Tuesday, January 2, 2007
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
I went to the library today and saw this book in the science fiction section. That made me laugh a little, because if you really wanted to classify Cloud Atlas, you'd have to rip it up and put one piece in historical fiction, one in mystery, one in fiction, and one in science fiction. Cloud Atlas spans six stories over a few centuries, its structure fashioned after a Russian doll--Each story is interrupted halfway through in the book's first half, and then continued in the book's second half, in reverse order.
What impresses me about this book is the way that Mitchell moves so effortlessly between genres. These stories, which range from the journal of a mid-nineteenth century American in the Pacific Islands to a Orwellian future world ruled by corporate interests, seem almost as if they were written by six completely different people. I would have enjoyed this book a little more if the connections between stories were a little less tendentious--some of the characters overlap, but for reasons more thematic than plot-driven--but it's inventiveness is enough to make it one of my favorite modern novels.