I really liked this book. My husband checked it out a few years back and started it, but then returned it the library unread. I had also seen it on the "too good to miss" shelf at my public library and felt like it was one I should read. One day, I was looking for something to fill an ehold spot and stuck it on my list without really thinking. When it came in, I realized that Mitchell was the author of Cloud Atlas (which I just finished less than a month ago and thought was awful) and so began to wish that I hadn't obtained this 511 page potential nautical disaster.
So, maybe my rating is slightly inflated because (unlike what so frequently happens) I was pleasantly surprised and truly enjoyed a book that I was expecting to suffer through.
Certainly the book is unbelievable: our main character Jacob is the sole honest person in Dijima; Orito is a burn victim, but still so lovely that she inspires awe-struck love in not one, but two men who are willing to risk their lives for her sake; the whole soul drinking Abbott is 600 years old and so satanic rituals work. But somehow, it just works for me. I found the story (even the story-within of Orito) to be so compelling that I didn't mind the side rambles (seems like every 50 pages or so we get the random back story of some sailor or merchant).
I was a bit sidetracked by the ONE chapter that was in first person (from the POV of Weh, a slave) when all of the others were third person, generally from the POV of Jacob. I'm not sure what the point was other than Mitchell wanted to write a short essay against slavery, but his earlier arguments (through Dr. Manius at dinner) were already quite clear.
I was also disappointed that Michell felt the need to wrap everything up so prettily. The first 493 pages describe the actions of 1 year, then he skips ahead 11 years for Manius's funeral and then again 6 years after that for Jacob's departure and then fast forward through the rest of his life (so the last 18 pages cover about 40 years). I thought this was annoying and unnecessary. I think I would have been happier if he ended it after the departure of the Pheobus.
I found some of his language to be anachronistic ("savvy" is used and that, as far as I know, comes from Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Carribean fame), and other times repetitive (if he referred to Jacob as "pastor's nephew" when he was about to engage in something less than honorable or "doctor's daughter" when Orito was doing something medical even one more time each, I might have thrown my kindle), but overall it was entertaining and compelling and still managed to have some commentary about human behavior (especially greed and desire).
My favorite quotes are below:
"two hours pass at the speed of one but exhaust Jacob like four"
"Creating unfolds around us, despite us, and through us, at the speed of days and nights, and we like to call it 'love'".
"Orito pictures the human mind as a loom that weaves disparate threads of belief, memory, and narrative into an entity whose common name is Self, and which sometimes calls itself Perception."
"the corollary of the phrase 'whatever is requisite' is that man's needs are universal, whereas, in truth, a king's requisites differ radically from a reed cutter's; a libertine's from an archbishop's; and his own from his grandfather's....Human requisite are prone to fashion, and, as clamoring new needs replace old ones, the face of the world itself changes."