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.
Ryan W. Bradley has pumped gas, changed oil, painted houses, swept the floor of a mechanic's shop, worked on a construction crew in the Arctic Circle, fronted a punk band, and managed an independent children's bookstore. He now works in marketing. His latest book is Nothing but the Dead and Dying, a collection of stories set in Alaska. He lives in southern Oregon with his wife and two sons.