This month, I’ve been reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. It’s really a fantastic book. Mitchell is a master at giving his characters distinct voices. If you don’t know, the book consists of 6 nested stories. Each story ends halfway through, and the next one, set in a later date, starts. Each story revolves around a singular character and is conveyed as a different form of storytelling, by one way or another.
Halfway through the book itself, the sixth story, set in a post-apocalyptic future, is the only story told all the way through. Then each story is finished working backwards.
That might seem like a disjointed way of writing a book, keep this in mind: according to the author, one character in each story is the same person reincarnated. When you think about that and look at the piece as a whole, you realize it becomes about the human condition: our struggles and triumphs and flaws and defining qualities. You’ll find something to connect to in at least one of the characters, if not a few.
Yes, I started reading it because of the much anticipated movie coming out at the end of the month, but I was quickly taken in. When the center story ends, the book’s inertia is at its peak and the whole thing moves like a falling rollercoaster as each story is resolved.
Though it may seem daunting, having it broken up into six stories makes the book easier to read than expected. I highly recommend it and before the movie, if you can.
By the way, the movie does not share the books format. Instead, it’s told by jumping around to and from similar scenes from each story line. Honestly, knowing that kind of turns me off. Though, I know I’ll still go see it.