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Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Cloud Atlas (2004) by David Mitchell

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Tom Hanks and Halle Berry bombed their way through the movie version of Cloud Atlas (2004) by David Mitchell.

Book Review
Cloud Atlas (2004)
by David Mitchell

  Cloud Atlas is the perfect candidate for an audio book library check out: 544 pages long (audio book was 20 hours!), recently published, big international best seller.   When it comes to checking out free audio books, you are talking blockbuster/best seller types and public domain classics.  The Overdrive app used by the Los Angeles Public Library for Audio book checkouts allows you to speed up the playback up to 2x the original speed, a useful feature for all but the most obtuse books.  I find myself speed up and slowing down the narrative as accent and density requires.

  Cloud Atlas was a rare genre/popular/critical cross-over.  The blend of historical and science fiction is novel, and it is the boldness of the concept, rather than the details of the execution of the prose, that draws the reader along over 500 pages and five different story lines over thousands of years on different continents.  The philosophy underlying Cloud Atlas is sprawling, reincarnation is a prominent part of the theme of Cloud Atlas, though not the idea that the goal is release from the cycle of birth and death.  Only in the last hour or so of the 20 do any of the major characters start making grand philosophical statements about "what it all means" and when they do they all sound like Herman Hesse.

  The movie version, released in 2012, boasted an alleged budget of over 100 million dollars, and famously flopped to a 9 million dollar opening weekend.  You can tell, these days, that a theatrical film has well and truly flopped when it comes to Netflix, as is the case for Cloud Atlas.  I'd have to say that the movie flop didn't hurt the book, since the mere investment of 100 million dollars in the movie version raised the level of exposure such that Cloud Atlas is still in print, whereas it might not be were it not for the film.   Going from Booker Short list to 100 million dollar budget is an achievement worth writing about, even if the movie flopped.

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