Sunday, July 25, 2004


Every review that I've read of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas seems to focus on the structure of the novel and how well it works. Six distinct characters, each in a different time period (from the distant past to the distant future and back again in reverse chronological order), each connected to the other in a subtle and remarkable way. Granted, it's a clever device that he's successfully implemented, and the individual sections stand on their own but also maintain a cohesiveness when taken all together. In short, Mitchell's got it all happening with both form and function.

Yet it's the content that's left me thinking of little else since putting the book aside a week ago. From the discussion of the brutal slaying of the Moriori tribe in the Adam Ewing journal, to the implication of the danger of faulty nuclear reactors in the Luisa Rey mystery, followed by the disturbing account of the clone or 'fabricant' foodserver Sonmi~451 in the not-too-distant future, and finishing with a post-apocalyptic planet sporadically populated with genetically mutated humans, we are dealing with a lot of heavy topics. To bring up the subject of the format again, the progression through time sort of allows the reader to extrapolate to the situation we find ourselves in today, and to understand how we've arrived here: it all comes down to the need for power. I can think of a very timely non-literary example of a particularly power-hungry entity that renders the book's two futuristic scenarios less science fiction and more projected reality. By reading this book, I've been convinced that we're on the cusp of a vastly different and frightening era: one in which there is a real threat of losing our humanity.

Suddenly, I have a real and pressing need to know what's going on in underground biomolecular labs everywhere.

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