I have just finished one of the best books that I have ever read. That book is David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks. Mitchell is as much a magician as he is an author. He can take you anywhere in time and place, real or imagined, and not only make that world come alive, but keep your attention, making you want to see what happens next.
The book consists of six stories in which all but two are told by different narrators. All of these stories take place in different time periods from 1984 to 2043, although there are flashbacks to much earlier time periods as well. Mitchell can write with complete realism or dive into the world of total fantasy, and he is adept at both styles.
There are writers that can make you think and writers that can spin a yarn, but rarely do the those talents exist in the same writer. Mitchell is one of the few that can write a page turner and make you ponder the larger questions of life.
Mitchell’s earlier masterpiece Cloud Atlas is worth reading as well. However, I know that some people will not make it through Cloud Atlas because I have always seen the book as structured like a mountain. It takes some work getting up the first half as you adapt to the different uses of language and style. Once you get to the mountaintop, you won’t be able to stop reading and the second half is a breeze.
I think there can be a good debate over which book is better, Cloud Atlas or this one. However, I do feel Mitchell was able to keep a lot of the sweeping themes and ideas from Cloud Atlas in this book and actually write something that was more entertaining from the start. After about 20 or 30 pages in I simply could not put this book down. Some people will rate this book lower because it is less of a challenge, and I myself am not sure which book is better, but I actually think a great book does not have to be hard to read. I’m a huge fan of George Orwell because he was able to convey such complex thinking in such simple readable language.
To convey too much of the plot of The Bone Clocks would be to ruin it for those willing to explore its many worlds. This book demonstrates the power of the imagination. It is full of heart and heartbreak. It will make you take a hard look at the world around you and somehow allow you to escape as only the best stories can. Most importantly it is a book full of empathy for us flawed creatures called human beings. This book is for those that are willing to look at the hard truth of the world and at the same time dream of a better one. For anyone that has loved being lost in a book on a rainy day, I can’t recommend any book more highly than this.