Cloud Atlas: Chapter Summary (Chapter 5: An Orison on Sonmi-451)
ISonmi-451 is a fabricant, a clone. She is being interrogated by a young Archiver, who asks her to describe her story.
Sonmi’s earliest memories began in Papa Song, a future version of McDonald’s. She was a server fabricant, and she spent all day working in the fast food restaurant. Server fabricants have limited intelligence and live only in the restaurant.
One of Sonmi-451’s fellow fabricants, named Yoona-959, begins to develop intelligence. Her Ascension causes her to develop complex speech patterns, a thirst for knowledge, and a wish to escape the restaurant.
One night, Yoona-959 wakes Sonmi up and takes her out of the dorm. Their seer, Rhee, is passed out in his office overdosed on Soap, a drug given to fabricants to erase their memory and personalities. Yoona takes Seer Rhee’s keys and opens up a secret supply closet full of Pureblood artifacts. Pictures, jewelry, and books of fairytales. They begin to imagine the world outside full of castles and dragons.
Yoona tells Sonmi that she wants to escape, but Sonmi tells her not to. Yoona becomes chronically depressed and stops speaking to anyone. One day, in the middle of work, Yoona takes a young child to the elevator and goes up. Chaos ensues, and when the elevator comes down Yoona has been shot to death.
The world panics, and becomes frightened of all fabricants. The head of Papa Song’s blames Yoona’s erratic behavior on terrorists.
Yoona is replaced by another clone, and medical examinations are done of all the fabricants. The only thing unusual about Sonmi-451 is the comet-shaped birthmark on her back.
Sonmi begins her ascension, and, over the weeks, her language and curiosity develops intensely. One night, Seer Rhee fatally overdoses on Soap. All Sonmi’s sisters are asleep, but she can’t contain her curiosity. She gets up, and when she goes into the restaurant a chauffeur named Chang is waiting for her. He says she must come with him and takes her up the elevator into the outside world. Sonmi-451 has never seen the real sky or sun before.
They get into a car, and Sonmi is taken into University. Chang escorts her to the quarters of postgrad Boom-Sook Kim. When Boom-Sook comes in, he complains that they dropped her off early and leaves her alone for three days while he parties.
The first morning alone, Sonmi is woken up by Wing-027, a disaster fabricant. The mysterious scarred fabricant gives her new clothes and a laptop. He tells Sonmi that she is Boom-Sook’s case study.
Sonmi learns how to read, and within 6 months has finished secondary school. She finds out that Wing-027 was killed in a careless lab experiment by his postgrad. Boom-Sook laughs about Wing’s death, and Sonmi is furious.
Over summer recess, Sonmi is left alone. She hides for 50 days in the lab, studying. Boom-Sook comes back in Autumn. One night, Boom-Sook and a couple of his friends get drunk. They begin shooting fruit off of Sonmi’s head with a crossbow. They are interrupted by Boardman Mephi, who stops them and tends to Sonmi’s wounds.
Boardman escorts Sonmi to her new, luxurious quarters and explains that he found her because of her book downloads from the University servers. Sonmi is the first fabricant to complete a stable ascension, and she is a genius. She is given a soul collar, becomes a student, and is tested on.
After months of testing, Sonmi’s curiosity begins dying. Boardman assigns postgrad Hae-Joo Im to take her into the outside world. He takes her many places, and even disguises her and takes her back to Papa Song’s. She feels extreme pity for the fabricants she used to work with, and realizes that they are slaves.
Hae-Joo Im shows Sonmi a movie titled The Ghastly Ordeal of Timonthy Cavendish. Sonmi is thoroughly engrossed. In the middle of the movie, news arrives that enforcers have stormed the University, arrested the Boardman, and have orders to kill Sonmi-451.
Hae-Joo reveals that he is not a postgrad student at all.