I finished reading Cloud Atlas last night. Saw the movie a few days ago, and I decided to pick it up. I was curious.
It's more than a little bit self-obsessed. One of the characters writes a "Cloud Atlas sextet" that, well, has six parts, and each subsequent one interrupts the previous, until the sixth plays all the way through, then they resume in decreasing order. It's supposed to be an incredible piece of music. The book follows the same form, with six tales of six people ranging over ~500 years, each interrupted approximately halfway through by the next. I found the first few stories to be... boring.
Conceptually, it's an interesting idea- you have a delayed and delayed and delayed climax, and then the real, the final climax comes in the middle of the book, at the close of the final story (chronologically), and the secondary climax (for me) came at the end of the second to last story, chronologically (i.e. the second story to end). You are then supposed to get to successive climaxes, but I found it tiring. Too much climax, and for decreasing stakes.
However, his depiction of a "corpocracy" as dystopian future was fantastic- if for no other part than this story, and the final story, it's worth reading. It deals with climate change, and evils of a profit-seeking world, but also with definitions of who people are. While the actual book is relatively trite about all the above issues, it inspires some fantastic questions. The final story dealt with an end-of-history, as the final people with the ability to remember the past accurately die off, and humanity returns to a barely iron-age civilization, trapped on Hawaii. It completed the largely heavy handed "selfishness will be the death of the human race" message, which is fine, but it also raised questions about intervention and invasion and civilization. And while it did not have the climactic movie line (that I really enjoyed): Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb we are bound to others. Past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future," this was implicit in the book. And it's a message that really does resonate with me, especially here, on a clothing forum where so much of what people think about is how they present themselves and build their own future. It's true of the CM people, who call each other gentlemen and try to show how erudite (yes I did have to look up the word to make sure I was right about what it meant) to SWD people who try to look mysterious and powerful, or like a dystopian astronaut, or like me trying to show how self-aware I am by inserted the above parenthesy'd phrase. If none of us needs the reminder that by each action we build our self, it was nice for me to be reminded that it was each real action, and not just which ridiculously expensive designer leather or jacket I buy, that builds the world.
Edited by DividedWay - 9/7/14 at 6:17pm