Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell
I had this book a year before I started reading it, and once I started, it was not easy going. It took me several weeks growing into a couple of months to finish, and several pages of notes, just to keep characters and plot turns straight.
Not my usual genre, but a very intriguing book; in fact, a sort of collection of six books, about six different sets of characters in six different places and periods of time, loosely connected by a strange comet shaped birthmark and by various references to one another.
Beginning as a 17th century travel journal of trading and missionary endeavors in the south Pacific, then a collection of letters from a British exile in 1931 Belgium, to an account of investigative journalism involving trade secrets and death threats surrounding a nuclear energy plant in California, to the tragi-comic events that befall a London book publisher, to a far-off future interview of a servant class clone in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic Korea, to an even more distant post-apocalyptic future setting in Hawaii, then back down through the other settings in reverse order.
The themes of greed, world domination, slavery, belief in reincarnation, and hope predominate. Speaking of ancient civilizations, Meronym of the Prescients teaches Zachry (in Hawaii), "Old'Uns tripped their own fall." Hae-Joo Im declares, "Neo So Copros (future Korea) is poisoning itself." In Belgium, M. Dhondt philophosizes, "Another war is always coming...What sparks wars? The will to power..the threat of violence, the fear of violence or actual violence is the instrument of this dreadful will...The nation-state is merely human nature inflated to monstrous proportions. QED, nations are entities whose laws are written by violence." Near the end of his Pacific Journal, Adam Ewing writes, "...one fine day, a purely predatory world shall consume itself. Yes, the Devil shall take the hindmost until the foremost is the hindmost. In an individual, selfishness uglifies the soul, for the human species, selfishness is extinction." But hope endures; Adam also writes, "If we believe that humanity may transcend tooth & claw, ...divers races & creeds can share this world..., if we believe leaders must be just, violence muzzled, power accountable & the riches of the Earth & its Oceans shared equitably, such a world will come to pass."