As previously mentioned, sometimes I pick up books for the wrong reasons. Like this one time, someone recommended I read ‘Cloud Atlas’ by David Mitchell. I went to the library, and lo, it was out, but ‘The Cloud Atlas’ by Liam Callanan was in, and I figured hey, it’s gotta be just as good, right?
And so I read Callanan’s ‘Atlas,’ and thought, ‘man, this is probably better than the real one,’ because it was actually quite good. It tells the tale of a young soldier sent to Alaska to investigate these massive balloon bombs that the Japanese were sending over during WWII, which actually happened and was totally the latest in long-distance stealth bombing at that time, but none of us ever heard of it because the government hushed it up, which was probably a fortuitous move because the Japanese had to assume all their balloon-bombs were going astray, and give up the goat. But the book. The young soldier is now an old man, still stationed in Alaska but now as a catch-all cleric. He is making his confession to a voodoo shaman, who has recently sobered up (‘But a strange thing happened when Ronnie sobered up: he had nothing to do. He’d had nothing to do when he was an alcoholic, but being drunk was itself a kind of occupation: you had duties and obligations, like being disorderly, you had an office – in Ronnie’s case, a jail cell – where you could reliably be found.’) but who is now in a coma, for reasons that I forget. Probably alcohol-related. It was a great story, and well-written, and also there was a fruit fly crushed on p. 57, so perfect I thought he’d been drawn there.
And then I got my hands on David Mitchell’s ‘Cloud Atlas.’ It blew my mind. I’m not going to tell you anything about the story, because a book like this, you only get to read it for the first time once. I will say this: About forty pages in, you’ll be like, what the deuce? And then maybe forty pages later, it’ll happen again, and after a while, you’ll kind of figure out what he’s doing, and you sure as hell hope he’s going somewhere with this, because it’s really getting good, but it’s also kind of making you mad. And then he does, and it all makes sense.