September 21st, 2015


The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell

The Bone Clocks is a new(ish) novel by the author of Cloud Atlas.

Although the two are very different works, The Bone Clocks does borrow some of its structure from Cloud Atlas. Six stories set at some chronological distance from each other. But instead of ranging across centuries, The Bone Clocks limits itself to roughly the span of one human life, jumping a decade or so each time. The whole spans the late 20th to mid-21st century.

Most of the sections are novelistic slices of life that are somewhat ordinary, except that there are a few very clear hints that something is going on. Something 'magical' or psychic or something. This is all kept rather vague for quite some time. Enough so, that one gets (okay, I got) frustrated with the author for deliberately concealing information about just what exactly is going on. He is slightly forgiven, because it's mostly very well-written, and possibly the longest section has very little information at all about WTF is going on, but is still an enjoyable mini-not-quite-love story with well-drawn characters.

When the mystery is (largely) revealed, what is going on is the sort of thing that might have made the nucleus of a B-list table-top RPG 20 years ago. This group of special people is at war with that group of special people, and they all live behind the scenes and manipulate ordinary people. I know what you're thinking, but these special people are totally not vampires (PS some of them are totally vampires). That's a little unfair, but I'm glad I enjoyed the writing and the journey enough that the disappointing reveal was not too disappointing.

Now that the reader has a grasp of just what the heck is going on, section 5 provides the exciting climax, full of derring-do and goings-on. Section 6 (and last) provides a rather dismal look at our eco-nightmare future. Unfortunately, the dystopia is drawn a bit heavy handedly even for a granola-munching polar bear-hugger like me. But the section wraps up with a fitting conclusion to the overall novel.

I'd like to think that the character of Dr. Marinus is related to Dr. Marinus Bicknell Willett of HP Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, who also had to deal with... Er, spoiler alert.