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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nested Narratives, 2 Oct. 2014
By 
D. Elliott (Ulverston, Cumbria) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Cloud Atlas by Mitchell, David 1st (first) Edition (2004) (Paperback)
In over 500 mesmerising pages Cloud Atlas is made up of a series of nested narratives that start and finish in the mid 19th century in the Pacific Ocean but in between embrace other times plus a dystopian future. Author David Mitchell skilfully intermingles a variety of writing styles for the nested stories ranging from eloquent prose to crude phonetic patois, and for each he returns in reverse sequence to stitch together separated sections of each storyline. Individual endings are satisfactory but some readers (like myself) may be left perplexed over a collective conclusion.

The first story is made up of expressive and informative recordings in the journal of American lawyer Adam Ewing as he travels in the Pacific. The second story in the 1930s is a series of humorous letters from Robert Frobisher to his friend Rufus Sixthsmith whilst he works for a famous musician but produces his own genius composition - the Cloud Atlas Sextet. Sixsmith becomes a famous scientist who in the 1970s doubts the veracity of research findings and his fears are pursued in yet another story as journalist Luisa Rey attempts to expose corruption. A further story in the 1980s is the hilariously told ghastly ordeal of Timothy Cavendish wrongly confined in an old peoples’ home. Narrative moves into the future with a couple of difficult to read accounts - first about Somni, a slave clone who escapes his fabrication by acquiring knowledge, and then Zachry, a goat herder, with memories of Somni as some form of god. It is a time of savagery - back in the Pacific where Cloud Atlas began.

With acknowledgement of Somni as a revered god to the Valley Tribes of Zachry there are couplings to the initial stories in reverse order. These embrace Cavendish’s link to the Luisa Rey mystery, the discovery of Sixsmith evidence, further Frobisher letters, and finally the outstanding social commentaries via the Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing. With references to similar birthmarks there is a sci-fi influence, and it almost seems that each individual knows of their connection to others. This is never explicit, but it confuses conclusions and adds to the novel’s perplexity. In drawing together the various nested narratives author David Mitchell introduces many concepts of society, civilisation, evolution, science, culture, music, history etc. - and above all: human nature with acts of both horror and compassion. Cloud Atlas is not an easy read - but it is an excellent thought-provoking and entertaining novel - yet for me it perhaps just too clever, and therefore falls short of a 5-star rating.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, 4 May 2014
By 
Dr. Simon Howard "sjhoward" (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cloud Atlas by Mitchell, David 1st (first) Edition (2004) (Paperback)
Last week, I featured David Mitchell the comedian. In his book, he complains about being mistake for David Mitchell the author. So this week, I reasoned, why not feature Cloud Atlas? It’s another book that’s “now a major motion picture” – but I haven’t seen it, so that can’t upset me.

I really liked Cloud Atlas. It has a lovely central message, which is continually revisited and all brought together nicely at the end, and the quality and style of the language over hundreds of years seems spot-on. I’m not enough of a student of literature to know whether it is spot-on, but it was certainly good enough to convince me.

The book is essentially constructed of six smaller books, each interrupted at a crucial moment in their story – one even midsentence – and returned to again later. The story spans from the 1800s right through to a distant future, with each of the different small books being about a different time period, and written in the style of that time period. This sort of Calvino-esque style could have been gimicky and poorly written, but it actually worked quite well. Mitchell clearly has the talent required to construct such a story of such lofty ambition, and to transcend both styles and genres. And the unusual format is handled so deftly that it almost faded into the background once I got engrossed in the plot.

That said, this isn’t Calvino. For example, whilst If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller is also a collections of interrupted stories-within-stories, Cloud Atlas is far more accessible and populist, losing all the self-referential surreal genius that makes the former a masterpiece. Cloud Atlas isn’t Dan Brown-esque, you understand – it does maintain some literary merit, and has some worthy themes and messages. It’s accessible without being trashy.

All things considered, I’d highly recommend this book. Having said that, given the massive hit it’s already been, if you were going to read it you probably already have…! I was going to suggest revisiting it over Christmas, but I’m not sure it has the depth to sustain a second reading. Still, it’s pretty good.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Experimental, that almost is pulled off, 3 May 2014
This review is from: Cloud Atlas by Mitchell, David 1st (first) Edition (2004) (Paperback)
This started with a hiss and a roar. I was getting very excited by the quality of writing and then I hit 'An Orison of Sonmi and Sloosha's Crossin'...and hit the catatonic, oh gawd, fantasy/sci fi and the modern novel escape button. It just makes my brain hurt in places it would rather not be. It is a wild ride and I enjoyed the chapters on Maoriori/Polynesia and the man trapped in the nightmare old folks world. Mr Mitchell is undoubtably a fine writer but this novel, although true to its title, was in my view a three and a half star read-so ignore half a star on this review.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Related but independent short stories brought together in the final chapter - thought provoking and highly recommended, 15 Feb. 2014
By 
Maria Grant (Manchester) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cloud Atlas by Mitchell, David 1st (first) Edition (2004) (Paperback)
We've often considered reading Cloud Atlas in our book club but always set it aside… possibly because of its size… so I decided to listening to the audio book instead.

With the exception of a chapter in Maori dialect (dialect being something I always have difficulty reading/following) this is a fabulous collection of related but separate short stories that, with the exception of the final chapter that brings universal themes covered in the previous chapters/stories together, could be read independently.

This is a thought provoking book which makes you consider how we live our lives. Highly recommended.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unexpectedly enjoyable, 16 Aug. 2014
By 
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
(No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Cloud Atlas by Mitchell, David 1st (first) Edition (2004) (Paperback)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As astounding achievement. Read it!, 4 Sept. 2014
By 
Mr. John J. Raeburn (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cloud Atlas by Mitchell, David 1st (first) Edition (2004) (Paperback)
My favourite book of all time. It takes a while to get into it but then it really grabs you.

If you've seen the movie and considering reading the book, then I highly recommend it. The move is very well done, but the book has a lot of details you miss in the film.

By now, you likely have heard of the butterfly structure of the six intersecting stories moving through time. It's such a great format!

Astute readers will note that each section is somewhat of a homage to different writers and their books, ranging from Murakami to Phillip K Dick.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life changer, 31 Dec. 2013
By 
Ms. LJS (Midlands, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Cloud Atlas by Mitchell, David 1st (first) Edition (2004) (Paperback)
This book absolutely moved me. It's written like no other I've read before before. It's split off into sections each detailing the life of an individual in different times yet all somehow linked.
It really made me stop and think about life and our actions. Definitely worth reading and seeing the film afterwards as the other way around, I feel would just be confusing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book, 7 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: Cloud Atlas by Mitchell, David 1st (first) Edition (2004) (Paperback)
Nearly finished reading this book. Got the video but thought I'd read the book first: excellent, stimulating read, although at first found difficult to grasp the author's style. Came well packaged
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Aligned Destinies, 28 May 2014
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This review is from: Cloud Atlas by Mitchell, David 1st (first) Edition (2004) (Paperback)
Far better than I had been told to expect by other readers, a novel of huge scope backed with some weightly philosophical and moral thought. A must read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars It has to be good, 8 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: Cloud Atlas by Mitchell, David 1st (first) Edition (2004) (Paperback)
I saw the film only recently and loved it, so now I have to read the book. This first edition was secondhand, in good nick and a bargain from the Oxfam shop on Amazon. I am sure it will be a great read. Looking forward!
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