Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Bone Clocks

Title:  The Bone Clocks
Author:  David Mitchell
Publication Information:  Random House. 2014. 640 pages.
ISBN:  1400065674 / 978-1400065677

Book Source:  I received this book through the GoodReads First Reads program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Quote:  "Power is the ability to make someone do what they otherwise wouldn't, or deter them from doing what they otherwise would ... By coercion and reward. Carrots and sticks, though in bad light one looks much like the other. Coercion is predicated upon the fear of violence or suffering. 'Obey, or you'll regret it.' ... Reward works by promising 'Obey and feel the benefit.' ... Power is lost or won, never created or destroyed. Power is a visitor to, not a possession of, those it empowers. The mad tend to crave it, many of the sane crave it, but the wise worry about its long term side effects. Power is crack cocaine for your ego and battery acid for your soul. Power's comings and goings ... are the plot of history. The empowered may serve justice, remodel the Earth, transform lush nations into smoking battlefields and bring down skyscrapers, but power itself is amoral."

I was introduced to David Mitchell's work through Cloud Atlas. I then went on to read The Reason I Jump, which David Mitchell did not write but did translate from the Japanese original.

Then came this book. As with Cloud Atlas, I finished reading this several days ago and have been thinking about how to describe it and what to say.

Like Cloud Atlas, this book is organized into six sections. However, this book is chronological, starting in 1984 (a nod to George Orwell, perhaps?) and progressing all the way to a post-apocalyptic world in 2043. At the heart of this book is Holly Sykes. We first meet her as a rebellious teenager who runs away from home after a fight with her mother. We meet her through all six sections in the book - at different points of her life all the way to her old age. In some sense, the reader grows up with Holly.

Along with Holly, we meet other main characters whose lives intersect with hers. Holly's brother Jacko whose disappearance alters the family forever. A young man who is a scholarship student looking to find his way to fame and fortune. A father whose career calls him repeatedly away from his family. An author whose is struggling in his career. The horologist. Some sections are primarily about these individual characters. Yet, Holly's appearance in all their lives unifies the six sections into one story.

Each section presents a philosophy of life according to the inclinations of the main character:

Holly - "What if ... what if Heaven is real, but only in moments? Like a glass of water on a hot day when you're dying of thirst, or when someone's nice to you for no reason or .... S'pose Heaven's not like a painting that's just hanging there forever, but more like ... like the best song every anyone ever wrote, but a song you only catch in snatches, while you're alive, from passing cars, or ... upstairs windows when you're lost..."

Hugo Lamb:  "Human beings ... are walking bundles of craving. Cravings for food, water, shelter, warmth; sex and companionship; status, a tribe to belong to; kicks, control, purpose; and so on, all the way down to chocolate-brown bathroom suites. Love is one way to satisfy some of those cravings. But love's not just the drug; it's also the dealer. Love wants love in return ... Like drugs, the highs look divine, and I envy the users. But when the side-effects kick in - jealously, the rages, grief, I think, Count me out."

Ed - "The world's default mode is basic indifference. It'd like to care, but it's just got too much on at the moment ... If a mass shooting, a bomb, a whatever, is written about, then at least it's made a tiny dent in the world's memory Someone, somewhere, some time, has a chance of learning what happened. And, just maybe, acting on it. Or not. But at least it's there."

Crispin Hershey - "A writer flirts with schizophrenia, nurtures synaesthesia and embraces compulsive-obsessive disorder. You feed your art your soul, and yes, to a degree, your sanity. Writing novels wroth reading will bugger up your mind, jeopardize your relationships and distend your life. You have been warned."

Marinus - "Magic's just normal you're not used to."

Holly (again) - "For a voyage to begin, another one must end, sort of."

The central conflict of this book almost occurs at the periphery of the world. It is a centuries old war. Battles have been won and lost, but the war continues. It involves old beliefs, magic, and powers - the world of fantasy mixing with the very real and gritty life of Holly Sykes. We catch glimpses throughout, and only towards the latter part of the book does this conflict truly reveal itself.

As with Cloud Atlas, each of the individual sections has its own tone and story within the context of the larger plot. Many of the characters differ; the locations differ; and the main story focus differs. For this reason, some sections appeal to me more than others; some drag on.

Because this book does have the context of Holly's story, some sections seem to veer too far off that central plot. The side plots are sometimes extraneous to that main story line. That is particularly true of the section about the author Crispin Hershey. He becomes and stays a part of Holly's life, but he has only a tangential role in the major conflict of the story. His musings about the life of an author are interesting to read and his friendship with Holly touching, but out of all the sections, that seems to be the section that does not belong with the rest of the story.

Overall, I am not sure I liked the entire book, but at the same time, I could not put the book down. That is a testament to David Mitchell's writing and his ability to weave a tale and incorporate a world of philosophy into that story. I am a fan!

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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