The Cloud Atlas by Liam Callanan & Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
“There may be no sharper map of grief than this, no more precise way to show a war’s worth, a life’s worth, a love’s worth of ache and loss and absence.” – Louis Belk/The Cloud Atlas
Story versus stories
Callanan’s book is about a priest, Louis Belk, finally opening up (to shaman Ronnie) about what really happened in his past. Belk used to be a sergeant who had to look for Japanese balloons in Alaska. During this time of his life, he met the beautiful and quite magical Lily and his unlikeable boss Gurley. The story is somehow a letter written full of hope, wrapped in love but sealed in war. It’s a love unanswered but still beautiful to read about.
Mitchell’s book, on the other hand, is about six individual stories that somehow fit in one big picture. Every character has his own battle to fight. Ewing fights against a parasite, Rey tries to take down Seaboard Incorporated, and Cavendish started his own revolution in Aurora house. Like Frobisher’s sextet, the stories interrupt each other; it all starts in the past and you read toward the future. When you’re in the future, you jump back to the past.
Callanan or Mitchell?
The setting in The Cloud Atlas is almost unreal yet the Japanese balloons really existed. 9300 balloons were launched from Japan and few did end up in this magical Alaskan landscape. Callanan is able to turn these events into a wonderful story of hope for something better and a quest for love. Callanan has a lyrical way to express Belk’s story and the landscape.
Mitchell has the ability to adapt his writing style with each story in Cloud Atlas. In the beginning, I had trouble getting into the story of Ewing. However, after this one, it was easier: the more stories I read the more I wanted to know what it all meant. I thought the story of Rey was exciting and Cavendish quite funny although not meant to be funny, of course. Then there was the last story about Zachry. I didn’t like the writing style (some letters were missing), it took away the rhythm and that’s a pity because every reader will know the story takes place in the future. There was no need to change it like that.
The Cloud Atlas or Cloud Atlas?
This is a difficult question to answer. Both books have something interesting. The Cloud Atlas has the rather unknown true events and Cloud Atlas has six stories leading to one message. My own favorite is The Cloud Atlas because it was a beautiful story and, sorry Cloud Atlas, it was easier to read.
I recommend The Cloud Atlas to everyone who’s interested in World War II, rather unknown true events, and an easy yet intriguing story. I recommend Cloud Atlas to everyone who’s interested in short stories, different than usual stories, and a bit more complicated reading material.
“Time is what stops history happening at once; time is the speed at which the past disappears.” – in Sonmi-451/Cloud Atlas