Let me start this review by admitting that I love David Mitchell. I love everything he writes and I love that he interweaves his novels so there are always little references to previous works of his. The Bone Clocks is no different. I loved it and I loved the small references to previous novels. Now, you certainly don’t need to read The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet or Black Swan Green to appreciate The Bone Clocks, but you should read them anyway because they are great. And you should read The Bone Clocks because it’s also great.
Unlike some books, the best part of The Bone Clocks is the writing. Sometimes I feel like authors have great imaginations and have a great story to tell, but they don’t have the talent to back it up. Mitchell has talent in spades. In fact, Stephen King himself reviewed the book with the phrase “Great story, great words, all good.” And it is all good. It really is.
The story is about Holly Sykes, who, as a child, is targeted by a group of mystics called Anchorites who, well, decant the souls of certain humans into something they call the Black Wine. The mystics then drink the Black Wine which allows them to live forever without aging. There is also a group called Horologists who also live forever (although they do age) because they get resurrected 49 days after death. The Horologists don’t need to make wine of anyone’s chakra-eye power and don’t appreciate the murdering, Black Wine-making actions of the Anchorites, so they try to stop them from using humans to maintain their ill-gotten immortality.
Holly, and her family, and friends are caught in the battle between the Anchorites and the Horologists. This is a battle that has been raging for centuries, but starts for Holly and her loved ones in 1984. The book goes on to span nearly 60 years and every bit of it is well-written. Even when Mitchell isn’t talking directly about the Anchorite-Horology war, the writing is so engaging.
Like this bit here (I love this bit):
“I think about pinball, and how being a kid’s like being shot up the firing lane and there’s no veering left or right; you’re just sort of propelled. But once you clear the top, like when you’re sixteen, seventeen, or eighteen, suddenly there’s a thousand different paths you can take, some amazing, others not. Tiny little differences in angles and speed’ll totally alter what happens to you later…”
Yes, it’s an analogy for growing up, but it’s also an analogy about the interconnectedness of life and the impact of even small actions and as much as this book is about a mystic war, it’s also about that interconnectedness.