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The Cloud Atlas Paperback – 26 Oct 2004

3.9 out of 5 stars 763 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Dial Press; Delta Trade PB ed. edition (26 Oct. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385336950
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385336956
  • Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 2 x 20.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (763 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 33,761 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

" Atmospheric and moving, this is an impressively assured debut." -- "Publishers Weekly
"" First-time novelist expertly fictionalizes one of WWII's least-known stories... a haunting story that will remind many of Ondaatje's The English Patient- and that merits the comparison." -- "Kirkus Reviews
"
" A poignant and lyrical first novel written with the assurance of a master-- Alaska is beautifully realized in all its harshness and native magic." -- T. C. Boyle, "Drop City
"" A gifted and interesting writer, a writer to notice, a writer to watch, a writer any reader of serious fiction will be proud to have read." -- Alan Cheuse, NPR's "All Things Considered"
" Beautifully written and astonishingly well researched.... It was the setting that swept me away, but the characters that I will remember."
--Mark Johnson, "The San Jose Mercury News"

"From the Hardcover edition."

"Atmospheric and moving, this is an impressively assured debut."--Publishers Weekly

"First-time novelist expertly fictionalizes one of WWII's least-known stories...a haunting story that will remind many of Ondaatje's The English Patient-and that merits the comparison."--Kirkus Reviews

"A poignant and lyrical first novel written with the assurance of a master--Alaska is beautifully realized in all its harshness and native magic."--T. C. Boyle, Drop City

"A gifted and interesting writer, a writer to notice, a writer to watch, a writer any reader of serious fiction will be proud to have read."--Alan Cheuse, NPR's All Things Considered

"Beautifully written and astonishingly well researched.... It was the setting that swept me away, but the characters that I will remember."
--Mark Johnson, The San Jose Mercury News

From the Hardcover edition.

From the Inside Flap

Set against the magnificent backdrop of Alaska in the waning days of World War II, "The Cloud Atlas is an enthralling debut novel, a story of adventure and awakening--and of a young soldier who came to Alaska on an extraordinary, top-secret mission...and found a world that would haunt him forever.
Drifting through the night, whisper-quiet, they were the most sublime manifestations of a desperate enemy: Japanese balloon bombs. Made of rice paper, at once ingenious and deadly, they sailed thousands of miles across the Pacific...and once they started landing, the U.S. scrambled teams to find and defuse them, and then keep them secret from an already anxious public. Eighteen-year-old Louis Belk was one of those men. Dispatched to the Alaskan frontier, young Sergeant Belk was better trained in bomb disposal than in keeping secrets. And the mysteries surrounding his mission only increased when he met his superior officer--a brutal veteran OSS spy hunter who knew all too well what the balloons could do--and Lily, a Yup'ik Eskimo woman who claimed she could see the future.
Louis's superior ushers him into a world of dark secrets; Lily introduces Louis to an equally disorienting world of spirits--and desire. But the world that finally tests them all is Alaska, whose vastness cloaks mysteries that only become more frightening as they unravel. Chasing after the ghostly floating weapons, Louis embarks upon an adventure that will lead him deep into the tundra. There, on the edge of the endless wilderness, he will make a discovery and a choice that will change the course of his life.
At once a heart-quickening mystery and a unique love story, "The Cloud Atlas is also a haunting, lyricalrendering of a little-known chapter in history. Brilliantly imagined, beautifully told, this is storytelling at its very best.

"From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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David Mitchell – Cloud Atlas

Reading this novel a second time after almost 10 years, and the sense of awe it evoked then has not dimmed for me. The first time I read it, it was through a haze brought on by a bout of chicken pox. Drifting in and out of consciousness caused by medication, the surreal feel of the book practically unveiled a kaleidoscope of colours in my fevered mind and also made me especially empathetic to the illness of Adam Ewing, the protagonist of the “outermost” story – in the matryoskha doll narrative structure that critics have fallen over themselves identifying and ascribing all kinds of significance to.

Ostensibly 6 separate stories nested one within the other, the links that bind the stories are tenuous and the stories are so different in tone, setting, and place, that their dissonance seems especially jarring for their sharing space within the same book. The surreal feel of the two innermost stories, “An Orison of Sonmi~451” (set in a near-dystopian future Korea), and “Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After” (set in a post-apocalyptic yet primal society in Hawaii), feels strangely disjointed from the other 4 stories, which are more ‘realist’ in feel. Even these latter 4 stories are starkly different in genre.
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The author presents us with a series of interconnected vignettes, which all sort of tie in loosely, though perhaps not positively enough to give a sense of satisfaction, and readers are left to draw their own conclusions about the meaning behind the birthmark. Breaking up the stories into interwoven episodes does result in a certain amount of scrabbling back to earlier chapters to remind oneself of how the story was left.
That said, it is a beautifully and sensitively written book, even if the author's prognostications about the future and human nature are somewhat cynical and gloomy. I like how the writing style changes from 19th century floral to present day functionalism, which not only allows the author to more fully exploit the joys of the English language, but gives a chronological identity to each of the stories.
The book came as a surprise to me, as I was expecting something quite different; it was quite hard to get into, but well worth the effort.
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The fact that I began recommending this book to people before I had even gotten halfway through testifies as to just how enraptured I was by it.

In my list of all time favourite books (and this list is not intellectually high brow, I warn you, but personally significant to me -to my mind that's the best basis for book ratings - importance to me on a personal level) I can place Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, the Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling, the A Song of Ice and Fire series of G.R.R Martin, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien and, now, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. As you can see I rarely become truly invested in single novels. In fact, as of Hilary Mantel writing a sequel to her Cromwell vehicle, Cloud Atlas is the only one on that list to stand alone. So the question I asked myself was this; why did Cloud Atlas leave me feeling so profoundly connected by its final page, in one five hundred page offering, whilst others take entire series of thousands of pages and millions of words, to achieve the same thing?

I think there are many answers to that. Cloud Atlas is vast; spreading across five different time lines, arching from the eighteen hundreds to a far flung, dystopian future, featuring a breadth of characters connected in infinitesimal ways, telling stories which are in turn banal and fascinating, complex and the essence of simplicity, harrowing and heart-warming. The depiction of humanity, of human thought as a whole, is there in all its glory and misery but accompanied by, at its root, good fiction and well told stories. I think that to call Cloud Atlas profound is only to take my own view and give it to you, the reader.
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The idea behind this story is excellent, and I really enjoyed three of the six "parts" (don't want to give away too much information in case of spoilers) but I really did feel that it was about 150 pages too long. The first half, in particular, was very slow going. However, I did enjoy the way everything tied up and it was a good ending as well - I'm always disappointed by cliff hangers, and I wouldn't say this book had any.
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One of my favourite books from one of my favourite authors.

This book is like 4 books of different genres in one. It's fantastic! I wripped through it because it was so great, but I could see it being tough to link the bits together if you read it over a longer span of time.
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