Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell “What wouldn't I give now for a never-changing map of the ever-constant ineffable? To possess, as it were, an atlas of clouds.”I was assigned to read Cloud Atlas for a creative writing class that focuses on structure in stories. And let me tell you, if you want to learn about experimenting with structure, this is one of the best books you can study. I mean, the structure of this book is insane. First of all, the book has six different points of view. Each one is written as a different form of documentation: a diary, a series of letters, a novel, a memoir, an interview, and finally an imitation of oral storytelling. Each point of view takes place in a different time period, ranging from the 1850's to somewhere hundreds of years in the future. Each narrator's voice is radically different. The book first moves forward in time and then backward. Yeah ... um. It's really hard to explain this. It still blows my mind.So basically, I know it sounds like a hot mess. I had wanted to read this book for a while, but having heard people describe the craziness of the structure, I was pretty intimidated. It sounded like another one of those "quirky" books where the author was biting off way more than they could chew just to be "different." And this book could have easily become a total disaster. But in my opinion, it was actually really good. David Mitchell, I give you permission to gloat. One word: planning. Well, two words: planning and research. Thinking about how much thought and effort went into this book is just completely mind-boggling to me. I'm personally an impatient little writer and I get bored with all that planning/oultining/research crap, but then of course my stories end up being horrible piles of crap. I really admire Mitchell for doing so much thorough research and intricate planning in order for the different stories to seem realistic and to connect to each other in such clever ways.There were a few minor problems I had with the book. First of all, it came off as a little full of itself at some points. Or that is, it could kind of beat the reader over the head with obvious symbolism. The best example I can think of this was the recurrence of the number six: Six different points of view, the Cloud Atlas Sextet, the character named Sixsmith who was 66 years old ... I mean, come on. For the most part I found the book to be very clever, but there were times when it felt a bit forced. As I said in my status updates, there were times whether I couldn't decide whether I loved the cleverness or whether it made me want to chuck the book out a window.I also wasn't equally attached to all the narrators. I especially enjoyed the stories about Frobisher, Timothy, Sonmi, and Zachry; I thought all of these characters were likable and had compelling voices. But I got a bit bored with the stories about Adam Ewing and Luisa Rey. I think part of my issue with Ewing's story was that the vocabulary was just really difficult to deal with––and yes, that made sense considering it was supposed to take place in 1850, but it was still hard to get through when I had to look up the definition for every other word. Luisa Rey's story I just ... didn't find to be all that compelling. I think it was that sort of mystery/crime-thriller style that I'm just not fond of. It's not a genre I typically read ... and I understood it was suitable to the story, but it just wasn't something I enjoyed. Compared to the other characters, I found Luisa Rey to be pretty boring and I just wasn't that interested in what happened to her. But altogether, I found this novel to be very engaging and quite different from anything I've ever read. It does have a very sweeping scope, but for the most part it still manages to tell six distinct but interconnected stories with (mostly) enjoyable characters. The writing is wonderful and the whole thing was very carefully thought-out. And ultimately, it conveys an inspirational message about how even the most seemingly ordinary people can influence the future, even if it's in a very small way.