The Bone Clocks is David Mitchell’s new novel about a woman named Holly Sykes and the strange life she gets caught up in living. It does the excellent David Mitchelly thing of having multiple sections which are their own stories in their own specific times (though this one, unlike Cloud Atlas, does keep marching into the future).
I liked the story as it built from a literary-feeling mundane story into a pretty gonzo sci-fi spectacle. Holly Sykes is in every part and she’s great, but she’s not the narrator or even a main character in many of the sections, which is kind of what I really liked about the novel. It bounces around with a bunch of different perspectives (which are not as extremely different as the different styles in number9dream) that to me make it feel like it’s trying to capture the multiplicity of life. The book’s always about Holly even if we’re in the heads of her less than immaculate friends and lovers.
There are a couple of things that I wasn’t a huge fan of, but they were more on the loose ends side of things. The final section was longer than it probably needed to be but it was also the most affecting part of the whole experience. That might be because it was the furthest into the future and the most sfnal. I can see how you could call it preachy, but I think that fits the narrator at that point.
So yes, I liked it. It’s a bit weirder than The Thousand Autumns of Jacon de Zoet, but Mitchell knows how to write characters you’ll really care for (in the midst of weird scifiishness).
The Cross and the Hammer is a self-contained Viking story that is less about a Viking and more about an Irishman who’s murdering his way through the countryside trying to kill off all the occupying Norsemen he can find to save his daughter and his homeland. It’s really violent. The Norseman who’s tracking him is well-educated and sends lots of letters back to his king who is fighting a war while he looks for this killer. There’s a very interesting father-daughter relationship going on, which is different from the Bonnie and Clyde stuff from Metal. It isn’t my favourite Northlanders book but there’s nothing wrong with it.
In my super-secret job I’m never allowed to mention for reasons of national security I find myself in the position to recommend books sometimes. The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King is one of these books that made its way across my workspace (can’t tell you if I have a desk or not, as that is a secret) and struck me as interesting. It’s the story of an Irish pirate and her reincarnation as a person in the late twentieth century after being cursed to spend 100 lifetimes as a dog. The cool thing is that Saffron (her 1990 self) retains all the memories of being 100 different dogs and of being Emer the badass pirate. And the great part of Emer’s memories include knowing where her last greatest treasure was buried. So yeah. Awesome.
There were several things that made this book better than the standard YA fare. First: I loved that it was set very specifically in 1990 for the “modern” parts. It made even that feel historical and obviated the need for today’s GPS and communication technology. In general I’m in favour of fiction being set in a specific year instead of “the present,” so there’re my biases.
Second, Saffron’s family is fucked up and [SPOILERS] they remain so right through the end of the book. There’s no redemption of the grasping mother who wants to live through her daughter’s success instead of doing something herself. Her father is a drug addict Vietnam vet and her brother steals from crippled people and burns down their home. You completely see why Saffron would want to go make a life for herself, memories of 300 years rattling around inside her head or not.
The sex in it is not what you might expect from a YA book too. It’s not all Gossip Girled up, there’re a couple of scenes of Emer (the pirate) getting raped and the villain spends a lot of time masturbating while watching the beach and telling the voices in his head how he’s not gay. So yeah, there’s that.
In all, what I liked about it was how it didn’t feel written to a YA formula. And in the back of the copy I read there’s an interview with the author and she says that she didn’t realize it was a YA book until her agent sold it as such. That makes sense to me. It makes it a bit weirder and out of place maybe, but a teen book I have no problem recommending.