by David Mitchell
Cloud Atlas is a dazzling novel, accomplished as it is ambitious and engaging as it is thought-provoking.
As in his first novel, Ghostwritten, David Mitchell has meshed seemingly disparate narratives that gradually reveal the threads that hold them together. And, despite being told in at least five different voices over various continents and centuries, in the form of letters, a journal, a novel, a film script and audiovisual records, the stories are totally gripping.
It is a brilliant mixture of science fiction, comedy, high-octane adventure and thriller all used to the same purpose - to demonstrate the destructive potential of the human lust for power. The language changes in sync with the epoch, gradually developing to meet the needs of technology, until, in a post-apocalyptic future, it has corrupted, like that of Riddley Walker, to a primitive patter. Mitchell creates a Russian doll where past and future contain and impact on each other, constantly expanding the context by reference to the past and to other writers (without a hint of pretension).
If this all sounds a bit heavy-going, don't be put off - Mitchell is a great story teller and Cloud Atlas is a very entertaining and enjoyable read.