The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

 

Science FictionThe Bone Clocks by David Mitchell The Bone Clocks
David Mitchell; Random House 2014
WorldCat

“If you love and are loved, whatever you do affects others.” – from The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

David Mitchell has a way of bending a story around on itself and within itself and challenging the reader to keep up with him. I didn’t get it in Cloud Atlas. But I was able to keep up in The Bone Clocks.

The narrative in The Bone Clocks is divided into six sections, starting in 1984 and ending in 2043. Each section is told in first person by a different character. Holly Sykes is a 15-year-old runaway in 1984. In 2043 she is a grandmother in a future where energy is in short supply and technology is disappearing. In between others who meet her.

Holly and her brother Jacko are special – they have connections with strange, elusive people who aren’t quite of this world. The last time he sees her, Jacko gives her instructions on how to survive when she meets those people again. As a young child she heard voices beyond her range of hearing. Those voices and premonitions remain with her the rest of her life.

When the second section starts, a new, unrelated character tells his story six years later. The Bone Clocks continues like that, jumping over years to another narrator and new circumstance. By the fifth section the reader is able to put it all together.

As disjointed as it first appears, The Bone Clocks has an allure that keeps the reader’s attention. The rebellious 15-year-old is very different from the polished, educated, aging author who narrates a later section. The construct of each narrative helps define the character as much as the action does. The war correspondent’s thoughts are worded very differently than the psychiatrist’s or the opportunistic con man’s. Although Mitchell wrote each section in first person narrative, each section is distinctly that character’s.

The Bone Clocks is science fiction that deals with morality, immortality, the Middle Eastern war, and the waste of the Earth’s resources. Being a child at the edge of adulthood, being a parent, being a failure, and being a success are all parts of this odd story. The second section appears to be completely separate from the first section for most of the narrative. Yet this is where the threads of each disparate section start to wind together.

I often found myself putting down The Bone Clocks both to get away from the strangeness and to let what I’d been reading sink in. Sentences like the one at the top are buried in the book, not adding to the main action but building layers into the background to set the tone and mood Mitchell wants.

Not everyone will appreciate The Bone Clocks. It’s odd. It’s challenging. Yet in the end, it can be quite satisfying.

Notice: Non-graphic violence, Strong language, Suggestive dialogue or situations

More books by David Mitchell

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