Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Book Summary (from Goodreads)

A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagan’s California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified “dinery server” on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilisation—the narrators of Cloud Atlas hear each other’s echoes down the corridor of history, and their destinies are changed in ways great and small.

In his captivating third novel, David Mitchell erases the boundaries of language, genre and time to offer a meditation on humanity’s dangerous will to power, and where it may lead us

My Review

I read this book in part because I recently joined the Sword and Laser "book club" and in part because I knew the movie was coming out, and I was really looking forward watching the new movie from the Wachowski brothers.

I know that everyone has said this, but this book starts really slow. This is not a bad thing, but at first I was having a lot of trouble getting into the book; I would leave it to the side, because the first chapter, about Adam Edwig was so slow paced that I had absolutely no hurry to advance on his story.

Again, you probably already know this, but each chapter presents a fragment in the life of a main character. The characters, although separated in space and time, are somehow connected to one another. There is a hint of reincarnation, but I have to be honest with you, for me it was not so much about a mystical explanation, but mostly about how everything we do in live affects the lives of other, even though we might never meet them in person.

My favorite character was by far Sonmi~451 (An Orison of Sonmi-451). Of all, this is the chapter that finally made it science fiction for me, but also, she is a dream in terms of evolution and science. Within her chapter there are so many questions related to what makes us human? What is intelligence. And the way she talks is so vivid...well, it was for me.

Now that I'm in this subject...I know there is a lot of controversy about who they used Caucasian actors to represetnt Asian characters for this chapter...I believe there was absolutely no need to "re-use" actors, not only for this part of the story but in general. I mentioned the subject of reincarnation, but I think that if they wanted to show that side in the movie, it should've been done with actions, attitudes and subtle physical hints as it is in the book, and I do understand why people feel offended that they didn't use actual Asian actors to portray this part of the story. 

That said, this was also the chapter that got me wanting to quote her (Sonmi) every time, I'm giving you my 2 favorite sentences:

         if losers can xploit what their adversaries teach them, yes, losers can become winners in the long term

         [...] ignorance of the Other engenders fear; fear engenders hatred; hatred engenders violence; violence engenders further violence until the only "rights", the only law, are whatever is willed by the most powerful.

Something I want to mention also, is how impressive I found that the writing style changed from character to character. I almost felt like it was written by more than one author, and I think that is because the author manages to give a deep background and voice to each of the characters, not only main but also secondary.

The middle chapter...that one was a hard read! I really wanted to know what was going to happen next, buy my oh my it was hard to read. Mitchell doesn't only changes the voices through the book, but also changes the vocabulary along time. I'm not sure if it was harder for me since English is not my first language, but sometimes I would have to put the book down, and take a minute to understand the whole sentence.

By now, you have noticed that I liked the book...then why only 4 mushrooms you ask? Well, you see, after I arrived to the middle of the book, I was expecting a big conclusion for each story, some closure in certain cases. I didn't find that. Don't get me wrong, you see a conclusion but there is a lot that is left unanswered. Possibly the intention was to let everyone draw their own conclusions, but at the end of the book I kept having the feeling that there was something missing and that it was something important.

I did suggest this book to some people, including someone that very adamantly told me that there is no way she will read this book. I actually felt sad that someone wouldn't give the book an opportunity, so I know that the book did strike a chord inside of me. However, this was not enough to erase the missing feeling.

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