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The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

The Bone Clocks (edition 2015)

by David Mitchell (Author)

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2,5681862,338 (3.84)1 / 337
Title:The Bone Clocks
Authors:David Mitchell (Author)
Info:Sceptre (2015), 640 pages
Collections:Currently reading

Work details

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

  1. 100
    Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (jody)
    jody: Has that same clever connectivity that makes mitchells books so intriguing.
  2. 80
    American Gods by Neil Gaiman (sturlington)
    sturlington: The Bone Clocks reminded me strongly of Neil Gaiman and David Mitchell has said that Gaiman was an influence.
  3. 71
    The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (vwinsloe)
    vwinsloe: Similar tone. Fantasy.
  4. 40
    TransAtlantic by Colum McCann (zhejw)
    zhejw: Both books explore human connections made across multiple generations and across oceans while ultimately concluding in Ireland.
  5. 41
    1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (suniru)
  6. 20
    Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (MsMaryAnn)
  7. 20
    The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (shurikt)
    shurikt: Fascinating character studies, and just enough (possibly) supernatural activity to bend genre.
  8. 10
    California by Edan Lepucki (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  9. 10
    The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas (jonathankws)
  10. 10
    The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (hairball)
    hairball: The world falls apart...
  11. 32
    Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco (Tanya-dogearedcopy)
  12. 14
    Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (vwinsloe)
    vwinsloe: Similar plot points.

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English (186)  Dutch (3)  German (1)  All (190)
Showing 1-5 of 186 (next | show all)
This book has a bit of an identity crisis. On the one hand, it's a web of individuals' stories that interconnect, a crisscrossing tangle of tales, with separate sections narrated by several characters whose lives cross paths. On the other hand, it's a bad Harry Potter wannabe.

The first version presents a wide scope, covering different continents, different characters, and delving so deeply into their personalities, neuroses, and lives that before long we care deeply about each, which is generally a good thing in a novel. Here, however, we are left in the lurch at the end of one particular character's thread as that character drops off the page, and pick up with a different one, but at the worst possible moment to pick up a new story. For example, we are left wondering, after Holly's first section, what happened with Jacko, her relationship with her mother, with Ed, and even with Vinny. Hugo's section ends with its own questions: did he join, did he not? What was he suspected of by the police? And did he ever get in touch with Holly again? Same thing with Ed. We pick up his story several years on, to find that his storyline with Holly has simply been elided and it's several years down the road, when the best parts of their tale are missing. And how does his story end? Does he go back or not? We don't pick up the tails of these storylines till hundreds of pages later.

The other, supernatural theme, is really the core of the book, and serves to link all the stories and characters together. In fact, all the disparate characters and their histories sort of lead up to the climactic last part of the novel, basically a good-vs-evil battle of the super-people vs the soul vampires. So the problem is, if that's the crux of your book, why meander for 400 pages of character analysis and backstory?

The supernatural theme is also a bit cheesy. Some of the lines given to the characters make you wince, and the terminology and ideas relating to these spiritual super-people are a bit meh. ""die-die"? "suasion"? "decanting souls"? "psychosoterics"? You might as well throw in a few "horcruxes" and get it over with.

I wanted to love this book. I loved "Cloud Atlas" (how do you underline in this review?) because of the richly developed individualized and highly realized worlds Mitchell created for each character and situation and time. We get that here, except that instead of the sweeping picture of interconnectedness on a universal, global, and spiritual level that you have in that novel, here, while we have tighter connections between characters (they know each other, for example), the supernatural element that links them all is a bit silly. ( )
  ChayaLovesToRead | Feb 28, 2017 |
This post assumes that you have read the book. SPOILERS AHEAD

A Hot Spell: 1984 – Holly Sykes
The Bone Clocks kicks off with Holly Sykes. She’s a British teenager, typically rebellious and in love for the first time. Her story is relatable, even if she’s a bit annoying at first (aren’t we all annoying at that age?).

I loved Holly section. Mitchell made her feel immediately accessible and real. She feels like any teenager you might know, someone young, dealing with heartbreak for the first time. That's crucial because just as you get comfortable in her story, things get weird. We understand her and relate to her and so when the situation turns to the fantastical we can imagine how strange the scenario would be through her eyes. Her section reminded me a little bit of The Dark Is Rising series.

Myrrh Is Mine, Its Bitter Perfume: 1991 – Hugo Lamb
Next in line is a devious university student. Hugo’s lack of a moral code and creativity in his scheming was fascinating. He was a character who you aren't exactly rooting for, but you secretly enjoy seeing what he can get away with. He’s so charismatic, you can see how others trust him and fall under his spell. It was strange, almost a bit out of character, to see him actually care about something when he met Holly. In every scene of his, I just kept thinking, what’s his angle? He always thought through every situation to find out exactly how it would benefit him. So every time he interacted with someone, I was just waiting to see what his true motivation was.

The Wedding Bash: 2004 – Ed Brubeck
Ed is a war journalist working in Baghdad. It’s the same Ed from Holly’s section and now they have a daughter together and he’s home for a short trip for Holly’s sister’s wedding on the Brighton pier. When his daughter Aoife went missing my entire body was anxious. I was terrified for Ed and Holly, and the entire Sykes family, which had already been through this with Jacko.

I loved Ed’s conversation on the pier with Immaculée Constantin. She's so deliciously evil. I also loved the conversation with Holly's great aunt Eilísh. Her experience with Jacko shed so much light on the story. The flashbacks to Ed's time in Baghdad lost me for a minute because it was so different from the rest of the book, but just like the other switches in narrative, after a bit it clicked for me.

A Few Thoughts:
Switching gears between each story was hard. I remember feeling the same way when reading Cloud Atlas. Each section was so different, at first there felt like there was no flow between them. But soon you fall into a new rhythm and somehow it works. By the time I finished the third section it was obvious that Holly was the thread tying all the stories together. I loved that we were able to see her at different stages throughout her life. It reminded me of Kitchens of the Great Midwest in the sense that it is one character’s story, but told through the eyes of so many people around her.
One of the most fascinating things about this book is that it's mainly about normal people, with everyday problems, except there's also a supernatural element threaded through the entire book. The very fact that the characters are so relatable and human makes the supernatural element so readable. Because you were seeing it through their eyes and their incredulity matches your own. I loved the way that was handled.

It is not an easy book to read. It is complicated and at times it’s hard to follow. But for me, so far, the stumbling blocks have been more than worth it. I’m intrigued by the whole world Mitchell has created. Each character adds intricate layers to the story. It's beautifully written. I feel like each section has its own unique tone and cadence. I certainly don’t understand the whole picture yet, but I trust that we’ll get there.


Crispin Hershey’s Lonely Planet: 2015 – Crispin Hershey
Crispin is such a self-centered jerk at the beginning of his section. I felt like his character became a bit more grounded over the few years we had with him. I thought it was interesting to see how Holly’s “gift” developed as she got older. It was such a blessing and a curse for her. I was absolutely horrified by how Crispin’s “prank” ended up ruining a man’s life. It was certainly a lesson in choosing forgiveness over revenge.

Honestly, I was hoping to learn a bit more about Soleil Moore, the woman who shot him. I felt like she came out of nowhere and I wanted to know more about how she’d discovered so much. I thought she’d pop up in one of the final two sections, but she never did.

An Horologist’s Labyrinth: 2025 – Marinus
This section felt so different from the others. I liked it because it explained so much of the backstory that was only hinted at before. At the same time, I missed the human connection I felt in some of the other sections. This one felt a bit like watching a movie unfold, if that makes any sense.

After Marinus explains the history of the Anchorites and Horologists, I felt more invested in the fight between the two warring factions. While reading this section I went back and reread the battle scene from the first section. It made so much more sense. Here’s a brief description I found of the two sides:

“The good guys are a group of people who get reincarnated 49 days after they die, with full knowledge of their past lives. The bad guys achieve a kind of pseudo-immortality – they stop ageing, but can still be killed by violence or accident – by murdering psychic children, ‘decanting’ their souls into an evil wine."

That just about covers it. Although in the book it felt much more human to me because by the time we learn all of this we are already invested in Marinus’ story. For me, Marinus was a great character. She gives us a deeper view into the supernatural elements, but she also conveys her loneliness before finding the other horologists and her grief after she loses so many of her friends in 1984. When she searches for Esther in Holly’s memories, I liked the glimpses we gained into Holly’s life.

This section was full of action, betrayal, backstabbing, and a massive battle. So much happens!

Sheep’s Head: 2043
So, I thought it was a strange choice to have everything come to a head in the last section, then we jump forward in time and land on the sedate Sheep’s Head island. It’s interesting to see the turn the world has taken, but for me it felt anticlimactic. I also felt like I was being preached at about climate change, which took me out of the story while I was reading it.

I did like seeing Holly as an older woman. That was one of my favorite parts of the entire book, seeing Holly’s life at different points. Mitchell created such a rich character in Holly Sykes. I loved watching her mature and grieve and struggle and fall in love.

BOTTOM LINE: This book is one that will be with me for a long time. It felt like such an experience. Sometimes I read things and a week or two later I realize very little of the book stuck with me. That won’t be the case with The Bone Clocks. Part of that is because of its length, but it’s also because it’s a complex novel. I had to work hard to make sure I was paying attention and catching references in each section. It doesn’t sound fun when you describe it that way, but it really was. I loved the layers of the story. I was constantly thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it.

This is definitely not a book I would recommend to everyone. There were parts and characters that I struggled to connect with, but on the whole, I really loved it. Mitchell doesn’t create light, disposable novels. His books should be savored. He builds worlds that leave you reeling and I was left wanting to read even more of his work.

“When a parent dies, a filing cabinet full of all the fascinating stuff also ceases to exist. I never imagined how hungry I'd be one day to look inside it.”

Power is lost or won, never created or destroyed. Power is a visitor to, not a possession of, those it empowers. The mad tend to crave it, many of the sane crave it, but the wise worry about its long-term side effects. Power is crack cocaine for your ego and battery acid for your soul. Power’s comings and goings, from host to host, via war, marriage, ballot box, diktat, and accident of birth, are the plot of history. The empowered may serve justice, remodel the Earth, transform lush nations into smoking battlefields, and bring down skyscrapers, but power itself is amoral.”

“While the wealthy are no more likely to be born stupid than the poor, a wealthy upbringing compounds stupidity while a hardscrabble childhood dilutes it, if only for Darwinian reasons.
If an atrocity isn't written about, it stops existing when the last witnesses die."

“Adverbs are cholesterol in the veins of prose.” ( )
  bookworm12 | Feb 16, 2017 |
It is always clearly obvious when a special book passes through our book club. The comments and speculation on theme, plot and style start early, long before the scheduled discussion, and the general vibe during the meeting is turned up a notch or two.

Such was the case this month with David Mitchell’s latest novel The Bone Clocks. This book is so cram-packed with discussion material, it is hard to know where to start. The struggle between good and evil is clearly the over-riding theme, but Mitchell does this age-old conflict with such a new and exciting mix of realism and fantasy that he creates a literary vortex of deception, trickery and fifth dimensional combat. Once in there, literally impossible to pull out!

Not to everyone’s taste certainly, but the majority of our group loved this book. It breaks many grammatical rules and the narrative style does not come under the category of ‘easy reading’, but Mitchell’s craft of spinning an intertwining, complex tale of other worlds has to be appreciated. The topical subjects that he constantly plants within his plot make what might be a pure fantasy into something relevant.
Also admirable, is the fact that he can organise his stories to include references to his other novels, which are undetectable unless you’ve read them. And we agreed that the reoccurring precense of Holly’s character helped with stablising the story’s course.

It may sound like a difficult read, and some of us checked out the many online reviews to help with some clarifications of plot, (there are moments when a reader can easily get lost) and some found copious notes helped, but either way, it was a great effort by everyone to tackle this book and the majority of us feel it was an amazing read … one that scored high and will no doubt be a strong contender for our favourite book this year.
  jody12 | Jan 29, 2017 |
I have to admit I was a bit disappointed with this novel especially after all the positive reviews I've heard about both Cloud Atlas and David Mitchell as an author. I'm wondering if perhaps I picked the wrong book by Mitchell to read first, or if I would have been just as disappointed no matter what title I began with. Having said that I still fully intend to read his other works and let me add that The Bone Clock wasn't horrible but it felt almost rushed and even a little half-assed, to me, like maybe it wasn't quite as put together or developed as it could have been because it's writer was under contract and had a deadline to make...but that's just my personal speculation. ( )
  JordanAshleyPerkins | Jan 26, 2017 |
This was my third attempt to read The Bone Clocks, and I desperately wanted to lie it (or at least to finish it this time). I am still trying to decide what I think of it. Much of it - indeed, most of it - was marvellously entertaining, written with Mitchell's customary verve. I did, however, struggle to enjoy the rest of it, and as that might be said to be the crucial part, I suppose that now I just have to write it off as something that didn’t work for me.

Like his earlier novel, the marvellous Cloud Atlas, this book features several narratives delivered in the first person by a selection of different characters. The first is recounted by Holly Sykes, who leaves her home in Gravesend in 1984, aged 15, following a cataclysmic argument with her mother. The succeeding chapters are related by different characters who encounter Holly over the course of the next fifty or so years.

Some of those succeeding chapters are excellent. My favourite section of Cloud Atlas, which featured an almost concentric chapter structure, was 'The Ghastly Ordeal Of Timothy Cavendish' which recounted the travails visited upon an opportunist but seldom successful publisher. I found that 'Crispin Hershey's Lonely Planet' formed a close counterpart to this in the new novel, and I especially enjoyed the literary poisoned darts that Hershey/Mitchell threw out at some readily identifiable literary sacred cows of the present day.

There was, however, a more troubling side to the book. Throughout the novel there are references to a struggle between The Horology and The Anchorites, two warring bands of people with their own respective brands of superpowers. The members of the Horology move from one carrier body to another, repeatedly inhabiting new forms and extending their lives over centuries or even, in the case of Esther Little, over millennia. The Anchorites also have paranormal abilities but their particular twist is to aspire towards eternal youth. These two groups are in perpetual enmity, and episodes of their combat intrude into the otherwise 'normal' activities captured in the novel.

As always with Mitchell, the book is beautifully written. The separate narratives each demonstrate their own style, quite plausibly suggesting completely different authors, and he effortlessly conveys their respective social and emotional hinterlands. Throughout the greater part of the book, everyone behaves entirely credibly, and the book builds to an enchanting climax. Sadly, the final section of the book simply defeated me.

I am willing to accept the charge of being a hidebound traditionalist, perhaps simply too middle aged and middle class, but I found this exceptionally annoying, and it detracted significantly from my enjoyment of the book. If I had wanted to read a science fiction story of that type I would have bought an Iain M Banks book and struggled to suspend my disbelief sufficiently. I would, however, at least have had some idea of what I was letting myself in for. I expected rather better of David Mitchell. To be fair, the good bits were exceptionally good, but the overall work just could have been much better. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Jan 23, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 186 (next | show all)
Mitchell's plotting is as intricate as ever, and he indulges in many familiar tricks. Themes, characters and images recur in different configurations, as in a complex musical work; characters from earlier Mitchell books make guest appearances; there are sly references to Mitchell's literary reputation, as well as to the works of other writers....

Mitchell is a writer who will always do his own thing, and the question to ask about his work isn't how profound it is, or what category it belongs to, but how much fun it is to read. And on that measure, The Bone Clocks scores highly.
Other writers may be more moving, and some may push deeper, but very few excite the reader about both the visceral world and the visionary one as Mitchell does. Where “Black Swan Green” introduced a typical English boy with a stammer who had to reinvent language to avoid words beginning with certain letters, “The Bone Clocks” begins to suggest how a great writer “flirts with schizophrenia, nurtures synesthesia and embraces obsessive-compulsive disorder” to give us an astonishing ventriloquism that regularly expands our lives.
In fact, Holly’s emergence from “The Bone Clocks” as the most memorable and affecting character Mr. Mitchell has yet created is a testament to his skills as an old-fashioned realist, which lurk beneath the razzle-dazzle postmodern surface of his fiction, and which, in this case, manage to transcend the supernatural nonsense in this arresting but bloated novel.
Another exacting, challenging and deeply rewarding novel from logophile and time-travel master Mitchell
added by sturlington | editKirkus Reviews (Jul 1, 2014)
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I fling open my bedroom curtains, and there's the thirsty sky and the wide river full of ships and boats and stuff, but I'm already thinking of Vinny's chocolaty eyes, shampoo down Vinny's back, beads of sweat on Vinny's shoulders, and Vinny's sly laugh, and by now my heart's going mental and, God, I wish I was waking up in Vinny's place in Peacock Street and not in my own stupid bedroom.
The fantasy subplot clashes so violently with the State of the World pretensions, I cannot bear to look.
What surer sign is there that the creative aquifers are dry than a writer creating a writer character?
My hero is a Cambridge student called Richard Cheeseman, working on a novel about a Cambridge student called Richard Cheeseman, working on a novel about a Cambridge student called Richard Cheeseman. No one’s ever tried anything like it.
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Following a scalding row with her mother, fifteen-year-old Holly Sykes slams the door on her old life. But Holly is no typical teenage runaway: a sensitive child once contacted by voices she knew only as “the radio people,” Holly is a lightning rod for psychic phenomena. Now, as she wanders deeper into the English countryside, visions and coincidences reorder her reality until they assume the aura of a nightmare brought to life.

For Holly has caught the attention of a cabal of dangerous mystics—and their enemies. But her lost weekend is merely the prelude to a shocking disappearance that leaves her family irrevocably scarred. This unsolved mystery will echo through every decade of Holly’s life, affecting all the people Holly loves—even the ones who are not yet born.

A Cambridge scholarship boy grooming himself for wealth and influence, a conflicted father who feels alive only while reporting from occupied Iraq, a middle-aged writer mourning his exile from the bestseller list—all have a part to play in this surreal, invisible war on the margins of our world. From the medieval Swiss Alps to the nineteenth-century Australian bush, from a hotel in Shanghai to a Manhattan townhouse in the near future, their stories come together in moments of everyday grace and extraordinary wonder.
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"A vast, intricate novel that weaves six narratives and spans from 1984 to the 2030s about a secret war between a cult of soul-decanters and a small group of vigilantes called the Night Shift who try to take them down. An up-all-night story that fluentlymixes the super-natural, sci-fi, horror, social satire, and hearbreaking realism"--… (more)

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