Friday, December 12, 2014

Review of Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell

I can see why Cloud Atlas doesn't appeal to everyone. The language is rich to the point of intoxication; the characters are as stingy about self-revelation as ordinary humans; the structure is at once simple and arcane, like a crab canon penned by Bach or Buxtehude; and above all, Mitchell commits the cardinal sin of expecting a good deal of his readers. If you are looking for a novel that explains and hands plot points to you on a silver platter, apply elsewhere.

But as a reader and perhaps especially as a writer, I was richly rewarded by the time spent in Mitchell's hall of mirrors. I found his serial storytelling intriguing, completely suitable for this ambitious peregrination of a story that loops back and forth through time, life, and death. I found myself admiring his pacing, his refusal to tell too much too soon. I marveled at the skill with which he differentiated the voices and diction of his characters--the sheer tonal range he was able to encompass.

This is, quite simply, a gorgeous book on every level. It is not for the easily distracted nor those who expect from their fiction a quick and easy liftoff. Those who are willing to commit to the journey, however, will experience that elevation characteristic of all fine  literature. Cloud Atlas is a beautiful and supremely well crafted piece of storytelling.

1 comment:

Steve Allison said...

Wow! I saw part of the movie about this time last year. With a review like this, am now wanting to read the book. In the movie I was particularly impressed with a future vignette where the language had changed quite a bit but could still be comprehended.