Joy’s Reviewing a Book? Why Yes: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Cloud AtlasCloud Atlas by David Mitchell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

To say this book has many layers is an understatement. First, there’s the settings and characters in each separate section, moving through time: from the past, to the present day to the future, and then back down to the past again, starting with a sailing ship from 400 years ago that’s taking part in plundering the South Pacific, to a futuristic Korea, where human drones now do all the tedious work. We see these worlds through the eyes of people who all have random connection through time.

Each section is written in a different style – California detective noir and cold, unsparing sci-fi, for example. Even a made-up type of post-Apocalyptic pidgin appears mid-way through the book. The transitions between the styles can be jarring, and sometimes feel like an attempt of the author to show off a little, but ultimately it ends up like you’re reading half a dozen great books, instead of just one.

The theme here is the choice humans have to be either nasty, cutthroat imperialists (either via rampant racism, sexism or unchecked technophilic manipulation) or peaceful cooperating folk, and Mitchell shows us a future world where the imperialists won — and ultimately destroyed themselves. Each character struggles with this battle.

I think a second book exploring a world where the peaceful notions win out would be interesting, though perhaps less dramatic.

My only complaint is I felt the sections dealing with a selfish, callous musician from the early 1900s went on too long, along with the storyline involving a British book editor who is convinced he’s been erroneously locked up in a nursing home. Perhaps it was just that I didn’t feel connected to these characters.

I absolutely adored the interview with Son-Mi, a cloned human who is supposed to be unaware of her slave-like status, who reaches transcendence/awareness, and with this one small act, thus kicks off a world-wide revolution.

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Flowers, Millipedes and Sunshine — Oh My

Oh yes, dear readers, expect a whole endless summer of photos taken at the cabin upstate. Each weekend just gets better and better. I’m so in love.

A magnolia dips in front of the cabin, which is being renovated, hence the plywood.

I went a little nuts taking photo of the sun.

The center of the humongous magnolia blossoms.

We found this wooden Queensboro Farm Products box in the shed. And promptly put it to good use as a flowerbox. (We're weekday residents of Queens.)

We had two dead hemlock trees cut down last fall. And turned them into spring planters. Brendan did all the work rolling these heavy beasts into place.

We hiked down to the waterfall, but the river was so high we couldn't get across to get a better view.

Moss grows everywhere. Like everywhere, people.

A thousand legs on a thousand polka dots.

White pine flowers.

Anyone know what this is?

Some sort of insect with realllllllly long legs.

Abandoned Lead Mines Are Fun!

Go figure: If you drive up Old Lead Mine Road near Wurtsboro, NY, you will in fact, eventually find an old lead mine. Two lead mines, actually — though both require a fair bit of hiking uphill (and dodging of illegal ATVers) before you can mine for riches. Riches? Yep, riches. Or at least pyrite (aka “fool’s gold”), galena and all sorts of crystals of questionable value. But at least they’re glittery!

Suffice it to say, I was a lead mine virgin before this weekend. Now, after two strenuous hikes to the upper and lower Mamakating lead mines, I have amassed not only some new rocks, but all sorts of mostly useless vocabulary.  Like “tailings pile.” Do you know what a tailings pile is? Thought not. But I do. Yep, I’m practically a miner. (OK, I’ll tell you, since I know you’re dying of curiosity: Tailings piles are the leftover piles of rocks after they blast open a mine.  Mining companies apparently never move the piles, even decades after the mines are tapped out, allowing eccentric people like me to go and explore them).

For rock-hounds (<– ‘nuther new vocab word), tailing piles are the shipwrecks of the mountains — creepy, crumbly, hard to get to but oh-so-loaded with potential mineral wealth. Armed with a hammer, a plastic bag, and not enough water or sunscreen,  Brendan and I spent the better parts of Friday and Saturday playing in the dirt, becoming amateur rock hounds, and yet again, overgrown kids. (Note:  We found out about this rock hounding site from this expert. And even more info on the Mamakating Mine.)

This is Brendan’s best attempt at obeying my command to “look scared” as I snapped the photo of him pretending to fall down the mine. (Isn’t it tiny? I was expecting a massive, train tunnel size hole. Ah, presumptions. I guess, because of people like us, they close the entrance up as best they can.)image

Cool air and strange smells wafted out of the mine’s entrance, which was not at all alarming.

This is the photo in which I demonstrate how to smash rocks to find glittery things inside.
Atop the tailings pile, the view is quite nice. image

A small smattering of what we took home from the mine (this is legal, btw!)