Friday, August 2, 2013

Review Me Thrice - Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Welcome to a special edition of Review Me Twice review day.  Review me THRICE!  What is that, you may ask.  Well, since Anna picked our book this week, we invited her to review the book with us.  (I bet you're REALLY wishing you had commented more right about now.)  Anna, like all of our third parties, will be in GREEN.

Mitchell is not a bad writer.  He really isn't, but I just could not get into this book.  I don't know if it's just because I haven't been forced to read a book this past month (we did our books three weeks in advance in light of Alex's trip so we had some downtime), or if he just genuinely couldn't get the ball rolling.

Alex talked yesterday about multi-perspective books and they can be really interesting.  And, Mitchell's was because it moved forward in time and reincarnation was a big thing and each story somehow connected with the story before and after it.  But the problem was... I didn't really CARE about most of the characters.  I liked Louisa Rey's story and I liked Sonmi's story, but the rest of them I didn't really like.

The stories were split in two, except for the last one or the "peak".  (The stories went forward in time, had this one post-apocolyptic story and then started to go backwards in time.)  I liked that some of the stories were held in suspense (except for the one that broke off mid-sentence.  That was just dumb.  ESPECIALLY because it was the first story and I was on a kindle, so I couldn't exactly flip back.)  I think part of the reason I didn't like the "peak" story was because it was just so long.  I wasn't that interested in the story and it took forever compared to the other stories.

Basically, I think that Mitchell needs to learn to engage me faster.  I never felt like I really got into this story, so it just really dragged along.

Hello everyone, I’m Anna. I won the contest for getting a book of my choice to be reviewed on this site, and I get to be a guest reviewer. So here we go, Cloud Atlas

The author clearly knows how to write. He created captivating characters that each had their own distinct voice and personality. Every action they took was completely believable. It was impressive to me that he was able to take six separate stories and make each individual, with distinct settings and times, and even distinct language. I felt he also did a good job with world building. The stories of Sonmi 451 and Sloosha’s Crossing were set in a world like ours, but not quite ours, and he did a great job setting up the societies in which they took place, without spending a great deal of time on it.

My biggest issue with the book is the format. I don’t’ know the literary term for it, but the internet says  the book is presented in 12345654321 format. This means that each story is stopped halfway through and then continued later. Sloosha’s Crossing is story 6, and therefore the only one we get to read in its entirety at once. I’m not sure why the author chose to do it this way. Perhaps it was to reinforce the theme of connections and togetherness, which I felt were shoved down our throats a little bit at the end. Breaking up the stories, in my opinion really distracted from each story and made the book more difficult to read. In the first story of Adam Ewing, he stops mid-sentence, and then you begin the next story.  Because he had done such a good job establishing characters and settings, I found it really difficult to shift my focus to a completely new set of characters and a new setting, without receiving closure on the previous ones. Now, I also found the first two stories, The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing and  Letters from Zeidelhem, to be the most difficult to get through, partially because of his writing style in those sections, and partially because of the plots. However, the second halves of these stories were much more interesting. My favorite story was The Orison of Sonmi 451, because it contained a little of everything: A dystopia futuristic society, action, deceit, love, and room for interpretation. My second favorite was Sloosha’s Crossing. The language was a little tough to figure out at first, but once I got it, the story flowed well. After reading the whole thing, it makes total sense why he chose that story to be the middle.

Overall I think I would have preferred if he had compiled the book as a collection of six short stories, each told in its entirety at all once. It would have been easier to transition from each section, and I think I would have enjoyed the first two stories more. I don’t think it would have detracted from his themes to keep each story separate. I think he was going for something creative with his format, but it seemed a little gimmicky to me. 

I'm really disappointed that I have to report that I couldn't finish the book. I knew it was long, and I knew it was going to take longer than the average book to finish, and I had 20 hours of plane rides and 10 hours of car rides after I bought the book, but I still couldn't do it. (To be fair, Iceland Air has free, individual-screen movies. They had The Hobbit. So, you know... not a lot of reading got done.)

I will eventually finish the book, though, because I like it. At least, I like what I've seen of it so far. Unlike Cassy, I loved that the first part ended mid-sentence. It completely threw me off and I wondered if I was missing something. Then I imagined David Mitchell sitting at his desk, giggling to himself as he thought about all his readers doing that exact thing. I would have done that, anyway.

I love the writing styles, and how different they are between the different stories. It takes a talented writer to do that effectively, and I think Mitchell accomplished that.

I agree with what Anna said about the structure feeling kind of gimmicky. But I love a good gimmick, so I don't mind too terribly much.

Unfortunately, Cloud Atlas just isn't a book I can push through. It's a long, leisurely read that I would probably have to spend the summer getting through. (It would be helpful to be able to put the book down for a few days between parts to absorb everything, I think.)

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