An Exquisite Take on Connectivity: Review: "Cloud Atlas"

Cynthia Ayala ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer


Cloud Atlas is a collection of six stories that move through time from a remote South Pacific in the nineteenth century to a distant, post-apocalyptic future. This novel joins all six timelines, showing the connectivity between stories. David Mitchell’s novel highlights the convergence of past and future in one beautiful message of hope, love and freedom.

Cloud Atlas is a stand-alone novel written by David Mitchell.  Published on August 17th in 2004 by Random House, the novel shifts between timelines to bring together multiple genres (Science Fiction, Drama, and Fantasy) as it goes from the past to the future and back.

First and foremost: this not an easy novel to read.  Each section does not conclude a story as it wraps itself like an onion, ending where it began, in the past.  Keeping that in mind, as the reader progresses, they will find themselves captivated by each section in the novel.  This both brings attention to the past and also highlights elements in the previous section that otherwise may have gone unnoticed.  The time travel will take readers back and forth between sections, but rather than it being tedious, it’s jaw dropping.  Once again, the readers will find themselves seeing something new, like a missed detail here, that makes the foundation of that story more sound.

Of course, it helps that Mitchell is a master at the visionary details of his novel, bringing to life the settings, each one vastly more different from the one before.  Shifting from time to time, the format also changes, ranging from a novel, to letters, interviews, and narrative.  Readers will literally be seeing through the eyes of the characters while simultaneously getting to know them.  These characters do not repeat and are each unique in their own right.  The narratives and style are so unique from one to the other.  However, some of that makes this novel difficult to read at times.

The linguistics within the novel change per period and highlights David Mitcell’s ingenuity and intellect as he studies the natural progression of syntax, dialect, and structural order of words.  The linguistics differ and evolve through time, remaining complex and easy to understand at the same time as the reader slowly adapts to Mitchell’s way of evolving the English language. The evolution requires the reader to pay special attention to context and the detail in the novel.

Despite all that, it’s still a very resounding novel as it focuses on the connectivity between the timelines.  Each section is beautiful, as is the way Mitchell shows how each character is going to be viewing the differences within the novel.

Cloud Atlas is a masterpiece as it trails the foundations of connectivity, to show just how deeply the past affects the present from emotions to actions. Weaving together six beautiful stories with intricate detail, this is the perfect novel to dwell on over a summer vacation as it deals with deep philosophical nature on the human condition and the beauty of our souls evaluation just how they work and how each one touches another.

Overall Grade: A+


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