Cloud Atlas: same title yet different

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

Writing challenge October

Do you know the book Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot? One poem was the inspiration behind the song Memory in the musical Cats. Andrew Lloyd Webber composed the music and Trevor Nunn wrote the lyrics. And I’ve always loved this song. To be honest, I’m not completely unbiased (we did the musical with my dance school and I’ve seen the real musical in NL).

Midnight not a sound from the pavement
Has the moon lost her memory?
She is smiling alone
In the lamplight, the withered leaves collect at my feet
And the wind begins to moan

Just beau-ti-ful!

Anyway,  this gave me inspiration for another writing challenge.

Are you ready? Grab your pen and… go!

Use your favorite song as a setting for your next (short) story. Build a world around it, create (more) characters, and think of a new life to give to your song.

Last bit! The epilogue of Year 3019


We can send men to other planets. We can pay with just the chip in our arm. We even have flying cars. We can do so much. Why is it that we can’t cure diseases, can’t find a solution for poverty or even saving our planet? It’s complicated, that’s what they say. We don’t have the money, the resources, the what-have-I-not-heard in this endless fight. However, there was no way of knowing that our planet would be hit by this asteroid… read more


“I’ve found something here!” Jamie holds a perfectly white envelope in her hand while she stands on pieces of the collapsed building. Together with her friends, she admires she whiteness and perfection of the envelope. It must come from somewhere special that it lasted this clean considering everything.

“Can you believe we were still able to find something here? They told us that everything was burned down because of the disease.” Jamie wants to continue her story but Mike tells her to finally start reading the letter.

“It might be from someone who was sick and wrote about her of his last days on earth,” Lola says.

Jamie drops the envelope on the ground. “I touched it with my bare hands!”

Lola now smiles at her. “Don’t worry. You’re immune to it, remember?” She picks up the envelope. “Besides, it looks too clean. It must be a love letter.”

Everyone holds their breath. Lola then takes a perfectly white paper with silver corners out of the envelope. Her eyes grow bigger and she whispers. “It’s Tess.”

Jamie grabs the paper out of her hands and reads, with a trembling voice out loud:

My dearest friends,

I know I’m the last person you would like to see but since it’s the end of our planet, I thought I might have a small chance. If you’re reading this, it means my plan of talking to you didn’t go as I intended but I am happy that you’re reading my letter. 

It’s time that I tell you my side of the story. Perhaps it’s something I should have done sooner but I was afraid. Fear of judgement, fear of misunderstanding, fear of hatred. How could it be worse than it already was? I don’t know but I also didn’t want to find out. 

I’ve been trying to live a better life and I think I’ve done well. The moment I left our beautiful city, I moved to the capital. Jamie, you would have loved the fashion here! Lola, I think I saw your future husband. And Mike, I didn’t find anything for you there. It’s just that every city needs a Mike, even when it’s the capital.

Although it’s not about how I’m doing, I just wanted to let you know I made it alright. You don’t have to feel bad for sending me away. I’ve forgiven you a long time ago. 

My parents never taught me to forgive. They never even taught me how to love. You were my family and I broke your heart. I was never able to say how sorry I was. And I still am. That’s why I hope you will forgive me as well.

Planet 16 wasn’t what I intended. Josh tried to warn me about our parents. He said that they have never visited the Planet. Then why did I see the video full of flora, fauna, and just plain happiness? Josh explained that it was made in our basement. Again, I didn’t believe him. We didn’t have a basement and my own mother wouldn’t lie to me. I looked up at her. I wish I hadn’t. 

Josh went to the authorities and when my dad found out, he wanted to hurt Josh. I was in the car with dad when it all happened. He saw Josh, right in front of us, walking toward that big white building. Do you remember that building from the photos? As white as this paper, like the snow, we’ve never seen before. Dad saw him and accelerated the car. I didn’t want him to hurt Josh. He was my brother. Even though we didn’t understand each other, he always had my back. I grabbed the steering wheel and tried to move the car to the other side. That’s how we hit your brother, Mike. I am so sorry. I was trying to protect my own brother and took yours away instead. What I didn’t know was that dad had a gun. I cried so much about hurting Phil that I didn’t hear the shots fired on my left. When people started to run like a clueless herd of sheep discovering a wolf, I realized something was wrong. And there he was. My brother on the ground. Dead. 

My dad told me that if I didn’t do as he said, I would suffer the same. Now I know that I should have reached out, but I was too afraid. Planet 16 continued and slowly people started to die. However, the government didn’t do or say anything. There was money again and there was power. Two of the most dangerous things in the world.

When project OGL-VR-78 asked for the help of my parents, I was glad. It was the easiest and most cowardice way to get rid of them. I hoped it would have been the same as Planet 16 but of course, it wasn’t. They would have never gone otherwise. I should have gone to the higher authorities but I was still afraid. Then they were on Planet 78 and I almost forgot about it. I’ve never forgiven myself so I don’t assume you would. I hope it with all of my heart but I know, deep down inside, that I don’t deserve it.

With this letter, I just want to tell you, besides how sorry I am, how lucky I was with you as my friends. You’re always trying to take care of others, you’re kind, you’re intelligent. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. On the next page is a drawing on how to escape from the asteroid. What my parents don’t know is that I found their hidden rocket and relocated it to somewhere only you know. Go now, save yourself, and live the life you deserve. I’m not going with you. I’ve done my part. 

Take care and take care of each other. Know that I have always loved you, no matter how far apart we were. You were my family and you take care of your family. 

With all my love,

Tears roll down on Jamie’s cheek when she reads the last bit of the letter. “She never told us.” Mike shakes his head. “No, she was terrified.”

“Do you…” Lola tries to find the right words, “do you think she would have survived if we were there for her?”

Jamie looks again at the remains of the old white building that used to be part of the government. “We don’t know, but she would have never been part of her parents’ experiments.”

“And that would have changed everything?” Mike asks.

“Well,” Jamie answers, “she wouldn’t have been sick. She wouldn’t have lived in this so-called capital where they only monitored people. By the time the government had their data, they got rid of them like trash.”

“She,” Lola now sobs, “didn’t deserve this. Now it’s too late.”

Mike puts his arm around Lola. “It’s not too late to avenge her. The ones responsible for all of this are still alive.”

Jamie nods at him. “Yes, but not for long.”

Without having to say it out loud, the three friends understood each other perfectly clear.