This is The Breakfast Club for a new generation (but instead of detention, it's the impending apocalypse that brings everyone together). When the worlThis is The Breakfast Club for a new generation (but instead of detention, it's the impending apocalypse that brings everyone together). When the world finds out that an asteroid is on course to collide with Earth and annihilate all life in just a few weeks (surprise!), the lives of four very different teenagers (the Athlete, the Slut, the Slacker and the Overachiever) collide as well. The science is ridiculous (no one knew about the asteroid earlier because it was "hiding" behind Jupiter for a gazillion years), but it's also not the point. This isn't sci-fi, and it isn't about the end of the world. It's about love and friendship, dreams and expectations, struggle and triumph, hope and despair. The POV rotates between the four teens, and I thought each character was wonderfully developed. Yes, they are stereotypes to some degree, but what's remarkable is how the author unravels those stereotypes and reveals how alike the characters are, despite their obvious differences. There's a bit of mysticism/fatalism at play (lots of references to Vonnegut's "karass"), but it doesn't matter whether or not these kids were "meant" to come together. What matters is that they did, and in the face of death, they taught each other to live. Highly recommended for teens, especially anyone struggling with identity, expectations, or their place in the world....more
I will read anything David Mitchell writes. He is an immensely gifted storyteller. There are passages in this book where he relays some minor characteI will read anything David Mitchell writes. He is an immensely gifted storyteller. There are passages in this book where he relays some minor character's third cousin's ancestor's backstory going back a thousand years, and every one of these passages is enthralling enough to become its own novel. It makes me want to dig through his trash for all the bits and paragraphs and pages that didn't make the cut. So if you're wondering if this is worth the read, it unequivocally is.
Like Cloud Atlas, The Bone Clocks is comprised of six interconnected stories - but whereas Cloud Atlas is about that interconnectedness, the beauty and magic of it, here the characters and stories are connected by forces of good and evil. Their interconnectedness is literally "scripted." In that sense this was a lot less enchanting than Cloud Atlas for me. Everything that happens is part of some cosmic battle between two groups of immortal bodysnatchers, and the human characters are just pawns in this war. They have no agency. Their triumphs are orchestrated, their tragedies collateral damage. It felt sadly fatalistic - not the beautiful and mysterious kismet of Cloud Atlas, but something more hopeless and resigned. I don't know if this is the way Mitchell meant to write it, but it's the way I experienced it.
I also found the book as a whole to be somewhat rambling and disorderly. A couple of the individual novellas felt sloppy and unfinished, and one of them was way too long - the one about the novelist having a midlife crisis, which Mitchell says he wrote a lot of himself into. Perhaps this was just a necessary exercise for him, or some sort of literary exorcism, but it was my least favorite section and the one I found most confusing - I never really understood what the novelist's fate had to do with the larger plot, even though it was supposed to be some huge catalyst.
Grumblings aside, David Mitchell at his worst is better than 90% of everything else I read, so I do highly recommend this!...more
Fantastic coming of age novel written in a fresh, authentic voice. The main character, Finn, struggles with all the typical teenage anxieties - schoolFantastic coming of age novel written in a fresh, authentic voice. The main character, Finn, struggles with all the typical teenage anxieties - school, friendship, parents, young love - but it's the quirky details that really drew me in (e.g. a horse fell from the sky and left him epileptic and now he measures time in miles). The story may be whimsical and far-fetched (which I loved about it), but the characters are very real and the author writes incredibly convincing teenage dialogue. Granted, I'm a couple decades removed from my teenage years - but I read a lot of YA and I'm hard-pressed to find a 17-year-old who doesn't sound more like 37. I especially love Finn's best friend, Cade; he's funny and foul-mouthed and vulgar and clever - a delinquent delight. Highly recommend....more
This is a beautiful, haunting novel about the end of the world as we know it (thanks to something called the Georgia flu, which wipes out 99% of the wThis is a beautiful, haunting novel about the end of the world as we know it (thanks to something called the Georgia flu, which wipes out 99% of the world's population in mere days). The story jumps back and forth between the time before and after "the collapse," and the narration rotates through various characters' points of view. Though the premise (plague apocalypse) sounds sci-fi, Station Eleven is light on the science and heavy on the philosophy. It's definitely much more about how the apocalypse affects humanity and civilization than it is about the details of the apocalypse. If you're familiar with survivalist stories like S.M. Stirling's Emberverse series, this is basically the inverse of that. The author isn't concerned with where people are getting their food and fresh water twenty years post-apocalypse. She's more into the tragic beauty of a fleet of jumbo jets that haven't flown in decades lined up neatly on a runway in the falling snow.
That brings us to one of the main themes of this tale, "survival is insufficient." Taken from a Star Trek episode (!), the phrase is the motto of the Traveling Symphony, a ragtag band of musicians and actors who roam what's left of the Midwest, playing classical music and performing Shakespeare. The ability to create and appreciate art, they believe, is essential to our humanity. It's what takes us beyond mere survival and makes us something more than animals. I loved this part of the book, how the little settlements of people living in Walmarts and gas stations would rush out to hear Beethoven, tears streaming down their faces. This is one of my favorite angles of post-apocalyptic fiction - once we've figured out how to survive, how do we learn to LIVE again? What exactly is it that makes us human? How do we go about redefining humanity, rebuilding civilization?
The author also touches on the enduring power of art and storytelling, and the ways in which stories connect us all. Beyond the Beethoven and the Shakespeare, there's a comic book called Station Eleven that features prominently (and also gives the novel its name). It was written, somewhat randomly, by the first wife of a very famous Hollywood actor. She wrote the comic for herself and published only two copies, which end up in the hands of two of the main characters post-apocalypse. The comics have a profound impact on both characters (so the obscure art of the obscure ex-wife endures because art is forever, while the Hollywood actor is forgotten because who cares about Hollywood after the end of the world). The stories of the two characters in possession of the comics are mostly separate, though absolutely intertwined - as are ALL of the characters' stories. One of the most amazing aspects of this novel is how all of the characters are connected, both pre- and post-collapse. I kept waiting for many of them to cross paths and realize their connection, their shared stories. Some did, and some didn't - the latter bothered me at first, until I realized that's the way the world works. We're all woven into the same giant tapestry, whether we see the individual threads or not. That, along with King Lear and Beethoven's 9th and unheard-of graphic novels about being stranded in space, is the beauty of humankind. ...more