain irritating. If that sort of thing is enjoyable to you, though, this is the book for you.

Similarly, the long-arm-of-coincidence-stretched-to-dislocation nature of the atomic commercial skulduggery plot is more likely deliberate parody than incompetence. Doesn't make it any better as far as I'm concerned.

I'd say the strand relating to Frobisher the composer is the strongest, and least preoccupied with its own cleverness.
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108 of 121 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cumulative Nimbleness 22 Jun 2004
Everything about Cloud Atlas - the elegant and allusive title, the heft of this 540-page hardback (which as well as providing food for thought, doubles as a good cardiovascular workout), the quotes and prize-tips it comes garlanded with, even the bold cover (so idiosyncratically contemporary it should achieve kitsch status within a couple of years) - says: This is a significant book.
And so it is. As you begin to read it, first your opinion rises to meet your expectations, and then continues from there. What Mitchell has done is return to the form of his first novel, Ghostwritten (1999), with a linked set of stories, but with a twist this time. The narrative is less a Russian doll than an onionskin: we get one story which is interrupted by another, and that by another, and so on as we drill through the flesh of the book. At the centre is a whole story, then we return to resume the story it interrupted, then the story *it* interrupted, and so on until the book ends with the conclusion of the story which began it.

And also! As well as having the earlier stories enclosing the later ones, within the structure of the book, Mitchell also has - fictionally and chronologically - the later stories enclosing the earlier ones. By this I mean within each story, the protagonist is aware of the story which has just been interrupted.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars but a bit too clever for my own good.
Ok. Well written, cleverly written, but a bit too clever for my own good.
Published 1 day ago by A. Friswell
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A great journey
Published 3 days ago by Siyenne
1.0 out of 5 stars Truly pointless.
The worst book I have ever read. I had to finish it because it was for my first meeting joining a new book club and I wanted to understand the discussion. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Anonymous Mum
4.0 out of 5 stars an Epic
Having been set the challenge if finishing this book by my son, I found that I was drawn in more as I read. Read more
Published 6 days ago by Alio
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
tricky read but thought provoking in parts
Published 9 days ago by nicola brooks
4.0 out of 5 stars Exciting page turner
I found this an enjoyable and imaginative page turner, with some deep things to say about human nature. The connected stories were fascinating, but rather derivative. Read more
Published 9 days ago by William Shardlow
5.0 out of 5 stars A must
An epic read, I couldn't put this one down.
Published 13 days ago by William Reed
3.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly the film is better than the book
I purchased the DVD of the same title after happening upon the trailer for the film by chance. I was totally hooked on the film. I watched it twice on 2 consecutive night. Read more
Published 13 days ago by Starbuck
5.0 out of 5 stars Brill read, if a little confusing at points
A hard book to get in to at first, but once you start reading, you are gripped. If you haven't seen the film yet, read the book first!
Published 14 days ago by Emily Chapman
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
A bit difficult to read due to the style is written
Published 18 days ago by orangewawawum
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