Thursday, November 15, 2012

Book review: Cloud Atlas

Karen Tay is a confirmed book junkie and armchair critic. She’ll read anything, from literary classics to popular fiction, short stories, poetry - even the safety instructions in the back pocket of aeroplane seats. She dreams of one day owning the world’s most amazing library.

Stuff.Co.Nz 15 Nov 2012

I've been holding out for a David Mitchell interview for a while, but sadly, as I somehow don't think it's going to happen, I'm doing the next best thing. In honour of the Cloud Atlas film coming out everywhere but New Zealand and Australia (at least until January 2013) - I'm going to review the book. Perhaps Mitchell will read this and pity me, and grant me an audience.
I will have to be honest from the start and tell you that Cloud Atlas is my all-time favourite novel. For a long time, that spot was a toss-up between East of Eden by John Steinbeck, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
But Cloud Atlas surpassed them all and shot to the top of the list - and I only read this book last year. So this will probably be not so much a review as a rave, an ode, a sonnet to the greatness that is the "untellable tale".
Cloud Atlas was described as "unfilmable" until the Wachowski Brothers (or Wachowski brother and sister, as one of them got a sex change) - the same ones who wrote and directed The Matrix - took on the challenge.
The best way to describe the novel is as speculative fiction, consisting of six interlocking stories that nest into each other like Russian dolls. The stories range from the historical journal of a man called Adam Ewing, to the manuscript of a thriller novel, a comedy of errors about an old man stuck in a kooky retirement home, a vain, penniless young English musician who takes on a job as an older composer's amanuensis, an old man telling the story of his youth in post-apocalyptic Hawaii and, my favourite, the tale of a clone called Sonmi-451, bred to work in a futuristic subterranean McDonald's called Papa Song's.

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