Cloud Atlas : A Novel
1 journaler for this copy...
Started reading it last night, and wound up reading the whole thing through - 'til something like 3 am, I think. Didn't really need to be pulling all-nighters just now, but I wanted to find out what happened next - it's that kind of story!
I've always enjoyed stories that include excerpts from other stories, and/or that involve lost manuscripts re-discovered (lots of M. R. James ghost stories feature that kind of thing). In this case there are six loosely-intertwined stories that take place at very different times and places; the book begins in the middle of one such account and breaks off again without warning, to pick up a century later and on a different continent. When, quite a way into the new story, the new narrator happens to mention the partial manuscript he'd been reading, I realized how the structure worked, and from there it was loads of fun. In addition to seeing how each partial manuscript/film/recording-device is passed along, there are lots of smaller details - I'm sure I missed many, but the ones I spotted made me feel quite pleased with myself. [One character feels a frisson upon walking past a two-hundred-year-old sailing ship - yep, that was the ship that the first story took place on! A garish portrait of the Laughing Cavalier keeps popping up. And the main character of each segment has the same birthmark and - perhaps - the same soul.] One clever bit of typesetting (don't know if it applies to all editions): there's a little cloud-graphic at the top of each page, and as the first half of the book moves towards the future the clouds move to the middle of the page; then, as the stories unravel again, the cloud-graphics move back out to the margins. One can flip the pages and see them drift...
I also loved the fact that each story was so different in style, from the melodrama-on-the-high-seas of the opening tale to the dark humor of "The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish" to the futuristic nightmare of the Sonmi segment - the sense of place in each one was quite strong, and I could easily imagine being there. I think my favorite tales were the outermost ones, Ewing's and Frobisher's, though as each story was echoed or foreseen or remembered in the others it became harder to think of one without the rest... Very nicely done!
[Update, 2012: there's a TV Tropes page for the book that may help explain many of the twists - but it does contain spoilers, not all masked, so read with caution. And there's a film adaptation coming out in October of 2012; I hadn't thought anyone would attempt a film of this one!]
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
I left this book at "BookCrosser's paradise" - the Traveler Restaurant and bookstore in Union, CT. The upstairs is a restaurant with bookshelves full of books on every wall; customers can choose and take home books from among these shelves. Downstairs is a bookstore, with everything from first editions to bundled paperbacks (these are NOT free, but who can resist a bookstore?).
I left Cloud Atlas in one of the free-for-customers bookshelves in the dining area at about 2 pm. Hope the finder enjoys it!