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Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

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Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell Empty Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Post by tosh6888 on Sat Dec 15, 2012 4:32 pm

THE SYNOPSIS (taken from Wiki)
Cloud Atlas consists of six nested stories that take the reader from the remote South Pacific in the nineteenth century to a distant, post-apocalyptic future. Each tale is revealed to be a story that is read (or observed) by the main character in the next. The first five stories are interrupted at a key moment. After the sixth story, the other five stories are returned to and closed, in reverse chronological order, and each ends with the main character reading or observing the chronologically previous work in the chain. Eventually, readers end where they started, with Adam Ewing in the nineteenth century South Pacific.
The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing
The first story begins in the Chatham Islands (a remote Pacific Ocean archipelago), in the year 1850. Adam Ewing, a guileless American notary from San Francisco during the California Gold Rush, awaits repairs to his ship. There, he learns about the enslavement of the peaceful Moriori tribe by the warlike Māori. He also befriends a doctor named Henry Goose, and experiences a powerful look from a Moriori slave, Autua, as the latter is being whipped. Later, as the ship sails, Adam is diagnosed by Dr Goose as being ill and in need of his treatment. At the same time, he discovers Autua, who has joined the ship as a stowaway and asks him to help. Adam helps Autua get a job on the ship, but is becoming increasingly ill despite Dr Goose's treatment. At this point the story suddenly breaks off in mid-sentence.
Letters from Zedelghem
The next story is set in Zedelghem, near Bruges, Belgium, 1931. It is told in the form of letters from Robert Frobisher, a recently disowned and penniless, bisexual young English musician, to his old friend and lover, Rufus Sixsmith, back in Cambridge. Frobisher finds work as an amanuensis to a composer, Vyvyan Ayrs, living in Belgium. There he helps Ayrs with his compositions, while also accepting the advances of Ayrs' wife. At one point, Frobisher briefly mentions reading a printed text of The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing, and is annoyed that half the text is missing; he is amused that the author seems unaware that Dr Goose is poisoning him.
Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery
The third story is written in the style of a mystery/thriller novel, and is set in Buenas Yerbas, California, in 1975. Luisa Rey, a young journalist, investigates reports that a new nuclear power plant is unsafe. After a party, she is trapped with Rufus Sixsmith, the addressee of the letters in the previous story, in a stuck elevator. Sixsmith, now an elderly scientist, hints that his employer, a nuclear power plant on Swannekke Island, is unsafe. Shortly after this admission, he is murdered, and Luisa learns that the businessmen in charge of the plant are conspiring to cover up the dangers and are assassinating potential whistleblowers. From Sixsmith's hotel room, Luisa manages to get hold of some of Frobisher's letters and becomes so enthralled by the composer that she orders his only published work, "Cloud Atlas Sextet." However, a Swannekke-hired assassin has been following her and pushes her car - along with Sixsmith's incriminating report - off a bridge, at which point the story breaks off.
The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish
The fourth story is comic in tone, and set in Britain in the present day. Timothy Cavendish, a 65-year-old vanity press publisher, flees the brothers of his gangster client. Cavendish's brother, exasperated by Timothy's endless pleas for financial aid, books him into a remote hotel, which in fact turns out to be a nursing home from which Timothy cannot escape. In the course of his adventures, Timothy briefly mentions that he is reading a manuscript from a prospective author entitled Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery, which does not impress him.
An Orison of Sonmi~451
The fifth story is set in Nea So Copros, a dystopian futuristic state that is gradually revealed to be in Korea and to be a totalitarian state that has evolved from corporate culture. It is told in the form of an interview between Sonmi~451 and an 'archivist' who is recording her story. Sonmi~451 is a genetically engineered fabricant (clone), who is one of many fabricants grown to work at, among other places, a fast-food restaurant called Papa Song's. Fabricants, it is revealed, are treated as slave labor by 'pureblood' society, who stunt their consciousness through chemical manipulation. Sonmi~451 encounters individuals from a rebel underground who draw her out of the cloistered fabricant world, and allow her to become self-aware, or "ascended." At one point in her self-discovery, she watches an old movie entitled The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish with a pureblood, but the movie is interrupted.
Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After
The sixth story occupies the central position in the novel, and is the only one not to be interrupted. Zachry, an old man, tells a story from his youth. It is gradually revealed that he lives in a primitive post-apocalyptic society on the Big Island of Hawaii. His people, the valley folk, are peaceful farmers, but are often raided by the violent Kona tribe from the other side of the island. Zachry's people worship a goddess called Sonmi, and know that once there was an event called 'The Fall', in which the civilized peoples of the earth - known as the 'Old Uns' - collapsed, and the surviving humans have been reduced to primitivism. They have short lifespans due to a poisoned environment that causes disease and mutation. Big Island is occasionally visited and studied by a technologically sophisticated people known as the Prescients who arrive in ocean-colored boats. One Prescient, a woman called Meronym, comes to stay with the villagers, and gradually reveals that she needs a guide to take her to the top of Mauna Kea volcano, a place the villagers are afraid of because of the mysterious temples on its summit. Zachry reluctantly guides her. It is revealed that the 'temples' are in fact the ruins of the Mauna Kea Observatories. Meronym shocks Zachry by telling him that their god Sonmi was in fact a human being, and shows him an 'orison' - an egg-shaped recording device that replays Sonmi telling her story to the archivist. Upon their return, the village is invaded by Kona tribesmen who enslave the villagers. Zachry and Meronym escape, and she takes him to a safer island. The story ends with Zachry's child recalling that his father told many unbelievable tales. The child admits that part of this one may be true because he has inherited Zachry's copy of Sonmi's orison, which he often watches, even though he doesn't speak her language.
An Orison of Sonmi~451
In the second part of the fifth story, Sonmi learns the truth about Nea So Copros: that the fabricants are not released once they have served their time at work, but are killed and recycled into food and more fabricants. At the encouragement of the rebels, she writes an abolitionist Declarations that tells the truth about their society and calls for rebellion. She is then arrested, and finds herself telling her tale to the archivist. She then reveals that she knows everything that happened to her was in fact instigated by the government, to create an artificial enemy figure to encourage the oppression of fabricants by purebloods. But she believes her Declarations will be inspirational nonetheless. Her last wish before being executed is to finish watching the film she began before, The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish.
The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish
In the second part of the fourth story, Timothy Cavendish and a band of plucky elderly inmates escape from the nursing home. He sorts out his problems back in London. At the end of his story, he notes that The First Luisa Rey Mystery turned out to be a good read after all, receives the second part from the author, and is inspired to write his own story as a screenplay.
Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery
In the second part of the third story, Luisa Rey escapes from the sinking car and by detective work successfully locates a copy of Sixsmith's report about the Swanekke power plant, exposing the corrupt corporate leaders. She picks up her copy of Robert Frobisher's obscure Cloud Atlas Sextet and is astonished to find that she recognizes it, even though it is a very rare piece. At the end of the story, she receives a package from Rufus Sixsmith's niece, containing eight more letters from Frobisher.
Letters from Zedelghem
In the second part of the second story, Frobisher continues to pursue his work with the elderly composer while developing his own Cloud Atlas Sextet. He becomes besotted by Vyvyan Ayrs' daughter, and tries to end the affair with his employer's wife. While packing his things to finally leave the composer, who had begun to steal the young composer's musical ideas, he discovers the second half of The Pacific Diaries of Adam Ewing propping up the bed. Frobisher secludes himself in a hotel to finish the Sextet, and ultimately decides to kill himself. He is content with this decision as he believes he has completed his best work, but mourns the loss of his one true love, Sixsmith. Before shooting himself, he writes a last letter to Sixsmith, and includes his Sextet and the second part of Ewing's Pacific Journal.
The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing
In the second part of the first story, Ewing visits the island of Raiatea where he observes missionaries preaching to the indigenous peoples, whom they regard as savages, and treat as slaves even as their illnesses kill them off. Back on the ship, he falls further ill, realizing at the last minute that Dr Goose is poisoning him to steal his possessions. He is rescued by Autua, and having been saved by a slave, resolves to devote his life to the Abolitionist movement. He foresees his wealthy father-in-law's response that human nature will never change and that Ewing's life will amount to "no more than one drop in a limitless ocean." Ewing concludes his journal with these final words: "Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?"

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