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Cloud Atlas

A Novel

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By the New York Times bestselling author of The Bone Clocks | Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize | Includes a new Afterword by David Mitchell

A postmodern visionary and one of the leading voices in twenty-first-century fiction, David Mitchell combines flat-out adventure, a Nabokovian love of puzzles, a keen eye for character, and a taste for mind-bending, philosophical and scientific speculation in the tradition of Umberto Eco, Haruki Murakami, and Philip K. Dick. The result is brilliantly original fiction as profound as it is playful. In this groundbreaking novel, an influential favorite among a new generation of writers, Mitchell explores with daring artistry fundamental questions of reality and identity.

Cloud Atlas begins in 1850 with Adam Ewing, an American notary voyaging from the Chatham Isles to his home in California. Along the way, Ewing is befriended by a physician, Dr. Goose, who begins to treat him for a rare species of brain parasite. . . . Abruptly, the action jumps to Belgium in 1931, where Robert Frobisher, a disinherited bisexual composer, contrives his way into the household of an infirm maestro who has a beguiling wife and a nubile daughter. . . . From there we jump to the West Coast in the 1970s and a troubled reporter named Luisa Rey, who stumbles upon a web of corporate greed and murder that threatens to claim her life. . . . And onward, with dazzling virtuosity, to an inglorious present-day England; to a Korean superstate of the near future where neocapitalism has run amok; and, finally, to a postapocalyptic Iron Age Hawaii in the last days of history.

But the story doesn’t end even there. The narrative then boomerangs back through centuries and space, returning by the same route, in reverse, to its starting point. Along the way, Mitchell reveals how his disparate characters connect, how their fates intertwine, and how their souls drift across time like clouds across the sky.

As wild as a videogame, as mysterious as a Zen koan, Cloud Atlas is an unforgettable tour de force that, like its incomparable author, has transcended its cult classic status to become a worldwide phenomenon.

Praise for Cloud Atlas
“[David] Mitchell is, clearly, a genius. He writes as though at the helm of some perpetual dream machine, can evidently do anything, and his ambition is written in magma across this novel’s every page.”The New York Times Book Review
“One of those how-the-holy-hell-did-he-do-it? modern classics that no doubt is—and should be—read by any student of contemporary literature.”—Dave Eggers
“Wildly entertaining . . . a head rush, both action-packed and chillingly ruminative.”People
“The novel as series of nested dolls or Chinese boxes, a puzzle-book, and yet—not just dazzling, amusing, or clever but heartbreaking and passionate, too. I’ve never read anything quite like it, and I’m grateful to have lived, for a while, in all its many worlds.”—Michael Chabon
Cloud Atlas ought to make [Mitchell] famous on both sides of the Atlantic as a writer whose fearlessness is matched by his talent.”The Washington Post Book World
“Thrilling . . . One of the biggest joys in Cloud Atlas is watching Mitchell sashay from genre to genre without a hitch in his dance step.”Boston Sunday Globe
“Grand and elaborate . . . [Mitchell] creates a world and language at once foreign and strange, yet strikingly familiar and intimate.”Los Angeles Times

From the Trade Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Jun 28, 2004 – At once audacious, dazzling, pretentious and infuriating, Mitchell's third novel weaves history, science, suspense, humor and pathos through six separate but loosely related narratives. Like Mitchell's previous works, Ghostwritten and number9dream (which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize), this latest foray relies on a kaleidoscopic plot structure that showcases the author's stylistic virtuosity. Each of the narratives is set in a different time and place, each is written in a different prose style, each is broken off mid-action and brought to conclusion in the second half of the book. Among the volume's most engaging story lines is a witty 1930s-era chronicle, via letters, of a young musician's effort to become an amanuensis for a renowned, blind composer and a hilarious account of a modern-day vanity publisher who is institutionalized by a stroke and plans a madcap escape in order to return to his literary empire (such as it is). Mitchell's ability to throw his voice may remind some readers of David Foster Wallace, though the intermittent hollowness of his ventriloquism frustrates. Still, readers who enjoy the "novel as puzzle" will find much to savor in this original and occasionally very entertaining work. Mitchell's novel may be more admired than read.

Customer Reviews

Trusting the Author

I came to this book without knowing anything about it. It's quite an unusual book, or rather five or so books, interrelated. One of the "books" is science fiction and future dystopia - something I would never willingly subject myself to. The other parts of the book were so captivating that I consciously decided to trust this writer (he'd gotten me this far, hadn't he?) and I took the sci-fi plunge. Brilliant, exciting captivating! And then back to my other favorite characters.

Very fortunate to have found this book and this author.

Hard read.

I was very excited Bout this book and then very disappointed. I read all the great reviews and could wait to crack it open! I found myself very confused. You jump into someones journal writings with no preface or dates on the entires I had to go back and reread them after I had gotten further along in the book. The second chapter is the same but at least there were dates on the letters. The writing concept is great but confusing! Unfortunately I had to put the book down, I never put a book down! A book this size would normally take me two days to read and after two weeks and still being confused and tired or rereading the chapters I decided no ending would be worth the effort.


This is a novel that people talk and write about with great affection and even when I bought it I was expecting an engaging, well-writen story that I wouldn't be able to put down. Turns out putting it down wasn't the problem, it was picking it back up. None of the stories are particularly interesting, and the writing is not engaging at all. It is often disjointed as well, with little other than a weak "we are all connected" plot device to link everything together. Much of the dialogue for the story that centers around journalist Louisa Rey seems to have pulled from a random science fiction novel or B-movie. The post-apocalyptic story of Zachary and Meronym is downright unreadable and impossible to follow. The story centered around the replicant Sonmi~451 goes from being a half-hearted Brave New World wannabe to resembling a bizarre viva la revolution mess that could only be improved if it resembled Woody Allen's "Bananas!" more. The first two stories set in the Pacific and in Belgium respectively, are just uninteresting. The entire book in fact is just boring. I hope the movie is an improvement. Although The Guardian did review it, and my favorite line from their review was "I spent the whole time wondering why there was a Post mint stuck to Halle Berry's forehead." Makes me wonder if the filmmakers have indeed captured the failings of the book and stuffed it inside a $100 million dollar turkey.

Cloud Atlas
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary
  • Published: Aug 17, 2004
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 528 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings