March 13, 2015

Review: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

Have you ever wondered what would be like to be immortal in a world, like ours, where mortals live? To be Atemporal in a world so temporal, to watch all those bone clocks age and die, while your body doesn't age and you see the centuries go by. But it's still not that simple. What if you were an atemporal that aged and died but your soul kept returning to other children bodies and you were caught up in a neverending life cycle? The Bone Clocks is a book about life and death, love, vanity and loneliness.

Holly Sykes is a teenage girl growing up in a small town in Britain. Since she was a little girl she heard voices, the Radio People as she calls them. When she runs away from home she meets a strange old lady that asks her for asylum. The circumstances come in a way that she has to accept. Years later and when she has almost forgot about it, this becomes the reason she gets involved in a war between natural atemporals and artificially made ones. This is also the point where she questions what is real and what is not, what does her psychic powers really mean and whether she can trust these people. Once she is convinced that the anchorites, the artificial atemporals, are the ones that kidnapped and killed her brother she is ready to take part and finally help the horologists.

But Holly doesn't have a metalife or any particular powers apart from getting glimpses of the very near future some periods of her life. As the years pass she grows old, she has a daughter and eventually becomes a grandmother. When life on earth becomes difficult again due to oil shortage she strives to make a comfortable enough life for her grandchild, although she is no longer young and suffers from several pains. In that stage of her life even her experiences with the horologists seem like a dream.

The Bone Clocks at first reminded me of Ghostwritten since each part is narrated by a different person and up to some point the parts are episodic. This at first made me worried especially when the first part ended and I didn't know what happened to Holly's brother and I really wanted to know more and all of a sudden we transfer to six years later, in a different place, through the eyes of a guy that didn't have anything to do with the story up to that point. But luckily all of the narrators meet and interact with Holly in some way or another so there are neither plot holes nor unaswered questions.

Not everyone in this book is a stranger to us though. To be precise, three chatacters from previous David Mitchell's novels appear in this one and two of them are quiet important for the story. First appears Hugo Lamb, the slightly older cousin of Jason's in Black Swan Green that was acting too cool. Well, his character hasn't changed at all and the role he has in The Bone Clocks suits him perfectly. From very early on the book we meet a certain Dr. Marinus, but only until he becomes the narrator we learn that he is Dr. Marinus from The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. I loved this character from the previous book and this didn't change for this one. He has grown to be one of my all time favourite characters. Lastly, scientist Mo Muntervary from Ghostwritten appears to be Holly's neighbour, both in advanced age trying to protect themselves from outlaws and other difficulties when the times get tough.

The Bone Clocks is a thrilling novel and at some points I just couldn't stop reading it because I was so worried about the characters. Holly is a lovable character and there are plenty of chances to grow strong bonds with her and being concerned about her well-being. As in real life unpleasant things happen to Holly and the people around her. These times the book gets heavy, but feels surprisingly real. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interesting in a realistic novel with strong fantasy elements. So, my advice is...

Get lost in this amazing story!    


  1. Hi! I just found your blog via Goodreads and it seems really good.

    I read this book back in January and thought it was pretty good. I had an issue with the way it was split up into the different parts because I felt that we never really got to know many of the characters. I also felt like loads of the characters were just plain assholes and reading about them wasn't too enjoyable. That being said, I really, really enjoyed large portions of it and I thought the ending was great. It's always nice to see a literary writer who isn't afraid to delve into the 'forbidden' genres of science fiction and fantasy. I haven't read anything else by Mitchell but I definitely will after this.

    Here's my review if you're interested:

    1. I have to agree with you that not all of the characters were likeable. But for me it is equally important to dislike a character, sometimes even more than to like him. I think that this brings a reality basis to the novel's (each novel's) universe. Crispin, for example, was a character not really lovable, eccentric some might call him, but among all these fantasy elements he brought the disbelief of a common person. Reactions like his made the book more real to me.

      Well, I would definitely advise you to read the other novels of David Mitchell, they are all unique in some way or another!


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