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The Bone Clocks

by David Mitchell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Horologists (2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,9932612,251 (3.82)1 / 460
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.… (more)
  1. 121
    Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (jody)
    jody: Has that same clever connectivity that makes mitchells books so intriguing.
  2. 91
    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. 81
    The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (vwinsloe)
    vwinsloe: Similar tone. Fantasy.
  4. 41
    1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (suniru)
  5. 30
    TransAtlantic by Colum McCann (zhejw)
    zhejw: Both books explore human connections made across multiple generations and across oceans while ultimately concluding in Ireland.
  6. 20
    The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (hairball)
    hairball: The world falls apart...
  7. 20
    Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (MsMaryAnn)
  8. 32
    Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco (Tanya-dogearedcopy)
  9. 10
    The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (shurikt)
    shurikt: Fascinating character studies, and just enough (possibly) supernatural activity to bend genre.
  10. 10
    The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas (jonathankws)
  11. 00
    California by Edan Lepucki (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  12. 14
    Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (vwinsloe)
    vwinsloe: Similar plot points.
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» See also 460 mentions

English (257)  Dutch (3)  German (1)  French (1)  All languages (262)
Showing 1-5 of 257 (next | show all)
Mitchell has moments of brilliant, epigrammatic prose, but this very ambitious book—in both its lifetime scope and multiple POV character complexity—failed to cohere sufficiently. I disliked all the male characters for their arrogance: Hugo’s posh, tryhard Cambridge banter, Ed’s sanctimonious US invasion of Iraq mansplaining, and Crispin’s meta pre-emptive literary criticism felt like Mitchell gratuitously showing off how clever he is. The ultimate fight scene also just jarringly transitions into a shounen anime scene out of nowhere. I loved the Borgesian labyrinth, and wanted more on the atemporals. ( )
  jiyoungh | May 3, 2021 |
I am sorry, David, but it lacks a soul!

As one of your most enthusiastic fans, who have pushed your books on everyone and their dogs, I feel I have to tell you: You let me down somewhat!

Oh, your writing remains superb and you have proven once more that you can emulate a number of literary genres with mastery. But, please tell me, why did you want me to take this ride with you? Because I feel that it was just to prove what you can do. To me, it seems as if this book was all about the gimmick of interlacing genres and half connected stories without a bigger meaning than you showing off your writing capabilities.

I am the first person to hate an overly engaged book, the kind that even smells of political engagement or moral teachings. The thing is though, that I do read to glimpse into something that is bigger than myself. I don’t mean that I only read the pseudo serious books and classics. But that when I finish reading a book – be it a mystery, fantasy or memoir – I experienced something alien to myself. I cannot explain it better than this, but other readers will understand it, I am sure. I don’t want to say that there were not such moments on “The Bone Clocks”, because there are. But it feels uneven and disconnected. Explain to me how the part where Ed and Holly are having existential and marital questionings – best part of the book, by the way – connects to the battle between immortals and vampires? Because I must be too shallow and I missed it.

I guess I cannot avoid comparing it to “Cloud Atlas”, there I perceived a connection between the fragmented stories. In “The Bone Clocks” however, I felt as I was sold a “5 stories for the price of one” book, which is not that bad of a deal, but it was not what I really wanted or expected to buy.

Well, I am not giving up on you, David. I will look forward to your next book maybe with more eagerness than I waited for this one, because I wanted to settle this if only in my mind: what kind of writer are you? One that I should enjoy because you are capable of enormous writing pirouettes or one that has something to say? Please, don’t take this too personally, as it is more a problem of mine as the reader than of yours as the writer. I can enjoy works of art and books for the technique and innovation of the artist, as opposed to being revealed some meaning (thinking of it, maybe the meaning thing is cliché), but I just want to figure out where you stand.

The 3 stars is because I did enjoy sections of it.

Edited to add a review from Salon I enjoyed: http://www.salon.com/2014/08/31/how_david_mitchell_gets_fantasy_wrong/ ( )
  RosanaDR | Apr 15, 2021 |
This book straddles reality and fantasy. My favourite parts were the sections based on the characters' lives, more than the other-worldly aspects of their roles in the story.

David Mitchell employs some very beautiful prose. His descriptions of characters' actions, thoughts and observations are pure joy. I would re-read his just for the pleasure of his writing.

Some parts of the book had me skimming over them while others I relished, re-reading to fully appreciate his words.

Mr Mitchell's other titles are already on my To Read list. ( )
  joweirqt | Jan 15, 2021 |
This book disappointed me so very much. I've read all of Mitchell's novels, and even the less solid ones generally feel pretty well written for what they are. The Bone Clocks is I think my least favorite of the novels, largely because it seems so ambitious and heavy but doesn't fulfill that promise. At least the earlier, less dazzling novels are shorter.

Cloud Atlas is sprawling and wildly varying in style and subject matter, but there's a sense to what Mitchell's doing in that book -- experimenting virtuosically with genre and time and voice -- that isn't found in The Bone Clocks, which also dips into and out of several lives that intersect over lifetimes.

The sci-fi elements of the book often feel ham-handed and amateurish. Compare again to Cloud Atlas, in which, strange as the sci-fi sections are, they feel pretty natural and accomplished.

It was interesting to watch some of the characters develop. Crispin Hershey's section in particular struck me as sad and mostly believable. Hugo Lamb's story was less satisfying. The opening section of the book in which we meet a young, foolish Holly Sykes was fairly fun to read, and she certainly grows up over the course of the book, but ultimately I don't find her trajectory very credible (even within the context of the incredible story) or affecting. It's a bit hard to explain why Mitchell gave us so very much of Lamb and Hershey, who actually both turn out to be very minor characters within the broader story.

This is I suppose a book about how we inhabit our lives and while away the time -- however much or little -- allotted to us, so maybe depicting several life arcs beginning and ending at different points in their respective inhabitants' tenures is sort of the point of the novel. But then in a way, this is sort of the point of most novels, and many do it better than The Bone Clocks.

I've not read any reviews of the book yet, and I figure I may go now and read a few to see what all I'm missing. I'll confess that at times I gave this one less focused attention than I give to books that I find worth the effort, and it's possible that I've simply missed what made this book worth the effort and gave it shorter and shorter shrift as I turned more and more pages. My feeling at this point is that it's a fine, ambitious book for someone other than Mitchell, but that put next to his prior two best novels, it's a far inferior book (is he trying to live the life he writes for Crispin Hershey, I half wonder?). Maybe the main problem with The Bone Clocks is that Cloud Atlas and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob DeZoet were so very good. ( )
  dllh | Jan 6, 2021 |
The story line would have been interesting enough without the fantasy. Although the plot line continues with the use of the fantasy. The writing itself is worth reading the book. ( )
  Pharmacdon | Dec 20, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 257 (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.
 
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)
 

» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
David Mitchellprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ball, JessicaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oldenburg, VolkerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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For Noah
First words
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.
Quotations
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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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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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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