Cloud Atlas Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Cloud Atlas

Adam Ewing is an american notary finally headed home after a long seaboard voyage to Australia where he oversaw the notarization of important documents for a client of his. During the return voyage, Adam is stricken by a mysterious brain ailment that makes him progressively weaker. He passes by writing in a journal, detailing his day to day activities and the efforts of Henry Goose, a kindly physician who happened to be on board.
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From there the story jumps to one Robert Frobisher during the mid 19th century. Robert is a cynical wannabe composer who is down on his luck and lacking in work ethic as well. He concocts a plan to mooch off of the eminent but blind Vyvyan Ayrs by becoming his confidant and and musical scribe. While living it up in Ayrs' home, Robert comes across an old manuscript. As he begins to read it, he discovers it is the travel journal of a man named Adam Ewing. Robert becomes engrossed in the plight of Adam Ewing and as he falls deeper into the account he and Vyvyan Ayrs become more and more at odds due to Robert's feelings of being taken advantage of for his musical talent and Vyvyan's suspicions that his wife is having an affair with Robert.

From there, the story introduces Louisa Rey. Louisa is an american journalist during the 19670's eager to make a name for herself apart from her late famous journalist father. Louisa thinks she may have found her big break while investigating suspected corruption at a nuclear power plant, but she ends up becoming dangerously entangled in the scandal herself. She ends up having to fight to survive the efforts of the corrupt head of the nuclear plant who will do whatever he can in order to prevent her from publishing her story. She has help, however, from an employee of the plant who not only wants to do the right thing, but has also fallen in love with Louisa and from a plant security guard who remembers her late father.

After that, the story switches over to the early 21st century, to a book publisher named Timothy Cavendish. Timothy is in his later years and rather cranky. Timothy has recently come into a bit of money after the author of the last book he published murders a critic and the book finds success. Timothy receives all the profit from the book and the author, naturally ends up in prison. Everything seems to be going swimmingly for Timothy, until the author's brutish brothers break into Timothy's apartment and demand the money they feel is owed to them and their imprisoned brother. Threatened and unable to pay them, Timothy flees to the countryside and checks into an assisted living facility for the elderly he has mistaken as a hotel. He is trapped there as he is unable to convince the staff that he is not in fact in need of assistance. Tragic hilarity ensues as he tries to rally together other patients in an escape attempt.

After that, the story introduces Sonmi-451, a genetic replicant living in a future and dystopian China whose only purpose in life is to serve fast food. Unsatisfied and curious, she escapes and becomes the unwitting face of a underground rebellion whose goal is to free all the genetic replicants. The more she interacts with the rebellion, the more she begins to learn and ultimately feel, two things thought impossible for a replicant. She is eventually captured and sentenced to death, thereby becoming a martyr for the cause she became to fight for.
The character introduced subsequently lives in the far flung future of the Hawaiian islands where culture has become quite primitive and superstitious once more. The main character is called Zachary and his story focuses on his struggle with his feelings of guilt after witnessing his father and brother killed by rival tribesmen and the mental transformation he undergoes after a more enlightened stranger moves into his village.

The six stories are all interlocking. The tell the story of one soul that continues to be reborn all throughout history how that soul must relearn how to be human.
Best part of story, including ending: I really liked this story because it reminded me that people have the ability to change their lives for the better and they have the great capacity to fight for something bigger than themselves. The overall story was very positive.

Best scene in story: My favorite part of the book was the first chapter that introduced Adam Ewing. I enjoyed reading his interactions with the ship's doctor Henry Goose and I enjoyed watching their changing relationship from trusting to betrayed.

Opinion about the main character: What I really liked about Adam Ewing was he wanted to the right thing but he was still wonderfully flawed in that he occasionally had his stubborn moments or balked at standing up to the morally ambiguous crew because it put him on the spot or made him feel uncomfortable.

The review of this Book prepared by Kyle Spencer a Level 3 Eurasian Jay scholar

Chapter Analysis of Cloud Atlas

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book Descript. of chases or violence 20%planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 10%Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 60%Descript. of society, phenomena (tech), places 10% Tone of book    -   cynical or dry-wit FANTASY or SCIENCE FICTION?    -   science fiction story Magical Beings/Mental/Magical/Powers    -   Yes magical powers:    -   immortality (scifi) Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book

Main Character

Identity:    -   Male Profession/status:    -   a lawyer creature Age:    -   20's-30's Really unusual traits?    -   Physically sick


Earth setting:    -   17th century    -   distant future Takes place on Earth?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   moderately detailed references to deaths How much dialogue?    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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David Mitchell Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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