Cloud Cuckoo Land, [Doerr's] erudite, exuberant new work, taps all his gifts while moving in a bold, fresh direction. If All the Light We Cannot See was a lyrical tour de force, Cloud Cuckoo Land is a David Mitchell-esque maze of interlocking stories and characters in three different timestreams, past, present, and future. Doerr’s reach is galactic, but there’s also a surprising intimacy here, as the elements orbit around a Greek text that has all but vanished ... In a big fiction year — and make no mistake, 2021 has been epic — Cloud Cuckoo Land stands out. The trope of the child in jeopardy is hardly original, but Doerr digs deep ... Doerr guides us through lavish backstories and broken hearts, war and peace, each chapter a masterstroke ... Layer by layer, Doerr builds a cathedral of a novel, rich with naves and transepts and soaring stained-glass windows, and yet he keeps us close to the pages, turning and turning. An intricate design emerges: Doerr’s a soothsayer obsessed with our survival, fearing the worst ... a profound compassion undergirds the novel as the pieces snap into place ... Doerr’s characters are astoundingly resilient, suggesting that we may yet save ourselves, with literature an essential tool. Their journeys leave footprints across our hearts ... With its breathtaking ambition and beautiful prose Cloud Cuckoo Land is the anti-Twitter novel we need, unabashedly celebrating the power of books and their caretakers.
... a paean to the nameless people who have played a role in the transmission of ancient texts and preserved the tales they tell. But it’s also about the consolations of stories and the balm they have provided for millenniums. It’s a wildly inventive novel that teems with life, straddles an enormous range of experience and learning, and embodies the storytelling gifts that it celebrates. It also pulls off a resolution that feels both surprising and inevitable, and that compels you back to the opening of the book with a head-shake of admiration at the Swiss-watchery of its construction ... What can possibly connect such an odd bunch of people? One minute we’re haggling with Venetian book collectors in a besieged city, the next, a single mother in Idaho is struggling to pay her bills, or someone in a hermetically sealed spaceship is wondering how a beetle got in there. It’s an amazing feat that drawing from such disparate story lines, Doerr manages to keep the book compelling, coherent and moving ... To begin with, you have to take it on trust that all these elements somehow form part of a whole. Then bit by bit, the nature of the connections between each story comes tantalizingly into focus ... Doerr’s storytelling is bracing and energetic. His characters are engaging and, as readers of All the Light We Cannot See will recall, he’s nailed a particular style of rhythmic incantatory prose that uses crunchy present-tense verbs and vivid detail to grip the reader’s attention ... Above all, Doerr understands the pulse of changing fortune, the switches of destiny from good to bad and back again that have been the heartbeat of great storytelling since Gilgamesh and the Popol Vuh ... Although Cloud Cuckoo Land is a thoughtful, learned book, it’s also accessible. This feels like both an aesthetic choice and — in the broadest sense — a political one ... In fact, Doerr’s is much more than a mechanistic or childish device for passing time. It’s a humane and uplifting book for adults that’s infused with the magic of childhood reading experiences.
Doerr does amazing things with his story, with this narrative spread unevenly across such disparate characters, such different voices. He makes links that persist across centuries, flits from place to place and person to person with an enviable grace, making seemingly impossible logical and temporal leaps seem as natural as breath. Between the covers, across hundreds of pages, he has everything — birth and death, love and war, heists, escapes, the particular (though not unique) perils of growing up in 1453, 1940, 2020 and 2146. He breaks the story into a thousand pieces, then spends every page carefully putting it all back in order again ... Doerr does not overstate the importance of the story-within-a-story. If anything, he makes a point of reminding us again and again how easy it is for books to be lost across the ages ... The book is a puzzle. The greatest joy in it comes from watching the pieces snap into place. It is an epic of the quietest kind, whispering across 600 years in a voice no louder than a librarian's. It is a book about books, a story about stories. It is tragedy and comedy and myth and fable and a warning and a comfort all at the same time. It says, Life is hard. Everyone believes the world is ending all the time. But so far, all of them have been wrong ... It says that if stories can survive, maybe we can, too.
... a deep lungful of fresh air – and a gift of a novel ... Each character’s story is graceful and suspenseful in itself, but it is the deftness, cunning and feeling with which the author braids them around the tale of the dim-witted lamebrain who longs to be a bird that make this book the simultaneously risky and necessary wonder it is ... Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land argues that love, care and putting things back together are the best uses of human energy. Yet this is a novel in which work isn’t just a costume its characters are wearing over their emotional lives ... This is a novel so full that, if it can be said to be 'about' anything, perhaps it is about how things survive by chance, and through love. But the book is also keenly aware of the fact that humans have basically exhausted our chances, and it is time for a fierce and tenacious love to step up – by sharing and passing on what is mended and changed, like Diogenes’s book, with its delights and consolations – to save what we still have on Earth, and what is ours, as well as what we enjoy here, though it isn’t ours ... With all its tenderness for human life and animal life, and libraries, this novel nevertheless acknowledges that civilisation continues to insist on not going anywhere without packing its poisons.
... experiences more growing pains as it grows and grows across 626 pages ... Whereas Doerr's previous novel was so enthralling that we didn't mind shifting between its equally fascinating protagonists, Cloud wants us to be charmed by half a dozen main characters. I wasn't and, as a result, chunks of the novel — the Konstance parts, mostly — had me wishing that Doerr would get back to the more captivating people ... Doerr also misses an opportunity with the children who are creating the play ... Doerr has not lost the gift for making us love his characters, though ... Doerr's excesses are part of this novel's big-hearted, sprawling appeal.
While we are in the company of his creation, Mr. Doerr pulls off the crucial trick that any novelist would have to execute to make such a testament to the power of stories more than just a literary public-service announcement. In “Cloud Cuckoo Land,” he writes a marvel of a story himself, filled with gorgeous language and distinctive characters. He sweeps readers in and gives us the enveloping experience of living in another world—a Cloud Cuckoo Land, if you will, of the imagination. Put simply, Mr. Doerr shows rather than tells us readers what a great story can do ... transports us to places far above the stars and down into the mud. It dazzles and disturbs. I, for one, wanted Mr. Doerr’s vast and overwhelming story to last much, much longer ... But, perhaps not entirely knowingly, this great novel also raises disquieting questions: What happens when the stories are no longer enough to allow us to 'slip the trap'? When we are flooding in some places, burning in others, and a friend’s virus-laden laugh might kill us? When we blow up the children listening raptly to stories in our hallowed libraries? We say that we tell ourselves stories in order to live, but maybe that resonant axiom is the most desperately needed story of all.
While the changes in points of view can be dizzying at first, Doerr’s writing grounds the reader in homely but often beautiful details ... This is an ambitious, genre-busting novel, with climate change as a major undercurrent. And while sorrow and violence play large roles, so does tenderness. Like All the Light We Cannot See, Cloud Cuckoo Land resolves into a well-connected plot, with threaded connections that are unexpected yet inevitable, offering hope and some surprising acts of redemption.
... ingenius ... At first it seems daunting to remember all the individual plotlines, but the narratives refract off each other, like different settings in a kaleidoscope. They intersect and echo each other in marvelous ways, connecting across the centuries (both past and future) and spanning continents ... 'Open the box, walk the lines of sentences: the singer steps out, and breathes a world of color and noise into the space inside your head.' That’s about as apt a description of what books do as any. And this book is a perfect example of that brilliant magic!
... [a] masterful novel that spans centuries as it brilliantly examines the lives of five young people ... Doerr demonstrates a singular gift for bringing these complex, fully realized characters to empathetic life in this brilliantly imagined story, which moves backward and forward in time. Interspersed among the five children’s evolving stories is the saga of Aethon’s quest. One of the joys of reading Cloud Cuckoo Land is discovering the threads that link the five characters’ lives, which ultimately cohere in ways that are simply unforgettable, as is this amazing gift of a novel.
It’s less a novel than a big therapeutic contraption, moving with sincere deliberation toward millions of eager readers. The author might reply, with some justice, that a fable is a therapeutic contraption, and so is plenty of Dickens. Doerr’s new novel, though, is more of a contraption, and more earnestly therapeutic, than any adult fiction I can recall reading. The obsessive connectivity resembles a kind of novelistic online search, each new link unfolding inescapably from its predecessor, as our author keeps pressing Return ... Having laid out his flagrantly disparate cast, Doerr must insist on that cast’s almost freakish genealogical coherence. This formal insistence becomes the novel’s raison d’être. We have no idea how these people or periods relate to one another, or how they rationally could. But storytelling, redefined as esoteric manipulation, will reveal the code; the novelist is the magus, the secret historian. Although the book is largely set in a recognizable actual world, largely obeys the laws of physics, and features human beings, storytelling, stripped of organic necessity, aerates itself into fantasy ... the reader is always playing Doerr’s game of catch-up, eager to reach a finale that has already functioned as prelude ... [Doerr] often writes very well, and is excellent at the pop-up scenic evocations required by big novels that move around a lot. Although the arcs of his stories may tend toward a kind of sentimental pedagogy, his sentences, in the main, scrupulously avoid it. He knows how to animate a picture; he knows which details to choose...Yet his prose is regularly on the verge of formula, and too often capitulates to baser needs ... Proficient prose supports an extravagance of storytelling; excellent craftsmanship holds together a flashing edifice; tight plotting underwrites earnestly immense themes. Every so often, a more subtle observer emerges amid these gapped extremities, a writer interested merely in honoring the world about him ... fraught with preachment. This novel of performative storytelling that is also a novel about storytelling is dedicated to 'the librarians then, now, and in the years to come' ... Artistically, this sincere moral and political urgency does the novel few favors, as the book veers between its relentless thematic coherence and wild fantasias of storytelling. But that urgency may also account for the novel’s brute didactic power; it is hard to read, without a shudder, the sections about the desperate and deluded Argonauts, committed to voyaging for centuries through space-time because life on earth has failed. A pity, then, and a telling one, that Doerr finally resolves nearly every story optimistically and soothingly. And Konstance’s hurtling spaceship? Oh, it turns out to be the biggest therapeutic contraption of all.
... exceedingly busy ... Think of it as a triptych love letter to the millions of readers who made his previous novel, the Pulitzer Prize-winning All the Light We Cannot See, a phenomenal bestseller ... Any one of these stories — except the sci-fi tale, which has a moldy Twilight Zone funk — might have made a compelling novel. But Doerr has not only packed them together, he’s put them in a blender and then laid out the bits in a great scramble, as though his own book were a textual puzzle as complicated as the ancient Diogenes codex ... Yes, libraries are awesome, and we all love books. But the artificial convolutedness of Cloud Cuckoo Land is not enough to confer any additional depth on Doerr’s simple, belabored theme, a theme that thumps through the novel insisting that every character kneel in reverent submission ... What’s worse, julienning these disparate plots saps them of their natural drama, and no amount of grandiose narration can pump that tension back in. The fall of Constantinople inches forward so deliberately you’ll think you’re dragging the sultan’s great cannon along the ground by yourself ... That problem becomes even more acute in the contemporary sections. While Zeno and the children are practicing their theatrical adaptation of Cloud Cuckoo Land, an eco-terrorist slips into the library carrying a homemade bomb equipped with a cellphone trigger. It’s a terrifying setup, but the scenes are laboriously sliced almost into individual breaths. Had I known the cellphone number, I would have dialed it myself.
Doerr is less interested in world-building than world-connecting. His meta-narrative is not a pointillistic patchwork but a seamless tapestry ... At the end of the novel, Konstance breaks through a wall. It’s one of several unexpected turns revealing, above all, that Doerr still hopes for human redemption. Does he believe in it? What matters more is whether the reader does — whether we have the will to breach the walls we have constructed.
... to an impressive extent, it succeeds. Wonderment and despair, love and destruction and hope – all find their place in its sumptuously plotted pages, along with a generous smattering of classical philosophy ... Though it isn’t short, Cloud Cuckoo Land’s lyrical, propulsive pages feel like a feat of compression. After all, this is a book that draws on the entire past, present and future of human civilisation. As well as a tribute to the magic of reading, Doerr has pulled off something timelier. Through its exploration of loss, heroism and destiny, Cloud Cuckoo Land grapples with the climate crisis and humankind’s culpability, and does so with wisdom and clemency. By its close, a novel characterised by its questing nature for “the mysteries beyond” has become an ode to home.
Doerr delivers in a big way ... In some hands, this could have been a big mess. The good news: Doerr’s creation lifts off quickly, soars, and then, like the various wildfowl wheeling through the story, lands with practiced finesse ... Fueled by deep imagination and insistent compassion, Doerr weaves together his storylines with brisk pacing that never feels rushed. His characters struggle, search, and learn, mirroring the travels and trials of Aethon himself ... One of the joys of the novel is its vivid, energetic language ... Writing in the midst of pandemic and lockdown, Doerr, in the words of Aristophanes, has successfully created 'something big, smacking of the clouds.'
... admirable in its ambition. Doerr’s ability to juggle all the stories and interlock them over the course of 600+ pages is quite a literary feat. It helps that the characters in the sub-stories are so likable ... piecing together the plot of the manuscript is not the point. The novel within the novel serves another purpose. It’s the story that gives all the characters the freedom to dream ... If it all sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. But it’s the kind of thing only a novel can do. And it’s a trip well worth taking with the inimitable Doerr.
... deeply affecting ... meant to target the neighboring real estate office. Doerr seamlessly shuffles each of these narratives in vignettes that keep the action in full flow and the reader turning the pages. The descriptions of Constantinople, Idaho, and the Argos are each distinct and fully realized, and the protagonists of each are united by a determination to survive and a hunger for stories, which in Doerr’s universe provide the greatest nourishment. This is a marvel.