In Cloud Atlas, the author takes the reader on a literary journey through multiple dimensions and times. David Mitchell presents a set of six distinct but interrelated stories, tenuously connected by theme, narrative, and character. Each story in some way informs the next. The impression left by the previous story may be a physical marker, such as the comet-shaped birthmark—but often it is neither obvious nor direct. Rather, it is nebulous or cloudy.
The metaphoric clouds may refer to mental and physical conditions. These include Adam Ewing’s state while being poisoned, the visual disability that keeps Vyvyan Ayrs from perceiving Robert Frobisher’s deceptions, and the memory-wiping effects of the Soap that the fabricants eat. In the latter part of the novel, the role of the holographs becomes more important, suggesting that projections, another sort of cloud, may be considered more “real” than living peoples or material objects. While many readers have enjoyed the complex interactions and partial connections among the tales, others find the author’s intentions frustratingly obscure.