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What is a Bone Clock? 

 

A bone clock is a person, maturing and ageing. Starting as a weak and helpless baby, becoming strong, getting wise, getting frail, dying. And because you can tell a person's stage of life just by looking, they are a bone clock. Simples.

 

In The Bone Clocks, just as in Ghostwritten, we find a series of separate stories with a thread of connection, But whilst Ghostwritten jumps across space, The Bone Clocks jumps over time - although there are a fair few different locations too. There is a common thread - far more so than in Ghostwritten or Cloud Atlas, but there is still the feel of different narrators, different voices and different situations. 

 

The novel is broadly linear, although each section does have some element of backstory. It is not actually tricksy. But there are some jaw dropping moments. The first of these, in a house in Iwade, is so jarring that the reader could be forgiven for losing faith in the novel. But stick with it and things do proceed on an evenish keel. Only one of the sections i really weird and even that, if you can sift through the weirdness, has human relationships at its core. It is also necessary for setting up the last section, set in the 2040s. 

 

Some of the novel is very funny. There's a lovely section about an ageing novelist doing the tour of world literary festivals. He's such an outrageous bludger that one can't help but smile - if only he had put half as much energy into his writing as he puts into revenge... The section set in the Alps is also great as a ghastly set of wealthy and aristocratic students go skiing. It's the last section, though, that steals the show. On the face of it, it is difficult and disappointing. There are messages - at one point spelled out in terms that are too obvious. But they do leave many ideas burning slowly regarding progress, immortality, loss, hope, nostalgia, colonialism, security and morality. It needs the long build up of the many other sections to pack the punch of the denouement.

 

David Mitchell is, above all else, a storyteller. The Bone Clocks works on both the surface level and at a deeper level. But he is also a master of different styles and the sheer variety in this novel is mind-blowing, straddling genres but pulling it into a single, coherent whole. There are lots of playful references to previous works and other books (was the reference to The Narrow Road to the Deep North coincidental?) and there are references to popular culture and neuroses. The future world sections are not meant to be predictions, but rather reflections of today's fears. 

 

The Bone Clocks is a daring work and some people will dislike the most daring elements. For me, it worked and is at least as strong as Cloud Atlas - and may be David Mitchell's strongest yet.

 

*****

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  • 7 months later...

I was so disappointed with this novel. I loved Cloud Atlas and Jacob but this seemed sloppy. It was as if he was writing it whilst busy doing something else; watching Eastenders, sitting on the toilet, down the pub!! I couldn't connect properly with any of the characters and found the storyline so simple to be almost laughable. The battle scenes were dreadful, no sense of tension or place. As for the ending well that was rubbish. Whole book read like he was thinking about it being made into a film instead of concentrating on producing a novel.

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  • 2 months later...

I have often been told that I have missed out by not reading Cloud Atlas, which I couldn't get on with, so I set myself the challenge of reading The Bone Clocks this summer. I'm not the greatest fan of fantasy / sci-fi, so I knew I would need to persevere.

 

I really liked the more conventional aspects of the story. I liked the Holly story threading through the others, and I thought the characters were well realised. The author character was funny. I enjoyed seeing how the different characters would interconnect.

 

However, it hasn't helped me get over my fantasy block. I found it quite hard to understand the Anchorite / Horology thing, and I found it hard to care - it just all sounded made up and silly. I am quite proud of myself for persevering, though.

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