The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
Genre: Sci-Fi / Contemporary
My Rating: 5/5
Synopsis: Run away, one drowsy summer’s afternoon, with Holly Sykes: wayward teenager, broken-hearted rebel and unwitting pawn in a titanic, hidden conflict.
Over six decades, the consequences of a moment’s impulse unfold, drawing an ordinary woman into a world far beyond her imagining. And as life in the near future turns perilous, the pledge she made to a stranger may become the key to her family’s survival . . .
It was pretty obvious to me from the get-go that The Bone Clocks was going to get 5/5 from me. As one of my favourite authors, it’s inconceivable to me that David Mitchell could ever produce a bad book. The Bone Clocks is another of his thrilling, fantastical, far-reaching novels. For Mitchell, the notions of your soul continuing on, and of the ‘butterfly effect’, are ones that Mitchell employs time again in his novels. Ghostwritten, number9dream, Cloud Atlas, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Black Swan Green and Slade House all have their similarities and differences, but Mitchell’s core interests remain the same. How do our actions affect the future of others? Do our souls live on physically or just in memory?
Again, these themes are explored in The Bone Clocks through numerous characters. Mitchell once again plots his novel over a number of years – an aspect I really enjoy; it definitely creates a closer connection between the reader and the character to watch characters grow not over days but years, and to see their memories live on and their actions reach others. Multiple POVs are also used, as can be expected with Mitchell, and the differing voices are highly unique and enjoyable to read. But the main protagonist of the novel is Holly Sykes. We first meet her in the 1980s as a heart-broken teenager, running away from her disloyal boyfriend and her mother who just doesn’t understand. The people she meets as she runs away from Gravesend cause a chain of events that will make ripples throughout Holly’s life and the lives of those close to her for decades to come – a brief lover, a sarcastic author, and a soul that has lived many lives are just some of the narrators you will meet.
The blurb doesn’t give much away in terms of just what Holly gets herself tangled up in, and I don’t want to give away too much either, so I’ll just say this: expect a bleak, apocalyptic future, magical battles between good and evil, and the strength of humanity’s will to survive. I adored this novel. There wasn’t a single character I didn’t like, except the villains, but even one so-called villain struck a chord of sympathy within me; if you’ve read the novel you’ll probably know who I mean. Mitchell’s writing, like his characters, is funny, poetic and thoroughly truthful.
The Bone Clocks does indeed draw comparisons with Cloud Atlas mostly, and readers of Mitchell’s previous novels will notice characters who they’ve already met pop up in The Bone Clocks, as well as characters from The Bone Clocks appearing in Slade House (which I have yet to read). I really love this idea that Mitchell’s books all reside within the same universe. That 2043 Ireland with decaying technology and a lack of oil is a portent of the post-apocalyptic society that Zachry inhabits in Cloud Atlas. Again, I don’t want to spoil what previous characters pop up, or to spoil the plots of his other novels, so I’ll leave you to read and see for yourself, but I love this technique of Mitchell’s. It feels as though none of Mitchell’s novels ever truly end; I may have finished with Zachry or Sonmi-451’s futuristic stories, but I know they’re just around the corner from The Bone Clocks. For a reader, this is a really comforting; I hate that desolate feeling you have after finishing a really good book.
And briefly, for those worried that this novel topples over into too much ‘magic’ as I’ve mentioned, it is perhaps more fantastical than some of Mitchell’s other novels, but it by no means falls into the realms of true fantasy, nor do the magical elements seem unrealistic, at least not after you get used to them.
So, if you haven’t read a David Mitchell novel, I urge you to do so. Personally, I would suggest Cloud Atlas as the best starting point, but don’t be put off by the idea of over-lapping characters; there aren’t any spoilers and all the novels are stand-alone. However, The Bone Clocks is also another great book to introduce you to David Mitchell. Witty and profound, this novel didn’t disappoint me.
Have you read The Bone Clocks? Did you enjoy it? What about any of Mitchell’s other novels? Let me know in the comments below!