I’m still reading David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. It’s a long book and I’m savoring it rather than gobbling. You don’t gobble Almond Roca.
I just finished the story of “Sloosh’s Crossin’ An’ Ev’rythin’ After,” which is set in the very distant future after the Fall of what we refer to as civilization. The time and effort that must have gone into writing that story is mind boggling. Being mindful of all the style changes, how he uniformly misspells everything and uses apostrophes like Van Gogh used brush strokes, makes me wonder how long it took Mitchell to write this story.
One thing that has surprised me is that the movie and the book are very different. The age of Zachry, his destination at the end of the story, the fate of his family, even his relationships are very different from the book to the movie. The way that Sonmi-451 exits the restaurant, and the reason for Yoona-939’s death are also different from book to movie.
As I read this book, I can’t help but wonder if Mitchell wrote six great stories, realized none of them was long enough to make into a novel, and so he linked them with a comet-shaped birthmark and connected each story’s documentation as historical of the others. For example, the first story is told as “The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing,” which is read by composer Robert Frobisher in the second story. Frobisher’s letters to scientist Rufus Sixsmith are read by journalist Luisa Rey in the third story, who befriends Sixsmith late in his life. Rey writes a memoir that is read by publisher Timothy Cavendish in the fourth story. Cavendish writes the story of his adventures, and the film of that story is watched by server-turned-prophet Sonmi-451 in the fifth story. Sonmi-451’s final testimony (her orison) is viewed by Prescient Meronym and Valleysman Zachry in the six story, where the Valleys People believe in re-incarnation.
Or did Mitchell intend to write the book this way?
Maybe one day I’ll get to ask him.