Everything that happens has consequences in the future and one weekend for a 15-year old teenager after a fight with her mother has unexpected consequences throughout the rest of her life. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell follows the life Holly Sykes through her own eyes and those four other characters during 60 years of her life.
The book begins with a 15-year old Holly Sykes leaving home after a fight with her mother, only to have a life altering weekend for herself involving a trip to a paranormal world that she forgets and her family as her younger brother disappears. The book ends with a 74-year old Holly taking care of and wondering about the future of her granddaughter and foster son as climate change and resource depletion are sending the world towards a new dark age, though a surprising return of an old acquitance results in them having a future. Between these two segments we follow the lives of an amoral political student Hugo Lamb, Holly’s husband Ed, author Crispin Hershey, and Marinus who is both a new and old acquaintance of Holly’s for a period of time in which they interact with Holly during different periods of her life that at first seem random but as the narrative progresses interconnect with one another in surprising ways including glimpses into a centuries long supernatural war in which Holly was directly involved in twice.
From beginning to end, Mitchell created a page-turner in which the reader did not know what to expect. The blending of fiction and fantasy from the beginning then science fiction as the story went beyond 2014 (year of publication) as the narrative continued was expertly done. The use of first-person point-of-views were well done as was the surprise that the book wasn’t all through Holly’s point-of-view but switched with each of the six segments of the book giving the reader a mosaic view of Holly’s life. The introduction and slow filling in of the fantasy elements of the story were well done so when it really became the focus of the book in its fifth segment the reader was ready for it. On top of that the layers of worldbuilding throughout the book were amazing, as characters from one person’s point-of-view had random interactions with someone in another and so on. If there was one letdown it was the science fiction, nearly dystopian, elements of 2043 in which the political-economic setting seems farfetched—namely China who would be in trouble if there is an energy crisis and thus not dominate economically as portrayed in the book—that made the denouement land with a thud.
I had no idea what to expect from The Bone Clocks and frankly David Mitchell impressed me a lot, save for the final 10% of the book. The blending of straight fiction, fantasy, and science fiction was amazing throughout the narrative and the numerous layers of worldbuilding, plot, and slowly evolving of the mostly unseen supernatural war that was instrumental to main points of the narrative. If a friend were to ask me about this book I would highly recommend it to them.
This book was in the back row of one of my double-stacked book shelves. Out of sight, out of mind. I forgot I’d bought it some time ago (and paid extra for the prettiest cover), which is unfortunate, because Slade House would have made SO MUCH MORE SENSE from the start if I had read The Bone Clocks first.
It was the use of the phrase “bone clock” in Slade House that reminded me I had this book. Better read late than never, I suppose, and Slade House was fresh enough in my mind that I was still able to connect a whole bunch of dots. Yay.
As for The Bone Clocks, I loved it. I still dislike present tense and Ed’s POV section seemed largely unnecessary, but those are my only complaints. I still love Mitchell’s storytelling, and I think he outdid himself here. Interesting characters with interesting stories (for the most part) tied together by an even more interesting string of events is something Mitchell does really well. In this case, the overarching story is a lot more cohesive than Cloud Atlas or even Slade House, and it builds slowly and almost sneakily to a pretty cool climax. As a bonus, there’s the usual smattering of book recs contained within the text, and while I’m looking for them at the library I might see if I can also discover the symbolism of birds on spades.
This is a gimmick book, which in itself isn't a bad thing if there's a good story in there. Maybe there was a such thing in this, but unfortunately for me all that was buried under heaps of problems.
The first ninety pages were a positive surprise. A man writing a fifteen-year-old girl in first person voice can only end up in disaster, was my first thought and indeed it was too good to last. Because the first time jump and second part started the stalker trend.
Instead of continuing writing Holly's story from her perspective, Mitchell does everything in his power to reduce her into a pawn and object in the lives of men around her. Holly disappears into the background and is only shown through glimpses in the moments most important to her life and story.
A one night stand, a would be husband, the love of her adult life, and then the world saving or ending battle through an alien black woman. That's a bad description but it's the best I can do for the fifth narrator and point of view character. To add insult to the injury Mitchell uses POC to refer to a "Pear Occident Company" and reduces the immortals into small minded trans-phobics with a single line.
Fun times end with a second short part from Holly's point of view and with her aged voice, but it's too little too late. The story, its characters, and the author had already lost me for good.