Review : The Bone Clocks

A good book leaves you thinking about it between reading sessions. A great book leaves you thinking about it after you’ve finished. A freaking spectacular book not only leaves you thinking about it, but colours everything that you try to read afterwards, and leaves you feeling slightly hollow, because the experience is over.

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell falls into the ‘freaking spectacular’ category. As the page numbers started growing ever larger, I felt enormous internal conflict – on one hand, the compulsive desire to find out what happens, but on the other hand, the need to draw things out slowly, to savour every page and thought. I suspect the fact that the last book that really had that effect on me was The Luminaries is a very good sign for The Bone Clocks’ chances on the award circuit.bone clocks

Even now, days after I finished it, I think about the feeling of closing that heavy pink hardback after reading… and then opening it again, to re-read the final page – knowing that it was going to be a hard act to follow. Perhaps intentionally I have limited much of my reading since then to easily-packaged pop YA fiction (even when I have responsibilities to other books) – I don’t feel like I’m quite ready to fall into another story so deeply.

The Bone Clocks is mysterious. It contains fantasy, but you wouldn’t dream of shelving it in an SF/Fantasy section. It’s epic and complex without being incomprehensible. It visits the past and the present, the real and then unbelievable. David Mitchell is a wizard. I have heard mixed things from others about his earlier books, so I’m a little wary of dipping my toe into those waters – after all, I would hate to taint the admiration that I currently have for the man.

I’m loath to go into too much detail, because however I try to describe it, I won’t do it justice. Good and evil are more black and white than they are in some tales, and yet it takes quite some time to figure out precisely which is which. It’s about survival at any cost and in the worst circumstances. It’s about examining the way in which we treat our world. It’s about one person, and so many people at once.

It is not a book to jump into lightly. You need to treat it carefully, give it the time that it deserves. If you peck at it bit by bit, you might not be captured by it as much as it deserves. Get yourself somewhere comfortable, allow yourself a decent chunk of time, make yourself a pot of tea or a plunger of coffee. Appreciate the beautiful design, both aesthetically, and conceptually. Be prepared to have people comment on how pink it is. Laugh gently, knowing that they have no idea what this pink tome holds. Then, when you’ve finished, pass it on to someone else to read, so it can inhabit them next. It’s what Marius would do.

This is the first of (hopefully) several reviews of books longlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize. Last year I only managed to sort out The Luminaries and We Need New Names – this year, I will hopefully manage to do the whole shortlist (all the better if this magical title makes it through to the next round – my hopes are certainly high).

on we shall go

Here’s a little book related denouement, to follow up the emotionally-fraught time that was last night. Since we all know that books are what I do best.

What am I reading at the moment, you may wonder? Well, it’s never as simple as answering with a one-title response. I am in the process of working my way through :

  • Unspeakable Secrets of the Aro Valley by Danyl McLauchlan*
  • Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green**
  • The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec Vol. 2 by Jacques Tardi
  • Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card***

There are also a fair few books on my shelves/piles that have bookmarks at a partway point, but that I am not currently actively engaging in, so to speak. They are the next tier to work my way through.

*Ought to finish it before I start my work placement at VUP. Really good, just a little slow going.
** Re-reading. Because, you know, movie. And also I just need a little John Green in my life every now and then.
*** I have a lot of feelings about OSC & his books, and I will write a post about them at some point.

I’m on a real graphic novel kick at the moment, after finishing reading the first Sandman bind-up… but I decided to branch out from pure Gaiman, and test the waters of other areas. Since I thoroughly enjoyed the Adele Blanc-Sec movie, I figured that the graphic novels would be a fine choice – and so far, so good. I have been meaning to re-read Scott Pilgrim, but since that has a very specific connection to That Which I Am Moving On From In All Ways, I’m not sure if that would be sensible to do right now. The last thing I need is good books/movies/memories being ruined by my current feelings regarding the person in question. So maybe the Bryan Lee O’Malley material is off the cards for a while.

Per the John Green mention, you can probably gather that I’m not entirely removed from my YA phase of late – and after spending a fair while today trotting around the kids and teen sections at work, shelving and book-lookin’,  it seems unlikely to change any time soon – there’s always something new that I notice and leaf through and want to devour. Relating back to yesterday’s post somewhat, I really do wish that I had a bit of Olive-style company for many reasons, but one of which is certainly to be able to have someone to read gorgeous beautiful books with.

That’s probably a combination of specific child missing, and general mid-20s cluckiness.

Anyway.

I hope you are all reading wonderful things as well. If you aren’t, rectify this immediately. Go to your local indie bookshop and get a recommendation.  Buy a book. Make the publishing world turn.

on book releases, colds, and surgery

I was extraordinarily excited for The Luminaries to be released. Eleanor Catton is among my favourite NZ authors around at the moment – I love love loved The Rehearsal (pretty sure that I’ve waxed lyrical about it at some point on here), and the thought of not only a new release from her, but a veritable tome of a new release… well, I can’t quite come up with the words, which is part of the problem.

My head (and general person) is a snuffly, almost-flu-y mess right now, and concentrating on beautiful and expansive prose is unfortunately not really meshing well with this undesired state of being. I got about 150 pages in by Saturday evening, and since then, I’ve been in a sad state of nose-blowing, whimpering and spluttering affairs. Still at work, of course – we’re all plague-ish at the moment, so for any particular one of us to actually go home sick, we’d have to pull out some pretty spectacular malady-related action.

So instead of absorbing the splendor of my fourth (or third, depending on your reckoning – third technical release, but fourth one I’ve read – thanks advance reading copies!) book of ‘the winter of magnificent book releases‘, I have been furthering my YA book ‘research’ with my third John Green book in two/three months (who’s counting?), which are enjoyable without requiring as much in-depth attention as The Luminaries is demanding.

So it sits beside my bed in all of its hardback-beautiful-end-paper-beribboned glory, while I knock back Codral (occasionally with Tramadol, when UC symptoms require it – my, what a combination) and tap at my Kobo screen, unravelling the mysteries of many Katherines and Alabaman boarding schools and teenagers with cancer. My bedside (well, within reaching distance of my bed) bookshelf bears many treasures which I need to get around to reading, as well as a couple of additions which I have read but hadn’t owned until recently (The Forrests, by Emily Perkins (for which I should really write a post about, in terms of the not entirely pleasant feelings I always manage to get from her books lately – not a bad thing, just unsettling) – and The Fall of Light, by Sarah Laing (one of the other three Magnificent Winter Releases (TM) (not actually TM). I have a squillion books around me that I need to read (curse of the bookseller-come-writer-come-English graduate), and yet here I am, on the e-reader, reading books that, whilst enjoyable, aren’t the ones that have been sitting on my to-do list for 5+ years (hint: I still haven’t read any Jane Austen).

I’m not quite sure where I’m going with all this. Maybe it’s still the codeine/paracetamol/tramadol cocktail coursing through some of my various veins.

Anyway.

I think the moral of that story was that, if you aren’t wracked with illness like I am, you should poke your nose into The Luminaries, for I recommend it wholeheartedly, or as much as one can recommend a book one is only 18% of the way through. I can also more thoroughly recommend The Fall Of Light, The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Maddaddam, now that I have actually read all of them.

The other thing is that surgery is creeping closer, and I now have two possible dates of These Will Probably Be Your Options But It Is MoH Policy To Not Book Surgery Until All Outstanding Tests Are Completed nature. So after my MRI next Friday, hopefully things can be more properly booked. By which stage it will be less than a month til either of those dates. Yikes.

Hopefully I’ll be sufficiently snuffle-free over the coming weeks to finish the damn book. If I can’t manage it now, I can’t imagine that post-surgery-brain-fog me will be up to the task either.