What separates a life from a story? Really, what is the difference? Where does our story end and our life begin.
What is a soul, if not the story of our selves?
David Mitchell’s book gets touted for a cool plot, for the story-within-story elements, but that’s just the surface stuff. What the novel’s really about is the stories we tell ourselves and each other. Stories of the future, of the past. Stories of prediction and revision. Stories of atoms that are all the same, really, but appear in an infinite set of variations. Stories of clouds.
Each character exists only within their own story. As the book unwinds in its second half, it is as if each story exists only through its instigation by the previous story. Each life seems to birth another, older life, a life that is somehow both sequel and prequel.
A life, a plot, an ending. But there is one all-important thing every story needs, something that is all to often forgotten: a listener. Someone to dream the dream again. That’s what Cloud Atlas is about. Dreaming each others’ dreams.