A zigzag across eras, a ringside seat of History. Cloud Atlas is an interesting read, where the author DImageavid Mitchell tries to birth a notion in the readers minds that “History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme” through the six stories he paints on the canvas of Cloud Atlas.

The book begins with the Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing, an American Notary aboard the ‘Prophetess’, circa 1850, on his return journey from New South Wales. Decades later, a publication of his journal is read with curiosity by the disinherited, penniless Robert Frobisher, a musical genius who flees England and his creditors, and goes to the Belgian backwaters. His life there is chronicled in a series of letters from Zedelghem to his scientist friend Rufus Sixsmith. Forty four years later, Louisa Rey, a reporter from a gossip magazine reads these letters, when Sixsmith leaves her a trail to a report that would expose a nuclear reactor in her town of Beunas Yerbas as a disaster waiting to happen. Stepping onto the 21st century,a publisher, Timothy Cavendish,  receives a package of a manuscript titled ‘Half Lives – The First Louisa Rey Mystery’, which he reads on the run as a series of events unfold in his life triggered by a publishing windfall. Many years into the future, a fabricant clone, Sonmi-451, watches the movie The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish as part of her life being an experimental study on achieving stable ascendancy in fabricants. As she nears the end of her life, Sonmi-451 is interviewed by an archivist who saves her rich experiences on an Orison for future ages. Far, far into the future, we meet Zachry,a Valleysman goatherd who worships the Sonmi and whose dwelling plays host to a woman of the advanced Precient tribe for a while.

Now the book folds, as Zachry spies an Orison among the Precients belongings and learns of the Sonmi of the past, hears of the folly of humankind across the centuries and realises the abominable consequences of the decisions of his ancestors  are his to inherit and live out. We are then hurtled back through each of the eras, till we end up with Adam Ewing closing his story on the shores of Honolulu. The author builds sweeping panoramas. The neo language in the era after the Fall was tough trekking, but the distinctive language and ambitions of each era brought alive a world in 3D. Yet  universal hope and fear links each story, and the searing hunger for “peace, not a hiatus betwixt wars but millennia of imperishable peace.” Each of the characters have a coming-of-age deed, each era, a seemingly insurmountable evil. David Mitchell calls out colonialism, conservatism, capitalism, consumerism, evangelism and many other isms that seek to obliterate the fundamental ethic “All men are created equal”.

Why undermine the dominance of our race, our gunships, our heritage & our legacy? Why fight the “natural” (oh, weaselly word!) order of things?
Why? Because of this: – one fine day, a purely predatory world shall consume itself. Yes, the Devil shall take the hindmost until the foremost is the hindmost. In an individual, selfishness uglifies the soul; for the human species, selfishness is extinction.
Adam Ewing comes of age too, and ends the tale with “A life spent shaping a world I want Jackson to inherit, not one I fear Jackson shall inherit, this strikes me as a life worth the living.” The author brings out the injustice, the despair, the turning of the heart. But, is this enough? Isn’t it easier to think like Isaac Sachs? “Isaac Sachs’s tragic flaw,” analyzes Isaac Sachs, slumped in the bay window across from Luisa Rey two hours later, “is this. Too cowardly to be a warrior, but not enough of a coward to lie down and roll over like a good doggy.”

If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience – George Bernard Shaw