I've had this book on my shelf for years, but never bothered to read it until I was wowed by the movie preview. When I finally began reading it, it absolutely consumed me. I have to admit that I let my toddler watch lots of kids' television programs just so that I could tear through the last half of the book, making a rare lazy weekend of it. I thought I was hurtling toward a revealing ending, but I'm not so sure I got the type of closure that I was looking for.
The is a book is written in a very unique manner. I found the writing style a little difficult to follow at first because each sentence is so dense. However, it is definitely worthwhile to keep going with the reading. The author actually changes writing styles and voices with the narrative of each main character in the story. As time progresses, the language changes in a very logical way to fit the time period (even into the extremely distant future).
As I originally understand it, Cloud Atlas tells the story of the various reincarnations of Adam Ewing throughout time. Each incarnation is identifiable by having the same birthmark. Each subsequent person that Adam is reincarnated as finds the story of their previous incarnation in one format or the other. Each time, they only find half of the story at first before finally finding the full story. However, only the story of the immediately previous incarnation is ever made available. The book is laid out following each incarnation as follows:
*Adam - 1st half of journal (1850)
*Robert - 1st half of letters written to Rufus (1931)
*Luisa - 1st half of manuscript for a novel about her ... and her meeting Rufus again as Luisa (1975)
*Timothy - 1st half of a movie about him (early 21st century)
*Sonmi-451 - 1st half of holographic interview with her (dystopian near future)
*Meronym - oral story about her told by Zachry (post-apocalyptic distant future)
*Sonmi-451 - 2nd half of holograph
*Timothy - 2nd half of movie
*Luisa - 2nd half of novel manuscript
*Robert - 2nd half of letters
*Adam - 2nd half of journal
It seems that Adam's hope is that he will be able to help create a future fit for his children to live in. He also feels that "selfishness is extinction". So the question is whether or not he succeeds in making the world one that he would like his children to inherit or whether he learns anything from life to life. To tell you the truth, I'm not really sure that he succeeds. While he starts out completely on the wrong track and falters along the way, he does seem to eventually learn self-sacrifice. But I'm not quite sure that the world follows suit.
I'm looking forward to the movie and all the futuristic vistas that's bound to be in it. It looks as if it's going to definitely be delicious eye candy. However, I'm guessing that they'll have an ending that packs more punch than the philosophizing that ends the book.
All in all, it was definitely a worthwhile read. It's one of the rare books that I would re-read (if I had that much free time) just to diagram and decide what lessons were learned along the way and perhaps what consequences (if any) were felt between incarnations. I'm also curious about how Sonmi became a goddess. And this is one movie I'm going to insist on seeing this year at the theater. I think I that I'd even list it among my all-time favorites just for its layer-cake of stories within stories. I'm intrigued by the way that the author chose to write the novel since writing in the reincarnation genre is definitely not an easy task.
EDIT: I think keeping a list of the movie cast in mind when reading the book would have been helpful. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1371111/fullcredits#cast. The casting insinuates that several of the characters are reincarnated together rather than just 1 character as it is in the book. I think the interconnectedness of the storylines make a little more sense when considering which soul was repeated from a previous life and how they paid back kindnesses, evolved personally, or stayed the same. I think a master list of who's who would have been a nice addition to the book.