Audiobook Review: The Bone Clocks

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Good LORD.  Let me get my bearings here.

This is my first novel by the acclaimed author David Mitchell.  I have not read Cloud Atlas, and therefore had no expectations of his newest tale.  However, since it was longlisted for last year’s Man Booker, it was clearly something that was worth my time.  Now that I’ve finished this lengthy story, I’m ready to agree with the legions of Mitchell fans.  This author is brilliant.


The Bone Clocks will need your full attention.  This is not a story that you can meander through in a fog – if you don’t stay sharp, I guarantee that you’ll be paging back to see what you missed.  As so many of Mitchell’s fans have discovered long ago, his writing is pithy and demanding.  In other words, if you’re looking for a light read, this is not your best bet.  If, however, you’re interested in losing yourself in a smart, breathless story that is shared in immaculate prose, then be sure to add this to your ‘to-read’ list as soon as possible.

I’m not sure how to summarize this plot.  The novel starts with the plight of Holly Sykes, a spirited teenage runaway who always believed that the voices she heard from the “radio people” were a figment of her imagination.  In actuality, and critical to the entire sprawling story, Holly is a lightening rod for psychic phenomena.  Couple this with the heartbreaking disappearance of her gifted younger brother, and you have your first story in a chain of related events.  Holly is the thread that binds these stories, and each one could be a novel in its own right.  Hugo Lamb, Ed Brubeck and Crispin Hershey (hands down my favorite) are just a few of the characters you will meet as Mitchell leads you down a spiraling path of good vs. evil.

What I liked best:

The Bones Clocks is wildly intelligent.  The characters are so meticulously drawn that you will come away from the novel bruised, longing to encounter them again.  Through every phase of her life (and yes, you cover almost all of them), Holly Sykes is a magnificent protagonist.  She’s whip-smart, suspicious and a damned quick study when it comes to her mistakes. Her interactions with the other characters of the book propel the plot in a very deliberate manner.  What was especially impressive was how in the face of everything odd and other-worldly, she never let go of her humanity.  She embraced her mortality with every breath, and always knew in her heart what was right.  Among my favorite character interactions for Holly were those portions of the book that included Crispin Hershey (I will always have a soft spot in my heart for a smart-ass curmudgeon), and any portion that included the mysterious and omnipotent Doctor Marinus.  The dialogue between these characters almost left me winded.  I’ve decided that any conversation that has been penned by David Mitchell is one that I will adore.  From the witty barbs to the sinister sidebars, I promise that you will be endlessly entertained.  There are no simple words spoken in this novel; every word is bursting with meaning and foreshadowing.

Mitchell’s political tones also did not go unnoticed.  The last section of his novel (dated 2043) immerses the reader in the later years of Holly Sykes, and the grim place that the world has become.  From food rations to the theft of solar panels, it’s clear that Mitchell is sharing a warning with this portion of the book.  Take care of the earth, and its resources.  Otherwise, the future looks absolutely desperate.  I thought this section was beautifully written.  I could feel the grit and the disappointment, and the moral of the story came through with a huge wallop.

What I liked least:

…. and here’s where The Bone Clocks lost a star.  That battle.  That smack-you-in-the-face sci-fi mishmash of palm shields, chakra eyes and psycho babble.  For me, the story suddenly came unhinged.  It snapped, and morphed from literature to pure science fiction.  I don’t mind the occasional fantastical yarn, but this section felt contrived and unnecessary.   I wanted the battle (which, yes, was unavoidable) to stay within the realms of the preceding sections, which had at least one foot firmly set in this world.  Was this battle written with the same intensity as the rest of the book?  You bet.  I don’t wish to diminish Mitchell’s creativity in any sense.  I just felt as though this ultimate battle of good vs. evil was over the top.  I came away from this section feeling a little cheated, as though someone shoe-horned a video game into this marvelous story.  I thought that Mitchell was doing a stellar job of conveying that there is a war going on beyond the world’s collective consciousness.  I didn’t need the wild hand gestures and invisible punches to make it more convincing.

Overall, The Bone Clocks is written with dazzling prose by a very gifted author.  It’s hard to go wrong with a good vs. evil plot in my book, and I love the spin that Mitchell has given to this ancient battle.  Read this novel for Mitchell’s brilliant characters.  And don’t forget to pay attention to his warning.

This extensive audiobook was narrated by no fewer than 6 talented artists.  In the order of the book and its characters, these narrators included Jessica Ball, Leon Williams, Colin Mace, Steven Crossley, Laurel Lefkow and Anna Bentinck.  Every one of these narrators was fantastic, but there was one in particular who stole my heart.  Yes – it was the voice of Crispin Hershey, read by Steven Crossley.  Words cannot adequately describe how talented this man is.  Crossley may in fact be part of the reason why I fell for Crispin Hershey as hard as I did.  The next time I see Steven Crossley’s name on an audiobook, I’ll be pouncing on it.

4 stars for The Bone Clocks.

Literary Hoarders Elizabeth