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The Magic Mountain
Thomas Mann, John E. Woods
The Hooligan's Return: A Memoir
Norman Manea, Angela Jianu
Atlasul norilor - David Mitchell, Mihnea Gafiţa I can't make a proper review of Cloud Atlas, so I'll just write some thoughts.
First of all, I loved this book. I had it on my shelves before the movie was announced, but I didn't brace myself to read it, because I was afraid I wouldn't get it. Plus the 600+ pages were a scary sight (I don't know why I'm afraid of big books, but I am treating myself).
Finally found the courage to read the book. I prepared myself with paper and pencil, wrote down all the characters' names from each story, and discovered that I was not so confused and lost after all. Yet I didn't write down who had the comet-shaped birth mark, so now I'm wondering which character had it in The Pacific Journal... and The Ghastly Ordeal..., because I don't remember it was mentioned (if somebody can help me with this, I would be grateful!).

While reading the book, I had the feeling that I was climbing a huge mountain, towards the clouds, like Zachary and Meronym to the top of Mauna Kea. Strange that the top and the bottom were somehow similar, although so far apart. Then I started the descent on the other side of the mountain, to discover the second part of the stories. (The movie, which I began to watch soon after, is much more confusing, with all the stories mingled together in a hodgepodge that is hard to follow. The Matryoshka dolls structure is lost altogether).

About what all this means... I did get the idea that history repeats itself and that humankind drives itself to destruction, because the will to power is the backbone of society (Nietzsche said it first - The will to power is the will to live). No matter how far we get in terms of civilization and scientific progress, the thirst for power and wealth is never quenched. War is an eternal companion of humanity, there will never really be an end to it. The oppression of the weak, poor and less civilized will never really cease.

What I didn't quite understand, and maybe somebody can illuminate me: a) is there the case for reincarnation, as the movie strongly points to? The book was not so explicit about it, except for the birth marks and some allusions to déjà vu.
b) why did Robert Frobisher kill himself? He didn't actually kill Vyvyan Ayrs in the book, or did I miss it?

I didn't like all the stories to the same extent, but I loved that the style and tone was different with each one, so that I really had a sense of change in space, time and characters.

I feel that the dystopian story of Sonmi~451 was my favorite, but I also loved the humor in The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish, the adventures and misadventures of Adam Ewing in the Pacific, the bohemian life of Robert Frobisher (whom I feel very attached to, maybe because I also play the piano and tried to compose music several times in the past. Why did he had to kill himself, why? My heart still aches.).

With the post-apocalyptic story of Sloosha's Crossin' I had a headache at first, even if I read it in Romanian (I looked up the English version and it was impossible for me to read). My eyes hurt from trying to decipher the words (I still have some that I still don't know what they meant!) but soon the story swept me in, so I forgot about it. It feels like David Mitchell was trying too hard, but I think this language makes sense for the type of society he's portraying in this last story.

The First Luisa Rey Mystery was the one I liked the least. The first part was interesting, but the second was too much like an average policier novelette. She was rescued, then rescued some more, and so on.

Even if you've seen the movie, read the book, too. It won't be boring, because there are a lot of things that are different from the original and tons of facts which are omitted from the book.