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Monday, June 29, 2015

Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

This is the author of the Cloud Atlas, so brace yourself.  If you loved that book, you are in for a treat here, because few authors write with the vision and scope of David Mitchell.  If non-linear books with a futuristic focus and a touch of magic are not your cup of tea, this is not the book for you.

The story begins normally, with Holly Sykes, a love-struck teenager gushing over her first boyfriend in 1984 England. After a vicious fight with her mother, Holly runs away from home and reveals that she has a history of hearing voices and seeing what may be ghosts.  That is the reader's first hint that things are going to get weird, unless of course you have looked forward and seen that the book projects well into the future.

When Holly hears that her younger brother has disappeared, she announces her intention to return home. Suddenly, the action, era, and writing style shift abruptly to 1990s Cambridge. Hugo Lamb, our new narrator, is a university sophomore, who sweet-talks his way into bars, scams, and young women’s beds. Mitchell can impersonate just about any voice, but his mimicry of Hugo and his heady, horny Oxbridge classmates is exquisite.

The book bobs and weaves around the future, acknowledging climate change, income disparity, and a host of other controversial truths, but in it's closing vignette on the coast of Ireland it's aching and lightly brushed with the supernatural.  It is also almost enough to make one forget the metaphysical gibberish. It is a humble bow for a novel that otherwise displays just about every human quality except for humility. The Bone Clocks is altogether too much, but there is so much here that is so good, even transportingly great.

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