Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
This is another of those books that I bought at the height of its popularity and then left on my shelf until after the talk had all died down. So unfortunately I missed some of the asureadly insightful commentary about the book in the literary blogosphere. No matter, google is my friend. At any rate, this is a book I'm damn glad I read.

When I first started reading, the first chapter honestly bored me to tears. Then I read the inside cover and was reminded about the unique structure Mitchell wove his story into, which was the reason I wanted to read it originally. Cloud Atlas is composed of 6 stories and 11 parts. The stories first go forward in time to a post-apocolyptic Hawaii and then go backward in time again to the original story. It's sort of a bulls-eye, if that makes it easier to think of. The first story is the outer ring and the middle is the center, then it goes back out. Once I go onto the second story and realized the structure, I was hooked. Each story has a connection to the one before it and some have connections to the others as well. It works very well.

The other delight of the book is the dialogue and characterization. Each character speaks in a very unique voice. You could easily open a random page and know which character was speaking within a few sentences. As a science-fiction fan, my favorite parts of the book were the ones set in the future. The future Korea, turned into a clone powered "corpocracy" was dazzling and the mishmash language of the almost-end-of-humanity Hawaii was incredibly inventive. All in all, I would very much recommend this book. Don't let the science-fiction aspects scare you if you're not a fan of the genre. It's much, much more than that and even those parts are emminently readable.

And now for some spoilers. If you haven't read the book, don't read any further. I agree with some of the reviews I've read of the book that the "downward slope" of the book, the second half where it moves backward toward the beginning, was a bit of a letdown. I was hoping/expecting more of a connection between the characters. In the end it felt like more of an exersize in connecting 6 dissparate short stories than one narrative whole. Hints were dropped at a reincarnation connection but that didn't go anywhere. When the hitman Smoke asked Louisa Rey she if she always felt this way before death, I was sure that wouldn't be left untouched but in the end, I didn't get any connection. Maybe I missed something but I don't think so. This didn't dilute the power of the book but with a stronger thread I think it could have something great, rather than just a really good book.