Cloud Atlas and why we’re all awful, awful people
I think I should probably start by saying that I am only half way through Cloud Atlas. In my defense there was a big biology test and some physics lab tests, and basically it was just a rough week. However, I’m happy to detail my opinions on the first half of the book, and if you’re reading this and are getting super frustrated because you’ve read the whole thing and everything I’m about to say is entirely contradicted by the second half… well I apologize, but you should probably just be less picky.
So, the basic message that I am getting from this book is that David Mitchell is pretty pessimistic about the overall nature of human beings. This is great because as a Negative Nancy, I’m pretty pessimistic myself and it means that I can write yet another pessimistic blog. It seems that in every new chapter, while time has moved forward and technology has improved (with the slight exception of Sloosha’s Crossin’ although there is advanced technology there too) the human beings’ ability to not be awful, violent, selfish, and cruel to each other has been entirely unimproved upon. In fact, it actually seems to get worse as we increase our knowledge, technology, and intelligence, since we’re only increasing the amount of ways we can bully and hurt each other.
The scariest part is that Mitchell’s technique of moving through history to an imagined future makes his imagined future look more realistic. By this assertion I mean that he shows how violence by the stronger towards the weaker has been plaguing our history for generations therefore it is not that outlandish to imagine that it will continue into the future. In fact, I would probably go as far as to say that it would be pretty outlandish and very naïve to think that the future holds peace, harmony, love, and hand holding by all.
Perhaps at the end of the book all of the characters that have been fighting against these injustices (those who are the few exceptions to my people suck rule) during their eras will miraculously succeed in changing the world and the human race for the better. However, if that is how it ends I will be thoroughly unimpressed by the lack of realism in an ending like that. As long as there are people capable of subjugating other people (or clones… that are still people but I’ll specify them anyway) humans will forever be stuck in the mean, bullying toddler stage. We might get bigger and better toys as we evolve, but unless our natures can evolve with them, they will only help us to hurt each other more when we whack others over the head with them.