Picks and Pans Review: Cloud Atlas

UPDATED 09/13/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 09/13/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT

By David Mitchell

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This strange and wildly entertaining novel leaps from decade to decade and voice to voice to link six tales. An American at sea in 1850 witnesses brutal colonialism, then his journals turn up in the hands of a 1930s ne'er-do-well planning to con a famous composer in Belgium, and so on up to the story of a post-apocalyptic tribe. The fun lies in detecting the subtle recurring symbols (a comet-shaped birthmark) and unifying themes: the cruelty of power and the shaky possibility of human redemption. Cloud Atlas is a head rush, both action-packed and chillingly ruminative.

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