Thursday, January 9, 2014

Cloud Atlas | by: David Mitchell

David Mitchell's ever-famous Cloud Atlas managed to never cross paths with me for the majority of its existence, for I was way too young to grasp the themes presented in this complex novel when it first came out. But since its cool-looking film adaptation was released a little over a year ago with celebrities such as Tom Hanks and Halle Berry playing lead roles, I inevitably heard about it, read the story's summary, and thought it sounded wonderful. Still, I loved it way more than I anticipated.
When one hears that Cloud Atlas is complex, it is because it includes six different stories occurring in different time periods. Reincarnation ties it all together, you just have to pick up the signs. We start in the past and head toward the future, but then we begin to descend into the past. From a man at sea in 1800s to a horrific dystopian future and everything in between, Cloud Atlas' stories are all extremely different. A new time period, a new set of characters, a new writing style, and a new genre comes with each section - but they're tied together somehow.
I'll be honest, at first I wasn't the craziest about this book. The first section about Adam Ewing in the 1800s didn't really click with me, personally. But, I had a feeling that this book may require patience, which I had. The second section began to pick up a bit, even though I wasn't exactly Robert's number one fan, but stuff started getting intense with Luisa's story. That's when the action started and when the common theme really took precedence.

Then, we get to step into the present in the life of Timothy, who runs a publishing company gaining success, but Timothy ends up on the run. His story is probably my least-favorite of them overall. It just felt... Morbid.

But finally, we're transported into the future to meet Sonmi-451. Her story is my favorite of them all; this is when I really began to love this book - and not just for this story, but for the common themes throughout the novel. Unlike the previous stories, this one is dystopian, and I tend to be a sucker for dystopian stories. But part of what's special about Sonmi's story is how innocent she was when she began, before her friend lost her mind for a way out of the restaurant they were basically slaves to, even just after she left to see the unknown outside world. There's a part in which she travels from one part of Korea to another, and she said she thought she'd seen most of the world. That killed me.

Sonmi didn't go off to fight in any epic battles or win any Hunger Games, but she wrote something that would make her one of the most important historical figures later on. She started out not knowing much of anything about the world she lived in, but she knew what she was getting into. The dystopian scenario she lived in was horrific. She knew what would happen, but after seeing so many horrible things in this futuristic hell, she knew what was important was so much bigger.

So much bigger, in fact, that her memory would remain for such a long time. In post-apocalyptic Hawii, civilization has taken a huge downfall. Technology is gone. There is no security. But Sonmi-451 is so important to Zachry, who has not had an ideal life in any sense. Tragedy is everywhere on Big I, so I found this story very depressing - even disturbing at some parts. However, it's very meaningful, and I think it's my second-favorite tale. But when Meronym comes from afar, Zachry learns about some of the history and present conditions of civilization outside of their little island. He also makes some of his own discoveries about reincarnation.

But what ties all of these stories together? Well, for one thing, people. Like I said, reincarnation is prominent in this book. However, in each of these stories, the characters have similar problems with suppression, being confined to one place, not knowing the whole truth, questions of what is moral. But they all also find that there are some people in the world that will try to help. It's like Meronym tells Zachry, the whole world isn't all bad; the villains and tyrants of the world just have the ability to scream a little louder than everyone else. They somehow end up with obvious power, but our characters are also certainly not powerless. One person can put a decent-sized dent in history that will affect generations to come.

This was a brilliant idea for a novel; it's no wonder it's gotten so much praise. Deep themes, a unique set of characters, and great writing - what more could I ask for? I highly recommend David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas to anyone that hasn't tried it yet. Just be patient in the beginning and pay attention to birthmarks, because this book is definitely worth paying attention to.

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