The Bone Clocks
By David Mitchell
The latest novel from the author of Cloud Atlas, The Bone Clocks is divided into six sections with very different voices. It covers the period 1984 to 2043, and blends genres beautifully, with a little bit of horror and science fiction, into a literary masterpiece.
It is 1984 and Holly Sykes is a typical fifteen-year-old British teenager, positive she is wildly in love with her boyfriend, Vinny, who is twenty-four. “I fling open my bedroom curtains, and there’s the thirsty sky and the wide river full of ships and boats and stuff, but I’m already thinking of Vinny’s chocolaty eyes, shampoo down Vinny’s back, beads of sweat on Vinny’s shoulders, and Vinny’s sly laugh, and by now my heart’s going mental and, God, I wish I was waking up at Vinny’s place in Peacock Street and not in my own stupid bedroom.”
Her mother finds out about it and goes ballistic. Holly decides to leave home and go live with Vinny but ends up looking for an abandoned building where she can camp out for a bit. She’s about to find more adventure than she bargains for because there’s one particular thing that is different about Holly, she used to hear voices. She called them “Radio People,” which she means she has a gift that some very nasty people, called Anchorites, would like to use her for.
The second part comes from the perspective of a young man at Kings College, Hugo Lamb. Hugo seems to be rather amoral, or even psychopathic. It is somewhat surprising the lengths he’ll go to in accumulating a hefty bank account, most of them not legal, and definitely detrimental to those around him. Eventually, he crosses paths with a slightly older Holly Sykes in 1991 and things get even more interesting.
The next section is told from the perspective of Ed Brubeck in 2004, now a journalist who reports mainly from war torn Iraq and is home visiting Holly and their daughter Aoife. Could he be addicted to the action? There’s definitely something he isn’t telling Holly, and they’re about to deal with one of a parent’s worst fears.
In 2015, best-selling author Crispin Hershey is not so best-selling anymore when he meets Holly, who is now a best-selling author. Their paths converge and then diverge again for a while before coming back together. They become fast friends and support each other through some difficult times.
Through the first four books runs the vein of a sort of Time Lord, called the Horologists, and their fight against the predatory Anchorites. In 2025, we finally meet an Horologist from their view point, one who has lived many, many lives – the name is Marinus. The Horologists have a plan to defeat the anchorites. It’s a long term plan. It may also be something of a long shot. It also involves Holly Sykes.
Finally, we return to the viewpoint of a much older Holly Sykes, in 2043 on Sheep’s Head in Ireland during a time period referred to as the Endarkenment, after the environment is beyond broken and society has broken down too, and it’s only getting worse. Is there any hope to be had?