The novel is a paean dedicated to books and libraries, painting five stories separated by time but connected via a singular, fictional book. Two tales follow children stuck on opposing sides during a siege of Constantinople in 15th century, two other resides in a fictional town in Idaho around the 20th century and beyond, while the final character lives in the near-future on an inter-planetary ship. Through dumb luck, the four who live in the past all end up preserving an antediluvian, fictional Greek codex called “Cloud Cuckoo Land.”
The eponymous Greek book itself plays as essential role throughout the novel, introducing themes and motifs which the reader can easily grasp onto. It’s really an AP Lit teacher’s dream come true with the deluge of overt themes like the power of knowledge and of those who controls the knowledge, the very human desire to reach too high, or simply the horrors of warfare.
But I think I connected with how time was treated in the novel. Depending on context, years, or even a whole lifetime, would pass in a single chapter. It reminds me of Gentleman in Moscow, where time accelerated through the chapters. Decades seemingly compressed into two sentences whilst the adventures as a child were so exquisitely detailed. Life seems diminutive as time marches on and destroys those that were not carefully preserved.
With that solemn conclusion, it still has a positive angle. No matter how meaningless an action now is, as long as humanity lives on, it might have a positive impact on someone down the line. We’ll be dust by then and our contributions will be lost to time, but posterity will nevertheless appreciate the bit of effort.
It’s a fairly well-written book overall. I thought there were several plot points missing and a bit too many deus ex machinas, but I did really enjoy it.