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Old 11-21-2012, 05:49 PM   #16
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I was struck by how the book came full circle. It started in the South Pacific dealing with slavery and ended in the South Pacific dealing with slavery.

I think the structure was a little distracting. I spent the whole time looking for connections between the stories, but there really weren't any until it started moving backward in time.

I can't take the reincarnation too seriously since Luisa was a character in a novel. That means she's as related to Frobisher as the book club members are to the Cloud Atlas characters. However, that could very well be a question the author wanted the reader to ask themselves.

It did seem to be a cautionary tale - if corporations continue to get more power we're going to get Somni 451's world.

As to Rafael, I thought he was simply a rape victim, another example of treating people as objects
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Old 11-21-2012, 06:15 PM   #17
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I also saw the child Rafael as a rape victim who saw suicide as his only way out.
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Old 11-23-2012, 12:45 PM   #18
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I'm still mulling over my thoughts on the book, but this did catch my attention:

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Originally Posted by WT Sharpe View Post
Sometimes the allusions hit you over the head. Like the naming of the unfortunate homosexual who hung himself aboard the ship in "The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing" (omitted from the movie version) "Rafael" (Raphael).
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Which brings up a question: might Rafael have been a earlier incarnation of Robert Frobisher?
As I think the posters above are alluding to, I don't think Rafael was homosexual, or at least whatever his sexuality may have been was beside the point. He hanged himself because he was continually brutalised and saw no other way out.

That said, when he hanged himself I did wonder the same thing about Robert Frobisher and his suicide. Who were the reincarnates? The easy guess is the protagonist or hero of each story - Adam Ewing / Robert Frobisher / Luisa Rey / Timothy Cavendish / Sonmi 451 / Meronym. I think all had the birthmark except maybe Adam Ewing? So perhaps it was Rafael and not Ewing that was the reincarnate soul of the first story. And, grotesquely, that leads me to wonder if Mitchell is (shockingly, to me) insinuating that Frobisher may be bisexual because of the sodomy he experienced in his past life.
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Old 11-23-2012, 01:29 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Hamlet53 View Post
...An additional complaint is how hokey and derivative many of the tales were. That tale of Luisa read like a mash up of film scripts from the 1970s for which the central theme was the “system” is controlled by powerful evil men out to do the public harm. In this case it was a blend of Three Days of the Condor and The China Syndrome. That and the typical cliches were all there. Idealistic young reporter is suddenly thrust into the middle of a story fraught with personal danger, and only her bravery and dedication can save the world. Of course there is the burnt out mentor who has lost his moral compass, but in the end will be pricked by his conscience and save the day at the cost of his life. And as far as the Tale of Sonmi 451, someone obviously read A Brave New World and was impressed. Other tales just seemed pointless; e.g. Timothy Cavendish and Robert Frobisher...
I noticed this too and I think that was the point - that the tales were meant to be stylistically and even plot-wise derivative.

I think the first tale is derivative of certain diaries whether real or fictional from the 1700s and 1800s. What came to my mind was Robinson Crusoe, though I'm sure there's others closer.

I think the second tale is derivative of such as Fitzgerald, set in a similar time period and in a similar milieu.

The third reminded me of those 70s film thrillers such as The Medusa Touch. I'm sure there's been better examples such as you mentioned, but I don't know if I've ever read a 70s nuclear/spy/apocalyptic thriller.

The fourth of course reminded me of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest which the book itself even mentioned with the nurse.

The fifth reminded me of Soylent Green though your comparison to Brave New World is good and may be better.

The sixth was the trickiest, but I actually think he went back in time for it and based it on earlier U.S. writings such as Mark Twain.


I know there are others more well read than I who may think of more apt comparisons.

So the question for me is how successful was he with the derivations and how well did he create them in a new way and how well they all fit together.

I think he was ambitious and I like that, and I think he did a great job of changing styles between sections and capturing the styles. I do think though that sometimes he let the story and style get away from himself. When one is, say, purposely trying to copy the style of a 70s pulp thriller yet also imbue it with literary qualities and tie it cohesively and thematically into the ambitious whole, it's a very fine and difficult edge to walk on and I think sometimes he slips onto the side of it just being a silly 70s pulp thriller story at moments. This is true of the different sections in different degrees.

But he never lets it get completely away from himself and always comes back to form, in my opinion. I think he's a talented writer. His ambition may have somewhat exceeded his talent here, but his talent still kept the thing together and it all worked for me in the end.
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Old 11-23-2012, 01:45 PM   #20
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This was the third novel by Mitchell I've read and I greatly enjoyed Thousand Autumns and Black Swan Green, so I was stunned by Cloud Atlas and not in a good way. I'm in the emperor-has-no-clothes camp, as I've expressed in the What are We Reading thread. I found Cloud Atlas to be several derivative stories linked together by a facile notion. The execution of neither the individual stories nor the underlying theme resulted in a payoff.

As has been said upthread, the individual stories were pastiches of well-known works. I assume the point was to show Mitchell's versatility and they did up to a point, except that for me none of the individual stories had sufficient spark or originality; none of them would have succeeded as stand-alone works. So Mitchell has to try to buffalo us with an overriding theme to justify yoking them together, and I assume we're supposed to regard it as deep. A failure.

On the positive side, as a read it wasn't bad, especially the first "half." The stories were interesting enough and competently written, as you'd expect. I found the second half more tedious; it wasn't that interesting to revisit the stories that hadn't been all engaging in the first place, especially as it became increasingly obvious there wasn't going to be a creative and satisfying resolution, some clever twist.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sun surfer View Post
Who were the reincarnates? The easy guess is the protagonist or hero of each story - Adam Ewing / Robert Frobisher / Luisa Rey / Timothy Cavendish / Sonmi 451 / Meronym. I think all had the birthmark except maybe Adam Ewing?
I didn't assume they were all reincarnates, just that they all had some connection. Timothy Cavendish, for example, I think was only connected to Luisa by the book about her story, and to Sonmi because of the film made from his memoir. As with much of the book, I found the reincarnation aspect cheesy (criminy, a birthmark!) and much preferred the happenstance connections. And of course for those of us who also read Black Swan Green there was the happenstance connection of Eva Crommelynck to Jason. Again, there's not enough there to justify Mitchell's going meta on us, and I think it's one more aspect of his trying to dazzle the reader, by giving us the wink that he knows he's playing cheap tricks.
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Old 11-23-2012, 08:52 PM   #21
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Forgive the length of this reply, but I did, at least, wrap all the quoted material in spoilers.

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Originally Posted by sun surfer View Post
...As I think the posters above are alluding to, I don't think Rafael was homosexual, or at least whatever his sexuality may have been was beside the point. He hanged himself because he was continually brutalised and saw no other way out.

That said, when he hanged himself I did wonder the same thing about Robert Frobisher and his suicide. Who were the reincarnates? The easy guess is the protagonist or hero of each story - Adam Ewing / Robert Frobisher / Luisa Rey / Timothy Cavendish / Sonmi 451 / Meronym. I think all had the birthmark except maybe Adam Ewing? So perhaps it was Rafael and not Ewing that was the reincarnate soul of the first story. And, grotesquely, that leads me to wonder if Mitchell is (shockingly, to me) insinuating that Frobisher may be bisexual because of the sodomy he experienced in his past life.
First off, it could hardly be denied that the brutalization, humiliation, and unending harassment was what led to Rafael's decision to end his life. The book makes that clear.

From page 499:
Spoiler:
My mind burns with the question, Why? None will discuss it, but Henry, who is as horrified as myself, told me that, secretly, Bentnail had intimated to him that the unnatural crimes of Sodom were visited upon the boy by Boerhaave & his “garter snakes.” Not just on Christmas night, but every night for many weeks….

…Whilst Henry was called away to attend an injury, I hauled myself to Cpt. Molyneux’s cabin to speak my mind. He was displeazed at being visited, but I would not quit his quarters until my charge was stated, to wit, Boerhaave’s pack had tormented Rafael with nightly bestiality until the boy, seeing no possibility of reprieve or relief, took his life.


Still, while I have to admit that the sexual orientation of Rafael was not made implicit in the story, there were several indicators that led me to the assumption that he was. Admittedly, it's all circumstantial evidence, but taken as a whole, it raised the question in my mind.

One you've already mentioned. Was he a pre-incarnation of the bi-sexual Frobisher, who also committed suicide (part of Nietzsche's doctrine of eternal reoccurrence as interpreted by the book's author)?

Another that I've mentioned was the name: Rafael. The Italian artist Raphael has long been rumored to have been bisexual. One small portion of his fresco, The School of Athens, is said to be a self-portrait of the Renaissance artist with his friend and fellow painter Giovanni Antonio Bazzi. Bazzi is better known as "Il Sodoma", a name given him by the Renaissance biographer, Giorgio Vasari and which is said to mean "The Sodomite". Whether any of that's true or not, it was enough to convince the members of the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Task Force of the American Library Association to include Raphael's image among those in a mural they commissioned depicting historical figures known to have engaged same-sex relationships.

Spoiler:
Detail from The School of Athens containing what is said to be a self-portrait of Raphael with his friend Il Sodoma



Then there were the sailors' hilarity at their description of Rafael as "one of the two 'virgins'" (page 493), and Ewing's description of him as having "smatterings of education & sensibility" (page 40). Then there was this passage from page 7, describing him as one of the few who seemingly had no interest in carousing with prostitutes:

Spoiler:
Sunday, 10th November— Mr. Boerhaave sat amidst his cabal of trusted ruffians like Lord Anaconda & his garter snakes. Their Sabbath “celebrations” downstairs had begun ere I had risen. I went in search of shaving water & found the tavern swilling with Tars awaiting their turn with those poor Indian girls whom Walker has ensnared in an impromptu bordello. (Rafael was not in the debauchers’ number.)


Now, certainly having manners and avoiding bordellos are not sufficient to nail down the case for his desire for men, and the following cryptic remark by Finbar says nothing about the willingness of the boy in the activities he so crudely alludes to:

Page 40:
Spoiler:
I asked Finbar if he thought the boy was “fitting in well.” Finbar’s Delphic reply, “Fitting what in well, Mr. Ewing?” left the galley cackling but myself quite in the dark.


What was the great offense against God Rafael considered himself to be guilty of? (It must be remembered that the San Francisco Gold Rush era was not a very enlightened period in terms of the public attitudes concerning homosexuals.)

Pages 496-497:
Spoiler:
The dinner wrought havoc on my digestion & necessitated frequent visits to the head. On my last visit, Rafael was waiting outside. I apologized for delaying him, but the boy said, no, he had contrived this meeting. He confessed he was troubled & posed me this question: “God lets you in, doesn’t he, if you’re sorry … no matter what you do, he don’t send you to … y’know”— here the ‘prentice mumbled—"hell?”


But probably the biggest thing to influence my thinking concerning Rafael was this comment by Katey Rich, who in the article "The Biggest Differences Between The Cloud Atlas Book And Movie" for the website Cinema Blend, wrote (my emphasis):

Spoiler:
The character of Rafael is cut. We see the toll a long Pacific journey can have through Ewing's observation of a deckhand named Rafael, who starts out bright-eyed and energetic and winds up hanging himself amid rumors of a homosexual affair with a shipmate. His story is another tangent that would be hard to delve into onscreen, but the suicide—and the implication of homosexuality—is an interesting parallel to Frobisher's.


She may have been way off the mark, but as I read the remark before finishing the book, the damage to my impressions of the character was already done.

And, oh yes: the character of Rafael was omitted entirely from the movie version.
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Old 11-24-2012, 04:41 PM   #22
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I enjoyed the humor in this novel.

Quote:
.....“A question, Luisa?”
.....“Yes. Is there a new editorial policy no one’s told me about that excludes articles containing truth?”
.....“Hey, metaphysics seminar is on the roof. Just take the elevator up and keep walking until you hit the sidewalk.”
..........— David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas (p. 99).
Quote:
.....Notice how people insert the ‘Mr.’ before sinking the blade in?
..........— David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas (p. 148).
And this is one fine example of literary humor:

Quote:
.....Despondency makes one hanker after lives one never led. Why have you given your life to books, TC? Dull, dull, dull! The memoirs are bad enough, but all that ruddy fiction! Hero goes on a journey, stranger comes to town, somebody wants something, they get it or they don’t, will is pitted against will. “Admire me, for I am a metaphor.”
..........— David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas (p. 169).
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Old 11-24-2012, 05:30 PM   #23
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My favorite instance of one section referenced by another was this:

Quote:
.....Ayrs went into laughter spasms at this! “I always say, Ted, to get the crowd to cry Hosanna, you must first ride into town on an ass. Backwards, ideally, whilst telling the masses the tall stories they want to hear.”
..........— David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas (p. 83).

.....See now, said Meronym, riding backwards on that lead ass, it ain’t ’bout Crows or fire, it’s ’bout how we humans got our spirit.
..........— David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas (p. 285).
Don't everybody jump in at once!
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Old 11-24-2012, 11:29 PM   #24
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Your quoted page numbers are way off from mine. Your last quote is on 285 yet mine is 246.

My copy has a grand total of 430 ADE pages.
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Old 11-25-2012, 01:34 AM   #25
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Your quoted page numbers are way off from mine. Your last quote is on 285 yet mine is 246.

My copy has a grand total of 430 ADE pages.
So how many pages does the book contain? My copy, and all the page references I've listed, come from the Amazon. The Kindle edition, which is the one I'm using as a source, is 509 pages. The paperback is 528 pages, and Wikipedia states the first edition of the hardback was 544 pages in length.
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Old 11-25-2012, 08:33 PM   #26
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The problem is that Amazon in not using ADE is causing their eBooks to have different page numbers then the ePub versions. The different print editions are going to be different from each other and the ePub version.

It's tough to quote page numbers unless you also put in the version information where the page numbers come from.
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Old 11-25-2012, 11:44 PM   #27
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Right. From now on, I'll list that these are the Kindle editions.

From the examples I've given for Cloud Atlas, it appears that the Kindle's numbering system is much closer to the print editions than is the Adobe Digital Edition. Now, granted, it would be dangerous to make an inference from only one example, but even if it doesn't hold for other books as well, it does little to enhance my feelings for ADEs. ADEs may be some folks' cup of tea, but personally I'm not a big fan of them and see no compelling reason why they should be adopted as a universal standard. I'm perfectly happy living in my imperfect Mobi world. And any time I run across a book that's only available as an ePub that can't be converted, I can always charge up my Sony Touch and read it on that device; which is indeed something that happens quite frequently from time to time ... well, actually, so far ... never.

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Old 12-02-2012, 03:55 PM   #28
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This info graphic is based on the movie, but a comparison with the book we just read might be interesting. A "further breakdown of the chart, from top to bottom" can be found at CinemaBlend.com.
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Old 12-16-2012, 06:21 PM   #29
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This info graphic is based on the movie, but a comparison with the book we just read might be interesting. A "further breakdown of the chart, from top to bottom" can be found at CinemaBlend.com.
Thanks Tom for that graphic. I have yet to see the film, and in fact it seems unlikely that I will until it becomes available on DVD through my local library. Unfortunately Cloud Atlas is not the sort of film that manages to ever get a screening in the two theaters that exist in the county I live in. Both did recently have a two week duration screening of the latest film in the Twilight series. I fear that The Life of Pi will never make it here, and I am also doubtful about Spielberg's Lincoln making it here as well.

So judging from that graphic it appears that the film introduces characters and linkages not present in the novel. There also seems to be some variation in the story as well (from your link):

Quote:
Jim Sturgess: In 1849, he is Adam Ewing whose friendship with escaped slave Autua (David Gyasi) inspires him to give up his father-in-law's slave trade and join the abolitionists with his wife Tilda (Doona Bae). In 2012 he reappears as a hooligan-loving highlander who attacks Nurse Noakes (Hugo Weaving) to defend Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent) and his friends. But Sturgess leaps to action hero status in 2144 as freedom fighter Hae-Joo Chang who frees Somni-451 (Doona Bae) and inspires her to join his rebellion that aims to end the slavery of clones. Finally in 2321, he's an Adam once again, this time Zachry's (Tom Hanks) brother, who meets a bloody end.
In the novel however Hae-Joo Im is a Corporacy provocateur who assists in exposing the Union plot to over throw Unanimity.

Anyway I am currently reading The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima by Henry Scott-Stokes and this jogged my memory about something I might have commented on earlier. Mishima's four novel Sea of Fertility (Spring Snow, Runaway Horses, The Temple of Dawn, and The Decay of the Angel) is told from the viewpoint of a single character, Shigekuni Honda, who over the course of his long life interacts with four different characters (one per novel); Kiyoaki Matsugae, Isao Iinuma, Ying Chan, and Tōru Yasunaga. What is interesting about this relative to Cloud Atlas is that each of these four characters are reincarnations of a single spirit, are linked by a common physical mark (three moles located under the left arm pit), and share common dreams. Honda recognizes these incarnations for what they are by that physical mark and also through his own dreams. The last book in the series, The Decay of the Angel, was published in1971. I had mentioned in my previous comment about how Cloud Atlas seemed derivative of other books, and this leads me to wonder whether David Mitchell may have been inspired by Sea of Fertility?
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Old 12-27-2012, 10:17 AM   #30
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A Locus poll placed Cloud Atlas eleventh on a list of best SF novels this century.
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