I really seriously liked this book. It’s not to be confused with Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell for starters, which is some kind of post-modern narrative-confused novel that I’ve yet to read. Instead, The Cloud Atlas is the story of an 18 year-old bomb disposal sergeant who’s sent to Alaska to help defuse Japanese bombs.

You see, the problem is that it’s late in WW2 and the Japanese are launching dozens of incendiary-laden balloons in the expectation of setting fires and killing civilians on mainland USA. And how to stop these things is a very real issue.

The twist is that much of the tale is told by the protagonist as he sits at the bedside of a dying “Eskimo” shaman, and he himself has become a Catholic priest…

The story hinges beautifully on the rich relationship between the shaman and the priest. They’re both spiritual healers, themselves hurt, and both hiding in the wilderness of Alaska.

This is Callanan’s first book, and there are some marked faults. The threat of trouble form the South announced early in the book never arrives for example. You can forgive this oversight though because the relations between the main characters are so detailed and realistic. You can also forgive the slightly abrupt ending.

Otherwise, if not only for the characterisations alone, you should read this novel.

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