The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy/Science Fiction
Maturity Level: 5
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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.
Okay, let me start by saying that this was a fantastic book, and my 3-star rating reflects more my enjoyment of it than its quality. It has obviously won plenty of awards, and many readers loved it, which is completely justified. It was a GOOD BOOK. It just wasn’t what I was hoping for.
So Mitchell essentially wrote three books and combined them.
- A Sci-Fi/Fantasy about a war between two groups of Psychic and long-lived beings that was both fascinating and intriguing.
- A series of character portraits that were deep and reflective on the meaning of life and what it means to be human and everything that literary critics adore.
- A semi-apocolyptic view of what Earth will be like if we continue on the destructive and resource-consuming path we are on that was also fascinating.
Alone, I would have been gushing about any of these novels. Each idea was so well executed and thought provoking that I am frankly a little in awe. But all together, it was too much. I couldn’t enjoy the character portraits because I was so anxious to find out about the psychic war. And I couldn’t enjoy the psychic war because there would be a hundred pages of character development between any mention of it! And the last section, the end of civilization section, was just so out of nowhere. It felt like the beginning of a book, not the end. I wanted to read an entire book just about THAT!
The Bone Clocks was a long, SLOW book. I read it a probably a third of the speed I read other books, and not because I was bored. It’s dense. And, as I said, there is just so much going on. It was hard to keep track of. It’s just hard to enjoy a book that is so difficult and slow.
I am still completely enamored with this idea, though. I love how Mitchell moved so seamlessly through different time periods. It was really cool to get a view of life in the ’80s, ’90s, 2000s, and then even into what the future could be. And these time periods were written so vividly, I almost feel I was there! Much of the story is told via flashback, which I am a complete sucker for. And the people who live multiple lives were completely fascinating to me in so many different ways.
But I still, somehow, just didn’t love it. I wish he had stuck to Holly and the war, and left all the character portraits out.