This, by David Mitchell, came across my radar because of the news around the forthcoming movie. In book form it’s called Cloud Atlas: A Novel, but that’s a bit misleading because it’s actually six, wrapped up together. I enjoyed it a lot but can’t give an unmixed recommendation.
Describing the combining structure would be a spoiler, so I’ll limit myself to saying that it’ll be familiar to lovers of the music of Steve Reich (a small group, I bet). Let’s just say it’s clever and well-executed.
In fact, that’s how I’ll badge the whole work: Smart and well-done; perhaps a little too much so for its own good.
Of the six novels, I thought maybe three stood up as fine short works on their own: Letters From Zedelghem, The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish, and the central Sloosha’s Crossin’ An’ Everythin’ After. The connections between the six are deft but inessential, and they don’t cohere particularly well as an alternate history.
On the other hand, the Luisa Rey Mysteries, while fun, devolve into an ending as silly as a Bruce Willis film’s, and I couldn’t bring myself to care very much about Adam Ewing or the people around Sonmi~451.
But there is a whole lot of good storytelling here, some of the people in the stories are compelling, and much of the writing is wonderful. In particular, there are two virtuoso variations on modern English: pure intellectual treats, pulled off with lots of flow and no apparent strain. Finally, if you have a feeling for the geography of Bruges, Korea, or the Big Island of Hawai’i, you’ll enjoy the sense of place.
I will have to read something else by Mitchell, ideally something in which he isn’t trying quite so hard. And I may well go see the film.