So finally, the David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks. If you already love his writing the you will probably like this even if you find it a bit puzzling. Mr Mitchell has demonstrated amply before his fascination with time, this latest novel experiments with time in both a real and an occult sense.
In real time, we have characters like Holly Sykes, she appears pretty much in all the sections, starts young and grows old:a bone clock in fact. Then you have the Atemporals, reincarnating characters like Marinus, who die in a corporeal body, 49 days later they re-enter (often the body of a dying child, Jacko Sykes for example) and finally you have the Anchorites of the Chapel of the Dusk of the Blind Cathar.
If you have concentrated properly up to this point, you will have worked out the goodies and the baddies, you will have hesitated on the curb before getting in the car, and you will be enjoying the ride of your life; or you will have got to page 170 and chucked it in. Well, if that is what you have done – more fool you!
The wonderfully, marvellous thing about David Mitchell’s imagination is that it spirals out of control sometimes, then reins us back in and presents a relatively coherent narrative inhabited by ordinary people, until you find sixty pages on that they are/were an Atemporal or an Anchorite all the time, or they have double-crossed the other side.
Good things happen, bad things happen and very bad things happens to both the “good” people and the “bad” ones.
Eventually, after some extraordinary adventures we reach the future, by page 281 we have got to 2015, by page 523 it is 2043 and things are not looking good for anyone: there is no electricity; foodbanks and rationing pertain inside the safe zones, anarchy and destitution beyond; a nuclear accident has occurred at one of the plants – life is not as good as it was, nor is it likely to get better. Humans have raped the planet and got their cumuppance!
The other thing that I love about David Mitchell is that he references his own novels. One character explains a misdeed in a previous book: he treated a cousin badly in Black Swan Green, this was a place that figured in a previous book by the same name, then in The Bone Clocks a character has borrowed a book from de Zoet, which must refer to Jacob who exists in the previous book, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.
Interestingly, here was another author referring to the poem The Narrow Road to the Deep North, though I guess David Mitchell really referred back to the Chinese poem, not the recent novel (see Blogging the Booker 2014/5).
And finally, the dust jacket. Full of clues to the whole story delightfully spread across a seamless dusky background.