Cloud Atlas is a book that poses as something more then it is. I was expecting a deep, meaningful mindbender. Instead I ended up disappointed by a collection of narrative exercises that falls flat on its promise to to different.
David Mitchell is known for unique narrative structures and original prose. After reading interviews with him, its clear he looks down on traditional narrative styles. I guess he feels sticking to writing in the third-person limits him.
But herein lies the problem with Cloud Atlas. The novel consists of six different stories, ranging from a nineteenth century tale to a postapocalyptic future. After the sixth story, Mitchell goes back through each one in reverse order to end them. The problem with this is not the structure, but the way in which Mitchell favors style over substance. He tells each tale in a different writing style; from journal entries to a third-person point of view.
Because of this focus in favor of style, the plots and characters suffer. The author failed to make me care about any of the characters and therefore making me indifferent to the individual plots. I have not seen the film version, but I hear it improves upon these flaws.
I can only recommend Cloud Atlas to anyone interested in an exercise in different writing styles. If you're looking for a novel with characters to care about and a plot that captivates, look elsewhere.