What to write about Cloud Atlas? I almost put it down, to begin with. Mitchell jumps from one story to the next, not ending any of them, and the further we spiralled from past to future the more annoyed I became. I began to enjoy the novel in the section entitled ‘An Orison of Somni-451’, a story of the near future (though this section terrified me too, because I can almost see we are heading in this direction, and I desperately don’t want Mitchell’s future to be the one I live through in my old age), and I fell in love with it during ‘Sloosh’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After’. I love Mitchell’s language in this section, his imaginings of how English might evolve after civilisation as we know it has fallen:
“Valleysmen only had one god an’ her name it was Sonmi… She lived ‘mongst us, minderin’ the Nine Folded Valleys. Most times we cudn’t see her, times she was seen, an old crone with a stick, tho’ I sumtimes seen her as a shimm’rin’ girl. Sonmi helped sick’uns, fixed busted luck, an’ when a truesome’n’civ’lized Valleysman died she’d take his soul an’ lead it back into a womb somewhere in the Valleys. Time was we mem’ried our gone lifes, times was we cudn’t, times was Sonmi telled Abbess who was who in a dreamin’, times she din’t… but we knew we’d always be reborned as Valleysmen, an’ so death weren’t so scarysome for us, nay.”
David Mitchell takes us on a journey through the past, to a future that seems scarily inevitable. Each story is linked, through lives that intertwine from the past to the future, and when Mitchell returns to finish each of the stories the result is absolutely brilliant.