Recently I read The Paris Review interview with David Mitchell (read an excerpt HERE), found it so intriguing that I decided to track down one of Mitchell’s books. I decided to try Cloud Atlas. Along the way I found there are not 1, not 2, but 3 books called “Cloud Atlas.” The same year that Mitchell’s book came out, Liam Callanan published The Cloud Atlas and two years earlier Donald Platt had published a poetry collection called Cloud Atlas. I found this too intriguing to resist, I knew I had to read all three. So, I decided I should chart the reading of them here.
First up was Liam Callanan’s novel.
This book weaves bizarre World War II history with native Alaskan mysticism. When you buy a book on a whim, especially based on something like the title, it’s hard to sometimes not be disappointed, but I was happy to find that this book was pretty spectacular. The “cloud atlas” in this instance has to do with a Japanese spy’s code book. There were a lot of great surprises in this book, and I was impressed with the weaving of the various timelines that were going on. Though I do think the one weak point of the novel was how these timelines were sometimes incorporated. Each section of the book started with a snippet in italics, the only point of these snippets seemed to be to clue the reader into an event that would happen at the end of the book, and I don’t think it was at all necessary.
Stay tuned for the next book, which will be David Mitchell’s novel. I think it will be interesting to see how, if at all, these three books can work together. In the meantime, I’d highly recommend Callanan’s The Cloud Atlas.