The story begins in the 19th century, progresses through many decades we have lived, explores a future when the man is very technologically developed and ends in a post-apocalyptic distant future. In its own way, it's like a history of this world that David Mitchell has created. Most of the narrations end in despair, but there are also those who let hope crawl inside. Sonmi-451 is imprisoned and dies, but later in a the post-apocalyptic society she is worshipped like a god.
All the characters of those six stories that consist Cloud Atlas are reincarnations of the same soul through time. The reincarnations are easily recognisable from the comet-shaped mark that they all share. The interesting fact is that the narrator of the sixth story doesn't have the mark and nothing really indicates that he shares anything with the rest of the characters, but his companion most probably is.
It is also really interesting to discover how all those different characters interacted with each other through time and how their actions translated into a common language in order to travel from the one period to the other (in some cases centuries have gone by before the soul was reincarnated). But, no matter what the current character finds the action that reaches him is from his previous reincarnation. For example, Robert Frobisher, the composer from the second story, finds and becomes obsessed with the diary that Adam Ewing wrote on the ship the previous century, or when Luisa Rey, the young reporter from the third story discovers the correspondence between Frobisher and his friend and becomes so enthralled by him that she orders the Cloud Atlas Sextet, the only published work of the composer and so on. Every action each protagonist makes leaves a ripple in time and reaches the next one and in the end we have the echoes of all those ripples combined. I wouldn't be surprised if the author had the chaos theory in mind.
The structure of Cloud Atlas, as I have already said, is unique. It includes six stories and the five of them are divided into two parts. This way a pyramid-shaped structure is formed where each story starts and then it continues in reverse order. For example, the first story continues last and so forth. The only story that ends without an interruption is the sixth one. Furthermore, each story is written in a different genre. This way we have diary entries, correspondence, interview, noir novel style, memoirs and folktale.
To sum things up, Cloud Atlas is a novel considered as a new classic. Personally, it's one of my all-time favourite books and I would reread it any time. I would recommend it to everyone. The stories are all intriguing, the writing is diverse and I believe that it will be very enjoyable and thought-provoking to all of you.
So my advice is...
So my advice is...
A jewel for your bookshelf!