Cloud Atlas is an “infinite matryoshka doll of painted moments, each ‘shell’ (the present) encased inside a nest of ‘shells’ (previous presents)” or a “sextet for overlapping soloists.” Either way you look at it, it’s a complex novel of tangentially interconnected stories that span roughly 1,000 years.
It is frustrating when you begin reading the novel. Just when you reach the halfway point of a story, it stops—usually at a dramatic moment, sometimes even mid-sentence. Then you begin the next story, learn new characters, new environments, new tone of voice and that story abruptly stops as well. Finally you reach the sixth story, and things begin to come together, themes emerge; and you find yourself barreling through the second half of the book as you return to each story, picking up right where you left off.
Yet you find yourself eagerly gobbling up every page of this book because author David Mitchell is a literary master. Each story is so perfectly crafted and fully-realized that it could work as its own book. It oftentimes feels like you are reading six different books, because he makes each story feel like it was written by a completely different author.
I will refrain from going into detail about the stories, because that would ruin some of the books’ effect; but Cloud Atlas has a little bit of everything, jumping from genre to genre effortlessly. Mitchell’s novel is must-read for any fan of literature.
If you still aren’t sold, watch the titillating trailer for the upcoming adaptation of this book and you’ll be hooked.