Mapping Cloud Atlas: A Story Map of Space & Time

April 21, 2017 § Leave a comment

David Mitchell does his research.

That’s what I discovered when I set out to map each of the storylines in Cloud Atlas, from the Chatham Islands in the mid-19th century to the island of Hawai’i after The Fall (an unspecified apocalyptic event). Some of the locations mentioned in his book are fictional, while others are real. Either way, I was able to find real locations that corresponded to Mitchell’s descriptions of fictional locations by searching Google Maps. By studying topography, geo-tagged images, and transit routes, I was able to map the journeys made by the major characters in Cloud Atlas. The Internet is a treasure trove.

For fun, I also added the filming locations for the 2012 movie, which took place in three different countries.

Explore the Cloud Atlas story map here. Note that it does not display well on cell phone screens.

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As a result of this mapping project, I discovered a couple of motifs in the novel that have to do with place.

1. Making a Journey

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#1. Ewing takes months to travel from the Chathams to Hawai’i (see above).

#2. Frobisher describes his trip from Cambridge to Zedelghem in detail.

#3. Cavendish takes an arduous journey from London to Aurora House in Hull (see below).

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#4. Sonmi~451’s trip to Busan (Pusan in the novel) with Hae-Joo Im takes a few days (see above).

#5. Zach’ry takes Meronym to Mauna Kea.

Only Luisa’s story does not feature any one linear journey in space.

2. Ports, Bays, Marinas

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#1. The Prophetess is moored at Ocean Bay (see above).

#2. Frobisher ferries between Dover and Ostend.

#3. Joe Napier remembers Silvaplana Wharf, where he worked with Luisa Rey’s father; Napier and Bill Smoke shoot each other on the Starfish at the Cape Yerbas Marina.

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#4. Sonmi~451 writes her Declarations near an estuary in the port town of Busan (see above).

#5. Zach’ry mentions that his valley is near Flotilla Bay.

Only Cavendish is exempt from bodies of water.

3. Falling from Bridges

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#1. Luisa’s car is pushed off the Swannekke Bridge (see above).

#2. Sonmi~451 watches consumers toss a clone from a bridge into a river.

#3. A bridge collapses under the weight of the Kona horsemen. They drown in the river (see below).


I would not have expected that maps could be such a fruitful tool for analyzing novels!


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