The Bone Clocks
By David Mitchell
Cover Image from Amazon.com
As time passes (what I really mean is, as I get older) I am increasingly unforgiving about what I read. If a novel doesn’t appeal, I will give it 60 pages to recapture my interest. If, after those sixty pages, it has recaptured me then I will give it the attention it deserves. Even then, I will (and have) abandoned books at midpoint. I never had such moments with The Bone Clocks.
Mr. Mitchell is great at character development and description. He creates characters that are deep, deeply flawed, deeply interesting, some likable, some detestable. The world he creates is rich and detailed.
It is not, however, linear. That is not necessarily a bad thing. It requires some small flexibility in the reader. The novel is in 6 parts, each of 3 to 10 chapters. All of the six parts are written in the first person, but different people. Only parts one and six are the same character. Each of the first person characters is interesting, the stories compelling. The stories revolve around the central thread, some relating closely, while others are quite tangential.
The longest section, in the very middle, is the least related to the main story thread. About a writer in decline, he is both entertaining and despicable. But the entire section could have been removed without harming the main story. Still, it passed my 60 page rule. It captured my imagination. I was drawn in by the characters and descriptions. It could have stood alone as a novella itself.
The final section was a three chapter epilogue that most novels would have covered in 10 pages. But instead of just tying up loose ends, it was, like the section described above, a novella in itself. Indeed, the story shifted from a mostly present day horror story to post apocalyptic survival.
If you are looking for a straight forward linear story then The Bone Clocks will represent a challenge. It is an excellent set of related novellas that spans decades, continents, genres, and characters. With excellent prose and a fantastic element, it was highly entertaining.