It's funny sometimes how we come to books. For this I was idly watching youTube and the Cloud Atlas movie trailer queued and then played. It blew me away. Not just in how it was themed, or the catchy tune that travels through the ages, the draw of its major stars. Above all it was the beautifully staged concept of souls existing over time and their experiences lived through human lives. The movie wasn't out yet so I bought the book and started reading that night. I'm a slow reader and it's a big book but I finished it in three long nights.
Cloud Atlas at its core is about a soul as it lives through a number of human lives over a period of time covering several hundred years. The soul's journey is told through a pyramid of different stories that cover a time from the middle 1800s through to about 2400 and then back again to the middle 1800s. Often through the stories characters pass on details to another story or a character from one story will interact in a later story. Letters, books, movies and ideologies created in one exist in others.
The themes that carry through the stories focus on the fallibility of human nature and moral. It is about man's persistent plight as it endures the internal human conflict while dealing with victimisation and exploitation. For all our awareness for humanity's darkest deeds over the ages, the guises within which they flourish become increasingly obscured and institutionalised. These themes are not preached but woven cleverly and sometimes obscurely into these captivating stories, so that you feel you discovered them and cherish their impact all the more. The narrative is never less than enthralling as we rise up the pyramid of ages and then back down again. With even the weakest story a compelling read for its clever use of the enforced captivity theme.
In contrast to the movie the book isn't sentimental and goes to some effort to avoid symbology, it's never that obvious. My only complaint is that it narrowly fails to deliver through the second half on the promise of the first. But it is a minor grizzle. Cloud Atlas is one of the greatest original novels I've read, with its only peer in this regard being Neil Gaiman's `American Gods'.
Very highly recommended.
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