Cloud Atlas Sextet

Can this be possible? Is Jeanine Salla alive and well again, living in the UK, commenting on whether Prince Harry should be protected from the media? (scroll down to the sixth comment).

I’m going through one of my periodic reading blitzes right now, sustained by a comfortable sofa and a constant drip feed of books from Amazon. I finished Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World last week, took a break, and then began on Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I loved reading his previous book, number9dream, but was a little apprehensive over Cloud Atlas given that I’d heard it was rather ambitious, with six intertwining stories stepping forward in time. Anyhow, I read it in about 10 hours over three days, which alone is a strong endorsement.

Cloud Atlas is very different from number9dream, skipping through the past to the future and back again in six wildly contrasting stories, blithely ranging across genre lines as if they weren’t there (not that number9dream wasn’t a bizarre book either). Unsurprisingly, I found the stories set in the future to be the most interesting, although Mitchell’s writing style and humour ensured that the other stories were not merely above average, but sometimes very moving. Naturally, the stories are linked, not just by an examination of the ‘will to power’ (it’s not a spoiler – it’s on the book jacket) but by the deeper themes of control, choice and the potential to change our future, among others, which enrich the whole novel, and I’ll admit that I’m a real sucker for those themes.

A number of people have commented on the sixth’s stories unusual grammar and style, but it looks worse than it actually reads, and after a couple of pages I had no problems striding through it. If I had any complaints, it’d be that the book has a slightly slow start. And while Mitchell does ladle on the morals a fair bit towards the end, he has every right to considering what he’s writing about.

Such was the satisfied glow that I had upon finishing Cloud Atlas that I declared to a friend today that you could take away my music, my internet access and my gadgets, but as long as you left me my books, I’d be happy. Still, I do wonder how long this chain of beautifully written books which are improbably getting better every time can continue. For now, though, I’m reading The Cambridge Illustrated History of China. It’s a rather short book which can’t possibly go into much depth, but should provide me with a good grasp of the general sweep of Chinese history.

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