Thursday, September 22, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

British author David Mitchell is most well-known for his seminal work 
Cloud Atlas (which is one of my favorite books of the 2000-2009 decade and was made into a fascinating, underrated 2012 movie by the Wachowski siblings starring Oscar winners Tom Hanks and Halle Berry).  His latest book is The Bone Clocks which I received as a present for Christmas in 2014 and I am ashamed it took me so long to pick it up and finally read  because in my opinion it's even more compelling than Cloud Atlas. The two books have a lot in common in that they are both written using the same structure, Mitchell's signature writing device (interlocking chapters or novellas set in various settings or styles featuring characters who are loosely related to others that appear in earlier chapters). Mitchell's books are often quite acclaimed by critics and are also recognized by fans and award nominating committees as belonging to the speculative fiction genre that encompasses science fiction and fantasy. For example, The Bone Clocks was the winner of the 2015 World Fantasy Award while Cloud Atlas  was nominated for the Man Booker, Nebula and Arthur C. Clarke awards. In Cloud Atlas, the interlocking chapters/novellas are written in various genres (a series of letters, historical love story, hardboiled detective mystery, far-future science fiction, etc) with very different characters in different times and places. However in The Bone Clocks, while several characters weave in and out of first-person perspective chapters, the setting moves from 1980s Thatcher's England to a near-apocalyptic 2034 United Kingdom and constantly revolves arounds a central science fiction-y mystery (involving the existence of creatures who can transfer their consciousness to achieve immortality). As with most of Mitchell's work, the writing is flashy but beautiful also.

If you liked Cloud Atlas  (and after 150,000 ratings on Goodreads it is above 4.0 on a 5-point scale) I am confident you will also love The Bone Clocks.

The central character in The Bone Clocks is Holly Sykes. In the beginning of the book she is a mindless teenage git but somehow she grows on you, even if she is not always front and center in the story.  (She's one of the characters that persist through the multiple novellas that make up the book). By the end of the tale she is a resourceful grandmother trying to insure a hopeful future for her extended family in a future dystopia. 

The book grabbed me on page 5 and never let me go for 600 pages and 48 hours later. It is divided into six sections set in six different years  over a half-century (A Hot Spell, 1984; Myrrh Is Mine, Its Bitter Perfume, 1991; The Wedding Bash, 2004; Crispin Hershey’s Lonely Planet, 2015; An Horologist’s Labyrinth, 2025; Sheep's Head, 2034). Some of these are not as successful as others but the last three (in particular) are absolutely sublime and the effect of reading them is entirely engrossing.

Overall, The Bone Clocks was one of my most enjoyable reads of 2015; a compelling, thought-provoking book whose characters and scenes resonate in the mind long after you turn the last page.

Title: The Bone Clocks.
David Mitchell.
Paperback: 640 pages.
 Random House.
Date Published: September 2, 2014.
Date Read: June 25, 2015.

OVERALL GRADE: A+ (4.25/4.0).


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