Cloud Atlas.pdf

Cloud Atlas.pdf
 

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From Publishers Weekly
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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker
Mitchell's virtuosic novel presents six narratives that evoke an array of genres, from Melvillean high-seas drama to California noir and dystopian fantasy. There is a naïve clerk on a nineteenth-century Polynesian voyage; an aspiring composer who insinuates himself into the home of a syphilitic genius; a journalist investigating a nuclear plant; a publisher with a dangerous best-seller on his hands; and a cloned human being created for slave labor. These five stories are bisected and arranged around a sixth, the oral history of a post-apocalyptic island, which forms the heart of the novel. Only after this do the second halves of the stories fall into place, pulling the novel's themes into focus: the ease with which one group enslaves another, and the constant rewriting of the past by those who control the present. Against such forces, Mitchell's characters reveal a quiet tenacity. When the clerk is told that his life amounts to "no more than one drop in a limitless ocean," he asks, "Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?"
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

From The Washington Post
Marx warned us that history repeats itself: first as tragedy, then as farce. British novelist David Mitchell suggests a few more iterations: grade-B pulp thriller, creepy dystopian scifi, Hobbesian nightmare. Mitchell has already earned high praise for his previous novels, Ghostwritten (1999) and Number9Dream (2001), the latter of which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. His latest effort, Cloud Atlas, revises Marx's quip to meet the demands of contemporary fiction. Hopscotching over centuries, Cloud Atlas likewise jumps in and out of half a dozen different styles, all of which display the author's astonishing talent for ventriloquism, and end up fitting together to make this a highly satisfying, and unusually thoughtful, addition to the expanding "puzzle book" genre.

Novels whose plots hinge on intricate puzzles -- e.g., The Da Vinci Code and The Rule of Four -- are all the rage these days, but the puzzle of Cloud Atlas isn't in the book, it is the book. What appears at first glance to be a novel is in fact six novellas whose interrelatedness is only hinted at during the book's first half, then revealed fully and splendidly after the book's middle, which is really the book's end. Confused? You're supposed to be, at least for a little while: It's from this starting point of dislocation that Mitchell begins a virtuosic round trip through the strata of history and causality, exploring the permanence of man's inhumanity to man and the impermanence of what we have come to call civilization.

Mitchell begins his chronology of our fall from grace with a character named Adam, naturally. "The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing" presents us with the diary of a seafaring 1850s American notary, killing time on the Chatham Islands off New Zealand as he waits for his homeward ship to set sail. Engaging in the amateur anthropology of the visitor, the morally upright Ewing struggles to square his belief in the civilizing, beneficent aspects of colonialism with what he sees before him, "that casual brutality lighter races show the darker." He also befriends an English doctor who diagnoses Ewing with a rare, brain-destroying disease, and who begins treating the American immediately with a cocktail of powerful drugs.

Then, in mid-sentence, Mitchell whisks us away from the scene, and suddenly we are reading the letters of one Robert Frobisher, a charmingly louche, happily bisexual British composer of the 1930s whose tendency to skip out on hotel bills has finally caught up with him. As he recounts his ambitious plan to evade creditors and gain hitherto elusive fame by exploiting an elderly maestro, we merrily follow his rake's progress and almost forget the plight of poor Adam Ewing -- until, that is, Frobisher mentions in passing that he has serendipitously found and read one-half of a bound copy of Ewing's journal. (The second half is damnably missing.) Shortly thereafter, we take our leave of Frobisher just as abruptly as we were introduced to him, and Mitchell drops us down in 1970s California, at the opening chapter of a crime-fiction potboiler whose heroine, a plucky magazine journalist named Luisa Rey, is on the verge of uncovering a nefarious conspiracy.

And so it goes, again and again: a cycle of starts and stops that vectors through past, present and future, linked by buried clues and the twin refrains of deceit and exploitation. What all these stories have in common is that each draws its lifeblood from the same heart of darkness. Cloud Atlas is a work of fiction, ultimately, about the myriad misuses of fiction: the seductive lies told by grifters, CEOs, politicians and others in the service of expanding empires and maintaining power. Soon we meet Timothy Cavendish, the curmudgeonly editor of a London vanity press, who is tricked into incarceration by his vengeful brother. We meet a wise, world-weary clone from 22nd-century Korea, where hypercapitalism and biotechnology have fused into absolute tyranny. And finally, in post-apocalypse Hawaii, we meet a storyteller who enthralls his listeners with the tale of a suspicious visitor from a far-off land, echoing the account of Adam Ewing that opens the book.

At this point the novel's action rapidly reverses course, going back through time and picking up the abandoned narrative threads, weaving them together to craft a fascinating meditation on civilization's insatiable appetites. Even Mitchell's characters seem to voice uncertainty about their creator's grand plan. "Revolutionary or gimmicky? Shan't know until it's finished," admits Frobisher of his own "Cloud Sextet," a musical composition whose ambitious six-part structure mirrors the novel's. And Cavendish, the editor from the old school, has his qualms, too: "I disapprove of flashbacks, foreshadowings, and tricksy devices; they belong in the 1980s with M.A.s in postmodernism and chaos theory," he harrumphs.

But sometimes novels filled with big ideas require equally big mechanisms for relaying them, and it's hard to imagine an idea bigger than the one Mitchell is tackling here: how the will to power that compels the strong to subjugate the weak is replayed perpetually in a cycle of eternal recurrence. Rarely has the all-encompassing prefix of "metafiction" seemed so apposite. Here is not only the academic pessimism of Marx, Hobbes and Nietzsche but also the frightening portents of Aldous Huxley and the linguistic daring of Anthony Burgess. Here, too, are Melville's maritime tableaux, the mordant satire of Kingsley Amis and, in the voice of Robert Frobisher -- Mitchell's most poignant and fully realized character -- the unmistakable ghost of Paul Bowles. Here is a veritable film festival of unembarrassed cinematic references and inspirations, from "Soylent Green" to "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" to "The Graduate" to the postwar comedies of England's Ealing Studios. Here is an obviously sincere affection for the oft-maligned genres of mystery, science fiction and fantasy.

All of these influences, and countless others, gel into a work that nevertheless manages to be completely original. More significantly, the various pieces of David Mitchell's mysterious puzzle combine to form a haunting image that stays with the reader long after the book has been closed. Cloud Atlas ought to make him famous on both sides of the Atlantic as a writer whose fearlessness is matched by his talent.

Reviewed by Jeff Turrentine
Copyright 2004, The Washington Post Co. All Rights Reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine
Critics on both sides of the Atlantic rave over Cloud Atlas, British novelist Mitchell’s third novel. Many of the accolades focus on his flair for setting and character. He seems just as comfortable in far-future Hilo as in contemporary England, and he crafts believable voices for characters as different as the rakish Frobisher and the simple tribesman Zachry. One reviewer found the Luisa Rey storyline less convincing than others, while another got bogged down in Zachry’s tale. Mitchell may jump around in time, but his skill remains consistent.

This skill—the technical expertise that allows Mitchell to adopt a different genre for each of his six storylines—gets him into a little trouble. The New York Times Book Review complains that Mitchell’s writing “too often seems android,” that his chameleon-like shifts render his work coldly impressive rather than “fallibly human.” However, most reviewers found Mitchell’s unorthodox structure captivating. After an initial period of confusion, Cloud Atlas becomes a challenging puzzle most were eager to solve. When the storylines finally coalesce, the result is a novel that stands above its peers in both emotional impact and philosophical import. As the Los Angeles Times notes, “Cloud Atlas offers too many powerful insights to be dismissed as a mere exercise in style.” By all accounts, Mitchell has produced in Cloud Atlas a wholly original work. For most, it is also wholly satisfying.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

Review
'A remarkable book ... there won't be a bigger, bolder novel this year.' -- Guardian 'An impeccable dance of genres ... an elegiac, radiant festival of prescience, meditation and entertainment.' -- The Times 'His wildest ride yet ... a singular achievement, from an author of extraordinary ambition and skill' -- Matt Thorne, Independent on Sunday 'David Mitchell entices his readers onto a rollercoaster, and at first they wonder if they want to get off. Then - at least in my case - they can't bear the journey to end.' -- AS Byatt, Guardian 'Mitchell's storytelling in CLOUD ATLAS is of the best. I was, appropriately, captivated.' -- Lawrence Norfolk, Independent 'The best novel of the year so far ... a thrilling ride of a story' -- Philip Hensher, Summer Reading, Observer 'Impeccably structured novel of ideas in many voices by a talent to watch.' -- Literary Editor's Best Books, Observer

Review
Cloud Atlas is, obviously, a formidable creation. . . . Fellow novelists will find it hard not to heap . . . praise on David Mitchell, whose brilliance takes one’s breath away in a manner not unlike a first experience of Chartres or the Duomo.”
The Globe and Mail

Cloud Atlas is a head rush, both action-packed and chillingly ruminative.”
People

“Mitchell’s range is astonishing, moving effortlessly from elegant genre fiction to satire to high-end literary pyrotechnics….to Mitchell — prodigiously skilled and gloriously ambitious — I can only say, bravo!”
Toronto Star

Cloud Atlas imposes a dizzying series of milieus, characters and conflicts upon us . . . [and] feels like a doggedly expert gloss on various writers and modes.”
The New York Times

“Audacious, dazzling…. Readers who enjoy the 'novel as puzzle' will find much to savor in this original and occasionally very entertaining work.”
Publishers Weekly

“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, which are all one world, which is, in turn, enchanted by Mitchell’s spell-caster prose, our own.”
—Michael Chabon

Advance UK reviews for Cloud Atlas:

"the third novel from the genre-busting David Mitchell, author of Ghostwritten and the Booker-shortlisted Number9Dream is a remarkable book, made up of six resonating strands; the narrative reaches back into the 19th century, to colonialism and savagery in the Pacific islands, and forwards into a dark future, beyond the collapse of civilisation. It knits together science fiction, political thriller and historical pastiche with musical virtuosity and linguistic exuberance: there won't be a bigger, bolder novel next year."
—Justine Jordan, Guardian, Preview of 2004

"David Mitchell is by no means a complete unknown, but I shall be very surprised if his next book, the sprawling and ambitious Cloud Atlas doesn't propel him into the front rank of novelists. I only wish it had been there for this year's Man Booker judges to consider."
—D J Taylor, Independent, Preview of 2004

"A daunting talent, adept with the global canvas, and able to move from the technological to the spiritual with supernatural ease."
—Suzi Feay, Independent on Sunday, Preview of 2004

"Watch out for Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, a work of free-wheeling fantasy by a cutting-edge writer."
—David Robson, Sunday Telegraph, Preview of 2004

Praise for David Mitchell:
“Mitchell possesses an amazingly copious and eclectic imagination.”
—William Boyd

“[Ghostwritten is] one of the best first novels I’ve read for a long time. . . . I couldn’t put it down. . . . And it’s even better the second time.”
—A. S. Byatt

“Mitchell has a gift for fiction’s natural pleasures -- intricate surprises, insidiously woven narratives, ingenious voices.”
The New York Times Book Review

媒体推荐
'A remarkable book ... there won't be a bigger, bolder novel this year.' -- Guardian 'An impeccable dance of genres ... an elegiac, radiant festival of prescience, meditation and entertainment.' -- The Times 'His wildest ride yet ... a singular achievement, from an author of extraordinary ambition and skill' -- Matt Thorne, Independent on Sunday 'David Mitchell entices his readers onto a rollercoaster, and at first they wonder if they want to get off. Then - at least in my case - they can't bear the journey to end.' -- AS Byatt, Guardian 'Mitchell's storytelling in CLOUD ATLAS is of the best. I was, appropriately, captivated.' -- Lawrence Norfolk, Independent 'The best novel of the year so far ... a thrilling ride of a story' -- Philip Hensher, Summer Reading, Observer 'Impeccably structured novel of ideas in many voices by a talent to watch.' -- Literary Editor's Best Books, Observer

作者简介
David Mitchells first novel, GHOSTWRITTEN, was published in 1999. It was awarded the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for the best book by a writer under thirty-five, and was also shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. His second novel, NUMBER9DREAM, followed in 2001 and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize as well as the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. In 2003, David Mitchell was selected as one of Grantas Best of Young British Novelists. He also returned to Britain from Japan, where he spent several years, and now lives in Ireland.

内容简介
'Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies ...' A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagans California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified dinery server on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilisation the narrators of CLOUD ATLAS hear each others echoes down the corridor of history, and their destinies are changed in ways great and small. In his extraordinary third novel, David Mitchell erases the boundaries of language, genre and time to offer a meditation on humanitys dangerous will to power, and where it may lead us.

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