Cecily's Reviews > The Bone Clocks

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
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Sep 27, 2014

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bookshelves: miscellaneous-fiction, magical-realism, mitchell-uber-book
Read 2 times. Last read September 24, 2014.

This is a detailed summary of key features of the book. I’ve hidden big spoilers, but there may be minor ones, depending on your definition of “spoiler”.

I have a briefer, spoiler-free, and very different, review here (different * rating, too): https://www.goodreads.com/review/show..., which is more about my feelings for the book. It also includes a selection of favourite quotes and links to interviews. The difference in star rating is deliberate: I couldn't decide.

LINKS AND THEMES

This book, perhaps more than any of his others, cannot be viewed in isolation. In particular, it is closely tied to The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

I’ve read all Mitchell’s previous books (four of them twice): connectedness is the most overarching theme, within and between books.

All (except Black Swan Green?) muse on (im)mortality, specifically souls moving from one body to another, but not in a spooky paranormal way; it’s more matter-of-fact than that. The sometimes uneasy host/guest/invader relationship is mirrored in wider themes about power, exploitation and survival of the fittest. Music often features, as do islands, rescue vessels (literal and metaphorical), and survival despite societal collapse. Here, there is no sudden, total apocalypse and it happens without a glittering high-tech future in between.

Most famously, characters from one book make fleeting appearances in another. This is fun, pretentious, sometimes gratuitous, distracting, but enriching.

I like the idea that just as his novels (including this) are often built up of connected stories in different styles, those novels have a similar relationship to each other: stories within stories within stories, creating a whole world of connections: immortality by transferring from one vessel to another.

Each of my novels are expanders or chapters in a kind of uber-book, a piece of a universe that all my novels are making”. That makes it less surprising that his next five novels are “planned to some degree”. One will be the final volume of the Marinus trilogy.

The Thousand Autumns had seemed to be a fairly conventional historical novel with fewer connections than Ghostwritten and Cloud Atlas; The Bone Clocks changes that, exposing overlaps and hidden fantasy:

• Slade House (reviewed here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) is entirely in this world.

• Marinus, a significant character in The Thousand Autumns, is a major character in this.

• Marinus mentions Arie Grote from his life in Dejima in Thousand Autumns.

• The immortality-seeking baby-eating cult in Thousand Autumns is presumably an early grouping of Anchorites.

• We glimpse Prescience, precursors of the Prescients from Cloud Atlas.

• Hugo Lamb’s cousin is Jason Taylor, the main character in Black Swan Green (who was in turn, heavily based on Mitchell).

• Ed Brubeck writes for Spyglass magazine, as did Luisa Rey in Cloud Atlas.

• Elijah D’Arnoq is a reincarnation or descendant of a D’Arnoq that Adam Ewing encounters in The Chatham Islands in Cloud Atlas.

• Dwight Silverwind from Ghostwritten makes a small but significant appearance.

• Mo Muntervary has small important roles here and in Ghostwritten.

• There is a mention of a battle in a sunken garden, the title of the opera Mitchell recently wrote the libretto for.

• Holly’s family get takeaways from The Thousand Autumns Restaurant (though it’s Chinese, not Japanese).

• Soleil Moore: she’s an Asian-American poet who is really important, then drops out of the narrative completely. I’m guessing she’ll feature prominently in a future book.

There are also characters apparently based on real characters: Lord Roger Brittan is a minor character, rather like Lord (Alan) Sugar; more obviously, Crispin Hershey is remarkably like Martin Amis (see below).

The book even references itself: Hershey bases one of his characters on Holly’s husband, and Soleil Moore accuses him of having written about Anchorites.

CAST

There is an enormous cast, and some characters live in multiple bodies and so go by different names. Those peripheral in one section are often significant in later one.

I don’t need to like the protagonists of a book, which is just as well. Holly isn’t unlikeable, but I found her voice annoying and trying too hard to sound teenage, yet not always believable. (In particular, endless abbreviations: “Ed Brubeck’ll be”, “Mam will’ve told Dad… ‘bout why”, and the apostrophe-esses that weren’t possessive were easy to stumble over).

Other characters are highly unpleasant, yet somehow lacking the glamour of a really good baddie.

Many have accents in their names, which was a little distracting: Zoe, Anais, Eilish, Oshima, Immaculee – but not Aoife.

Hershey, Amis, Mitchell?

Critics have seen close parallels between Martin Amis and former “Wild Child of British Letters”, Crispin Hershey: in terms of life events, writing style, personality, and book titles (Hershey’s successful Desiccated Embryos and another called Red Monkey compared with Amis’ Dead Babies and Yellow Dog). Martin's father, Kingsley, is even quoted, saying a bad review might spoil breakfast, but he wouldn’t let it spoil lunch.

Mitchell has repeatedly denied any conscious link. Instead, he claims Hershey is “not just my worst aspect, he’s my fears. He’s what I might turn into if I’m not careful” and he "is all the worst parts of me, amplified and smooshed together" and in this section "I got to have a lot of fun spoofing people like me". Hershey’s most successful novel has a symmetrical structure, like Cloud Atlas.

Most literary critics are sceptical. The Guardian wondered whether “buried deep within this scrupulously polite and unassuming writer, a revenge fantasist [is] just waiting to punish the reviewers who dismiss him” or if he’d “belatedly woken up to the fact that taking a pop at his literary elders is not necessarily the smartest career move”.

I’ve only read one Amis novel, and nothing else by him; I wonder if he has Crispin’s quirk of alternating between first and third person for himself – even in a single sentence!

META – MUSINGS ON WRITING

Mitchell sees each collection of related novellas as part of a greater work: echoes and foreshadowing abound, Hershey’s failed book has “Echo” in the title, and elsewhere, we’re told the mysterious “Script” “loves to foreshadow”.

In this, he explicitly muses on fiction, writing, and lit crit, and pre-empts some potential criticisms of this book. The bad review that kill Hershey's sales, includes, “Hershey is so bent on avoiding cliché that each sentence is as tortured as an American whistleblower… The fantasy sub-plot clashes so violently with the book’s State of the World pretentions, I cannot bear to look… What surer sign is there that the creative aquifers are dry than a writer creating a writer-character?” Later, “A book can’t be a half fantasy any more than a woman can be half pregnant.”

After the second deus ex machina moment, Mitchell has one of the characters declare it as such, just so you know he knows.

In some ways, Hershey is very unlike Mitchell, observing that “in publishing, it’s easier to change your body than it is to switch genre” – something Mitchell makes a speciality of. He also makes prescriptive judgements on writing that I doubt Mitchell subscribes to in blanket terms: “Double-negatives are truth smugglers” and “Adverbs are cholesterol in the veins of prose”.

“A writer flirts with schizophrenia, nurtures synaesthesia and embraces obsessive-compulsive disorder. Your art feeds on you, your soul and, yes, to a degree, your sanity. Writing novels worth reading will bugger up your mind, jeopardise your relationships and distend your life.”

At one point, Hugo observes, “such narrative arcs make great movies, but shitty lives”; he neglects to say what sort of books they make.

PLOT

This is deceptively straightforward for Mitchell: a chronological story of one woman’s life, told in six, first-person parts:

1984 “A Hot Spell”
Illustrated with a disintegrating clock, narrated by Holly, a fifteen-year old who heard voices as a child, and now runs away after bust ups with parents and boyfriend. It is not Orwellian.
(view spoiler)

1991 “Myrrh is Mine, Its Bitter Perfume”
Illustrated with Holly’s labyrinth, told by Hugo Lamb, a conscience-free, money-loving Cambridge student, not quite as aristo as his equally obnoxious friends. Far more important than it first seems.
(view spoiler)

2004 “The Wedding Bash”
Illustrated with a crystal ball showing the Middle East, told by Ed Brubeck. Two very contrasting aspects: the excitement of a family wedding and life (and constant risk of death) as a reporter in Iraq.
(view spoiler)

2015 “Crispin Hershey’s Lonely Planet”
Illustrated with a spider and web, told by Crispin, an amoral, formerly successful, novelist.
(view spoiler)

2025 “An Horologist’s Labyrinth”
Illustrated with an apple, narrated by Marinus. It becomes full-on YA fantasy here. It reminded me of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. If I’d read any Dan Brown, I might spot parallels there.
Plotwise, it could have ended at the end of this, but my rating would have been lower, as I found this section increasingly silly.
(view spoiler)

2048 “Sheep’s Head”
Illustrated with a running fox silhouetted against an ominously large moon, told by Holly, who is old, and struggling to raise two children, as a slow-burn apocalypse approaches. There is irony the fact this increasingly desperate situation is utterly plausible and grounded in current and possible events. The fantasy battles of the previous chapter seems irrelevant – especially as connectedness is the most fundamental thing to collapse (“the commodity we’re most in need of is news”).
(view spoiler)

VOCAB

The vocab list for anyone interested in horology became somewhat ludicrous. Here’s a sample:

Scansion, Incorporeals, Atemporals, Sojourners (go straight from one body to another, usually of the same sex), Returnee (“each resurrection is a lottery of longitudes, latitudes and demography”, usually alternating gender, with a 49 day gap), subtalk, the Script, Aperture, Shaded Way, psychovoltaic, “hiatus freezes [someone], suasion forces [them]”, oubliette, psychosoterica, carnivorous psycho-decanter, animacides, soul thieves, chakra-latent, dreamseed, metalife, transversing.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

For one voyage to begin, another voyage must come to an end, sort of.” I think that sums up Mitchell’s approach to his novels.

Mitchell quotes mostly from http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/p...), and http://www.theguardian.com/books/book.... Also interviews on BBC Radio 2’s Book Club, and Radio 4’s Front Row (that I can’t find online any more).


All my Mitchell reviews are on this uber shelf:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/list...
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Quotes Cecily Liked

David Mitchell
“Love's pure free joy when it works, but when it goes bad you pay for the good hours at loan-shark prices.”
David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks

David Mitchell
“Being born's a hell of a lottery.”
David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks

David Mitchell
“He was doing quite well until the last sentence, but if you bare your arse to a vengeful unicorn, the number of possible outcomes dwindles to one.”
David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks

David Mitchell
“A writer flirts with schizophrenia, nurtures synesthesia, and embraces obsessive-compulsive disorder. Your art feeds on you, your soul, and, yes, to a degree, your sanity. Writing novels worth reading will bugger up your mind, jeopardize your relationships, and distend your life. You have been warned.”
David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks

David Mitchell
“I put my hand on the altar rail. 'What if ... what if Heaven is real, but only in moments? Like a glass of water on a hot day when you're dying of thirst, or when someone's nice to you for no reason, or ...' Mam's pancakes with Toblerone sauce; Dad dashing up from the bar just to tell me, 'Sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite'; or Jacko and Sharon singing 'For She's A Squishy Marshmallow' instead of 'For She's A Jolly Good Fellow' every single birthday and wetting themselves even though it's not at all funny; and Brendan giving his old record player to me instead of one of his mates. 'S'pose Heaven's not like a painting that's just hanging there for ever, but more like ... Like the best song anyone ever wrote, but a song you only catch in snatches, while you're alive, from passing cars, or ... upstairs windows when you're lost ...”
David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks

David Mitchell
“... Modesty is Vanity's craftier stepbrother.”
David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks

David Mitchell
“Power is lost or won, never created or destroyed. Power is a visitor to, not a possession of, those it empowers.”
David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks

David Mitchell
“Power is lost or won, never created or destroyed. Power is a visitor to, not a possession of, those it empowers. The mad tend to crave it, many of the sane crave it, but the wise worry about its long-term side effects. Power is crack cocaine for your ego and battery acid for your soul. Power’s comings and goings, from host to host, via war, marriage, ballot box, diktat, and accident of birth, are the plot of history. The empowered may serve justice, remodel the Earth, transform lush nations into smoking battlefields, and bring down skyscrapers, but power itself is amoral.” Immaculée Constantin now looks up at me. “Power will notice you. Power is watching you now. Carry on as you are, and power will favor you. But power will also laugh at you, mercilessly, as you lie dying in a private clinic, a few fleeting decades from now. Power mocks all its illustrious favorites as they lie dying. ‘Imperious Caesar, dead and turn’d to clay, might stop a hole to keep the wind away.”
David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks


Reading Progress

September 3, 2014 – Started Reading (Other Hardcover Edition)
September 3, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read (Other Hardcover Edition)
September 3, 2014 – Shelved (Other Hardcover Edition)
September 3, 2014 – Shelved as: miscellaneous-fi... (Other Hardcover Edition)
September 4, 2014 –
page 59
9.46% "An easy read, but (as I was warned), not yet an enticing one. Well, not until page 58. It may be about to take off..."
September 4, 2014 –
page 59
9.92% "An easy read so far, but (as I was warned) not yet an enticing one - at least, not until page 58. But it may be about to take off..." (Other Hardcover Edition)
September 9, 2014 –
page 280
47.06% "Hmm. Nearly half way though (three stories of six read) and I can't make up my mind. It's compelling, yet I don't feel captivated. I think I'm more motivated by the hope of something wonderful to come than current enjoyment." (Other Hardcover Edition)
September 11, 2014 –
page 300
50.42% "I can't decide whether the metafictional aspects (especially the crossover of characters from his other works) is fun or a bit too self-consciously clever.\n I'm also getting irritated by the gratuitous use of names with a variety of accents, presumably just because it's easy to typeset nowadays. Even the Brits have them (Zoe and Aoife - but I CBB to add the accents). \n But nevertheless, I keep turning the pages..." (Other Hardcover Edition)
September 14, 2014 –
page 387
65.04% "Finished section 4 with a bang - I think it's turning into Pullman's "His Dark Materials" (though it's years since I read that)." (Other Hardcover Edition)
September 17, 2014 –
page 447
75.13% "Three quarters through and I still can't make up my mind about this. It's certainly exciting now, but so, so crazy with plots, body swaps, bsackstory, more plots and swaps..." (Other Hardcover Edition)
September 22, 2014 –
page 522
87.73% "Finished the fifth, longest and most dramatic section. VERY Philip Pullman, with a smattering of JK Rowling. Hmm.\n I expect the short, final section just tidies a few loose ends (not many, I hope)." (Other Hardcover Edition)
September 23, 2014 – Finished Reading (Other Hardcover Edition)
September 24, 2014 – Started Reading
September 24, 2014 –
page 595
100.0% "Well... um... I don't know whether to give this 2* or 4*. I'll have to digest it, then write a review to see if that clarifies my thoughts on this extraordinary, but imperfect book." (Other Hardcover Edition)
September 24, 2014 – Finished Reading
September 27, 2014 – Shelved
September 27, 2014 – Shelved as: miscellaneous-fiction
April 28, 2015 – Shelved as: magical-realism
April 28, 2015 – Shelved as: magical-realism (Other Hardcover Edition)
October 31, 2015 – Shelved as: mitchell-uber-book
October 31, 2015 – Shelved as: mitchell-uber-book (Other Hardcover Edition)

Comments (showing 1-50 of 87) (87 new)


message 1: by Riku (new)

Riku Sayuj The amount of work that has gone into this review is just amazing. it makes me despair of keeping up with DM...


message 2: by Ian (last edited Oct 04, 2014 02:09PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Cecily, this is the definitive, as well as a defining, review.

Prompted by it, I might have worked out that "Echo Must Die" is most probably a reference to Amis' "The Pregnant Widow" (which was widely criticised on publication). I assume that Echo is from Ovid's "Metamorphoses", Ted Hughes’ translation of which is featured in the Amis novel. (I haven't read it yet.)

For an amazing example of a "revenge fantasist", see Gilbert Sorrentino!

A couple of injudicious nitpicks:

Your comment about Holly's annoying "voice" seems to derive from your first reading of the first chapter, and you've retained it. I found that, once I finished the whole book and had a sense of the character over the course of her entire lifetime, I was more forgiving. It didn't worry me when I re-read the chapter.

I am always uncomfortable with the use of the word "pretentious" in relation to literature. This is a purely personal sensitivity. The word smacks of a class judgment of someone trying to achieve above their station. (I know you don't mean it that way.) I'm sure we could both find examples of genuinely pretentious writing (see Private Eye and Pseud's Corner, for example). However, I don't think it is the right word in the context of a work that is overtly metafictional and playful or even simply ambitious (unless that is what is meant by pretentious, which I'm sure some people believe). I understand that you might disagree.

Your rating fascinates me! I would give a book four or five stars, if it did no more than prompt me to think and write as insightfully as you have done. I suppose that, in your case, that would mean every book got five stars.

Some speculation:

I hadn't realised that "Myrrh is Mine..." is a lyric from the Christmas carol "We Three Kings":

"Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume,
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in a stone-cold tomb."


The apple symbol is sometimes referred to as a golden apple in the novel, which has a negative implication in mythology. I haven't quite reconciled it.

Do you think we'll see Hugo Lamb again?


Cecily Riku, thanks. It did take a while to write, but less time than reading the book. As for keeping up with DM, I quite agree. Each new read takes longer to process. I also wonder how he keeps up with it all himself. Every book tangles the uber book even more.


message 4: by Cecily (last edited Oct 05, 2014 02:50AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cecily Ian, thanks for your generous words and for filling in my gaps in Amis knowledge.

I think there's some truth in your comment about my comment about Holly, but only a bit: I certainly preferred her towards the end, but I think the irritations of the teenage Holly persisted.

You're probably right about "pretentious" - but now we're discussing it, I can't really go back and change it. I was just trying to reflect the range of conflicting responses some of the more trivial connections provoked in me.

As for my ratings, I've agonised over them since I started the book, and while writing my reviews. Yes, there is so much meat in it, but when I read the comments I made in the Progress section as I read it, I have to acknowledge that for me, it was not 5* enjoyment, and not even a firm 4*. Mind you, the discussions it leads to might make me love it more.

I hadn't realised the lyrics of "We Three Kings" might not be well known in English-speaking countries with significant Christian heritage. I wonder if Mitchell does?

Hugo Lamb? Yes, I'm sure he'll feature again, but whether as a main character or a peripheral one, I'm less sure. Probably the latter, given how major a one he was here. Soleil Moore is the one my money is on.


message 5: by Ian (last edited Oct 04, 2014 02:34PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Re We Three Kings, I assume I just forgot. It's a long time since I sang a hymn! All I can remember is Paul the Preacher, Paul the Poet!


Forrest Thank you, thank you, thank you. You made explicit in this review some of the same issues that I only vaguely identified in mine. I'm glad I'm not alone in seeing serious flaws in the book. It seems that this opinion is not too popular!


Cecily Thanks, Forrest; I've already agreed with your excellent review (though I hope you don't feel betrayed that my other review gives it 4*). It can be hard to go against the flow, but write as I feel. I wanted to love this book, and it's certainly occupied my thoughts and time in a riveting way, but I just couldn't.


message 8: by Ian (last edited Oct 04, 2014 03:29PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye As of about a week ago, the most popular/liked GR reviews of both the new Mitchell and Murakami novels were two star reviews, and I expect that to remain the case for some time.


message 9: by Teresa (new)

Teresa Interesting review, Cecily. I've read several Martin Amis so I'm curious about that aspect -- he's such a polarizing figure. I'm also interested in the The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet connections, but I'll come back and read those after I've read this book, whenever that might be.


message 10: by Samadrita (new) - added it

Samadrita The 'like' is in advance, Cecily. I will drop by sometime after I am done with this tome. I love how Mitchell doesn't let his detractors dictate how he should write or shouldn't and just goes ahead and does his own thing anyway.


message 11: by Cecily (last edited Oct 05, 2014 02:29AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cecily Thanks, Teresa. When you've read it, doubtless you can fill in some gaps about parallels with Amis.

This book is clearly linked Thousand Autumns (Mitchell has described it as the second of the Marinus trilogy), but given the recursive nature of his storyweaving, I don't think it matters too much which way round you read them (though I think there's a slight advantage to doing so in publication order.


Cecily Thanks, Samadrita: that's very trusting, but you can always unlike it later, I suppose!

Like you, I avoid or skim reviews of books I am or will soon be reading. (My other review is spoiler-free, but still probably best to wait until you've formed your own opinions.)

As for Mitchell doing his own thing, he's certainly a confident and mould-breaking author. Even when not all his features are to my taste, my admiration for his variety and skill is great.


message 13: by Diane (new) - added it

Diane Barnes I think after reading your review I might go with Ghostwritten or Thousand Autumns first. I've only ever read Cloud Atlas by Mitchell, but thought it was brilliant. This review was a lot of work, thank you for taking the time.


message 14: by Samadrita (last edited Oct 05, 2014 07:50AM) (new) - added it

Samadrita Cecily wrote: "Thanks, Samadrita: that's very trusting, but you can always unlike it later, I suppose!

Like you, I avoid or skim reviews of books I am or will soon be reading. (My other review is spoiler-free, b..."


I already read your other review, Cecily. I understand you found the fantasy aspects problematic. That's one aspect I am slightly worried about myself.


Cecily Diane wrote: "I think after reading your review I might go with Ghostwritten or Thousand Autumns first. I've only ever read Cloud Atlas by Mitchell, but thought it was brilliant."

Ghostwritten is certainly the one I generally recommend as an intro to Mitchell, and I think it makes more sense to read Thousand Autumns before Bone Clocks, though given the circular nature of Mitchell's stories, I suppose you could do it the other way round.

Diane wrote: "This review was a lot of work, thank you for taking the time"

Aw, thank you. It was a lot of work, mainly for my own future reference, but that makes it all the more pleasing when other people are appreciative.


Cecily Samadrita wrote: "I already read your other review, Cecily. I understand you found the fantasy aspects problematic. That's one aspect I am slightly worried about myself."

I'm not averse to fantasy (though I'm not a big fan either), but there was too much of it here for my taste, in too silly and childish a way, that it just didn't fit well with the rest of the book. However, it's what some like best. Whatever one thinks, it's still a tour de force.


message 17: by Emily (new)

Emily Cecily wrote: "This book, perhaps more than any of his others, cannot be viewed in isolation. In particular, it is closely tied to The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

I’ve read all Mitchell’s previous books (four of them twice): connectedness is the most overarching theme, within and between books."


Hmm, you may have convinced me to start at the beginning of his writing.


message 18: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Eight likes for this review? It deserves much better!


message 19: by Teresa (new)

Teresa Cecily wrote: ".. I think there's a slight advantage to doing so in publication order."

That's the way I generally like to do it, when I can and when I plan on reading all of an author's works. I've already read The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet but I want to read his 2nd novel before reading this latest, even if one has nothing to do with the other. :)


Cecily Emily wrote: "Hmm, you may have convinced me to start at the beginning of his writing."

It's probably best that way (though others may disagree). Black Swan Green is the least connected of those he's published so far, so could probably be read at any time. It definitely makes sense to read Thousand Autumns before Bone Clocks, but other than that... I'm less sure.


Cecily Ian wrote: "Eight likes for this review? It deserves much better!"

Ian, you're very kind, but I expect writing two reviews splits the vote.


message 22: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye BSG might be more connected to the future!


Cecily Ian wrote: "BSG might be more connected to the future!"

Yes, I expect it will be. I'm increasingly aware that Mitchell wastes nothing.


message 24: by Emily (new)

Emily Cecily wrote: "Emily wrote: "Hmm, you may have convinced me to start at the beginning of his writing."

It's probably best that way (though others may disagree). Black Swan Green is the least connected of those h..."


If I do it that way, by the time I get around to The Bone Clocks, it will be readily available at the library, as his earlier books already are.


Cecily Emily wrote: "If I do it that way, by the time I get around to The Bone Clocks, it will be readily available at the library"

Good thinking. I have a friend who is #40 on the waiting list at her library!


message 26: by Greg (new)

Greg Well done review.
Like you, I immediately thought that the mention of Prescience in Bone Clocks referred to precursors of the Prescients from Cloud Atlas. However, Mitchell has dodged this question publicly in a couple of recent Q & A sessions that I have read, and upon re-reading 'Sloosa's Crossing' I came across a conversation between Zachary and Meronym in which she explicitly states that 'Prescients don't b'lief souls exist' and 'We Prescients, b'lief when you die you die an' there ain't no comin' back.' Since Meronym is clearly a reliable narrator, and since it seems unlikely that Mitchell is going to kill off Marinus and all the rest of the Horologist group between 2043 and the 'Sloosa's' time, I am expecting some kind of ret-con of the name of the group in Cloud Atlas. Or, the far more likely scenario, that Mitchell has all this figured out already and will explain it when he is good and ready.


message 27: by Ian (last edited Oct 07, 2014 02:33PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye There are a few distinctions within the levels of spirituality, even within TBC. I haven't kept a complete list, but these are some: (view spoiler)


message 28: by Cecily (last edited Oct 11, 2014 02:34AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cecily Good detective work, Greg. I'd noticed the difference between The Prescients and the Prescience organisation, but on the assumption that there's no such thing as coincidence in Mitchell's world, drew the obvious connection.


message 29: by Cecily (last edited Oct 11, 2014 02:34AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cecily Ian, I found those distinctions rather curious and not always clearly expressed. I'm sure we'll learn more in the final Marinus book, though he's going to finish several others first.


Stephen M This is absolutely the definitive review of this book.

I wish I was as close and careful of a reader as you are, Cecily. Perhaps as I read more, I can hope to achieve what you've achieved here -- the depth of this analysis is remarkable.

By the way, "psychosoterica" is where I stopped trying to pronounce the names in my head and I almost put the book down.


Cecily Gosh, Stephen. Thanks for such high praise. Although I confess I'm pleased with both my reviews of this, I think I still fall far short of "definitive".

As for being a careful reader, that's increased, the longer I've been on GR. The problem now is that I'm too careful, so it's hard to write pithy reviews. Instead, I just ramble on. (I don't want to make a habit of multiple reviews per book.)


Stephen M Certainly understandable, but it's not a habit that I would mind at all -- nor would most of goodreads, I imagine.


message 33: by Lynne (last edited Oct 24, 2014 01:38AM) (new) - added it

Lynne King Well Cecily, so much work has gone into this review. It is stunning to say the least.

I must confess that I haven't read any of Mitchell's books. I don't know why but there are so many other books to read. I did see this book in W H Smith's in Stanstead Airport last week and did toy with the idea of purchasing it. But I didn't and in the end bought six other books.


Cecily Thanks, Lynne.

I'm a fan of Mitchell, and I will soon reread the prequel to this one, but I wouldn't recommend this as a first taste of his works. What were the SIX(!) books you bought instead of this?


message 35: by Lynne (new) - added it

Lynne King Well Cecily:
1. Carlos Ruiz Zafon - The Watcher in the Shadows
2. Gillian Flynn - Gone Girl- I want to see the film
3. David Nicholls - US
4. The Taxidermist's Daughter - Kate Mosse
5. Last Man Standing - Roger Moore (I love the golden oldies of Hollywood)
And the sixth? I cannot find it. I defnitely bought six though.


message 36: by James (new) - added it

James Rolle My one thought about the book - other than enjoying it immensely, as I have all of his books - is that the dystopian future rant that is the last chapter doesn't fit here; it comes out of nowhere, and is entirely unnecessary to close the Marinus Sykes relationship.


message 37: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye That might be so, but its role might be to end one voyage and begin another. Sort of!


message 38: by Cecily (last edited Nov 02, 2014 02:52PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cecily That's a good mix, Lynne: some that I want to read, some I don't want to read, and some I haven't heard of. I hope you find the sixth one.


message 39: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Cecily wrote: "“Each of my novels are expanders or chapters in a kind of uber-book, a piece of a universe that all my novels are making”."

Düde, Where’s My Umlaut?


Cecily It's sacrificed on the altar of my laziness, I'm afraid, Ian.


message 41: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye I just löve them!


Cecily How do you do them in GR comments?


message 43: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Cöpy and päste!


Cecily Ha! That's only OK if you've got an example to hand.


message 45: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye I just googled Motörhead and Mädchen.


Cecily I never noticed Motörhead had one (and my son likes metal, though more at the folk-metal end).


message 47: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Umlauts make all the difference, Düde!


message 48: by Ian (last edited Nov 04, 2014 01:47AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Great question, Tracy. I don't know the answer, but I'll throw in a quote about Mo from DM:

"Q: How do you approach the writing of female characters? When writing from the point of view of a woman, say Mo Muntervary or Margarita, do you change your methodology in any way?

A: I approach the writing of female characters with trepidation! It is
difficult to try, but difficulties in writing are fun, and if you can tackle
them you can find freshness and originality for your writing. I try to use
what I have learnt about being female from my relationships with girls and
women (students, girlfriends, relatives, my wife) and sort of use that as a
bass-line in the ‘song’ of a character. I also show all my manuscripts to
my wife and listen when she tells me I’m making a horse’s ass of myself.
(She uses more diplomatic language than that.)"


http://www.richardbeard.info/2005/01/...


Cecily Tracy wrote: "I'm wondering if you or anyone else had thought Mo was killed by her own creation"

I don't remember number9dream well enough (the Zookeeper aspects were rather complex, as I recall), but I doubt even the most thorough fan can keep all the connections in mind, especially as his über-book expands.


message 50: by Calico (new)

Calico Does the book invoke Cassadaga?


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