22/31 – Sonmi~451

22/31 – Sonmi~451

“Cloud Atlas” is probably the most unusual book in this Inktober series, and it’s also the one I read most recently.

I’d never heard of it until I read about the film coming to cinemas in 2012, and the outset – a story spanning several centuries from 1850 to the ?24th century, with a nested plot of six protagonists that are connected by these stories (the 1850 journal is read by a young musician in 1930, whose music is heard by a reporter in the 1970s, whose story is adapted into a novel and reaches a 2000s publisher, whose absurd escape from a senior home is made into a film that is watched by a dystopian future clone waitress, who rises to god status to a postapocalyptic society living on Hawaii). I was totally blown away by the idea alone, and read the book, avoiding the movie for several years.

Of those stories, which are told in very different forms and even very different narrative voices, that of Sonmi~451 touched me the most. She is a fabricant, a clone born to serve in a fast food restaurant that blurs the line between corporate culture and religion. Raised believing she isn’t human, her dispassionate nature never truly changes even as she realises that everything she once believed was a lie, and even when she is executed by the corporate state, she firmly believes that the truths she uncovered will survive, and inspire those who come after her.

The major themes of the entire book deeply resonated with me – from human nature and changing social structures to the futility of life, and paradoxically, the striving to make your life meaningful in the face of futility. (It helps that the nested structure lets the book finish with the hopeful young abolitionist in 1850, rather than with the old and disillusioned postapocalyptic survivor in the future facing the end of civilisation).

The movie, when I finally watched it, was a vast disappointment. In true Hollywood fashion, the philosophical aspects had to move over for the gunfighting action, and it plastered in the most cheesy happy ending imaginable, ruining everything for me. I have reread the book several times since, but completely avoid the film.

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