"Cloud Atlas" - December Meetup


Mitchell's virtuosic novel presents six narratives that evoke an array of genres, from Melvillean high-seas drama to California noir and dystopian fantasy. There is a naïve clerk on a nineteenth-century Polynesian voyage; an aspiring composer who insinuates himself into the home of a syphilitic genius; a journalist investigating a nuclear plant; a publisher with a dangerous best-seller on his hands; and a cloned human being created for slave labor. These five stories are bisected and arranged around a sixth, the oral history of a post-apocalyptic island, which forms the heart of the novel. Only after this do the second halves of the stories fall into place, pulling the novel's themes into focus: the ease with which one group enslaves another, and the constant rewriting of the past by those who control the present. Against such forces, Mitchell's characters reveal a quiet tenacity. When the clerk is told that his life amounts to "no more than one drop in a limitless ocean," he asks, "Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?"
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker


Discussion Questions:


1. What is Cloud Atlas about? What are the questions the book explores—its primary thematic concerns?

2. Is this a cautionary tale...a prognosis...a diagnosis? In Mitchell's tales, what do humans seem bent on doing to one another...and why? With little left at the end, what, if anything, remains?

3. Why does Mitchell use the structure he does? What might he be hoping to achieve through the six (or twelve) interrelated stories, each based on a specific genre: epistolary, mystery, farce, sci-fi, post-apocolyptic? What is the effect, then, of reversing the tales and going backward?

4. How do each of the tales fit together...forward and backward. Put the pieces of the puzzle together—showing how one story links to another. How, for instance, is Luisa Rey in t connected to Frobisher?

5. What is the significance of the title, "Cloud Atlas"?

6. Which was your favorite tale...and least favorite?

 7. What was your experience reading the work: did you find the structure disruptive and confusing...and did you enjoy picking up the linkage between the stories and seeing how it played out by the end?

8. Have you read other dystopian...or post-apocolytpic works? If so, how do they compare with Cloud Atlas?

9. Would you recommend this book to a friend?


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  • Katie P.

    Or those who didn't quite start reading the correct book :) Thanks for organizing and letting me crash the party for a few! See you next time

    1 · December 5, 2012

    • sierra

      loved your presence Katie, thanks for coming and hope to see you again!

      December 5, 2012

  • Jonathan G.

    Very nice to meet you all and quite interesting discussion. Hopefully the talk didn't ruin the ending for those who hadn't quite finished.

    December 5, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    Fun discussion, even not having finished the book yet :)

    December 5, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    Fun! Sierra did a great job organizing.

    December 4, 2012

  • Lloyd C.

    Intellectually Stimulating

    December 4, 2012

  • Kate

    Great book choice and very interesting discussion. Nice to meet everyone!

    December 4, 2012

  • Alex

    Work ended late, wish I could've made it...

    December 4, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    I might not make it. I am working late. :(

    December 4, 2012

  • Bob H.

    Any Chance we can open this up to 46 members?

    November 12, 2012

    • sierra

      Hi Bob, The restaurant we meet at just barely fits 40. If you know any meeting places that hold larger groups let me know! Members tend to change their rsvp the week before so i'm sure space will open up... looking forward to meeting you in december!

      November 13, 2012

  • Rich

    Can you open the waitlist for this meetup? In case people drop out?

    November 7, 2012

    • sierra

      yes! sorry Rich, thanks for the note.

      November 8, 2012

  • Alicia

    I saw that some of the older meetings had more than 40 people. Do you think the December meeting will open up a little more to allow extra additions?

    October 31, 2012

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