Friday, February 27, 2015

The Bone Clocks

I liked Holly. From her running away in the first section to her dismal, scarily plausible, just this side of The Road life in the final section. The fantastical side of the story worked fairly well too, the immortal good guys and the slightly less immortal bad guys and their endless war. It provided a satisfying underlying narrative, a sort of muscle that helped the whole thing cohere and kept it moving forwards. Perhaps not the showdown in the Chapel. It was quite tense but a bit too silly, with (spoilers) good guys and bad guys firing mind bolts at each other, then the bad guys gloating that they’d won, in that way that bad guys do, until the good guys broke the Chapel and, basically, made it fall on them. If I understood that correctly.

But the main problem was the three long sections of the novel devoted to the men. Hugo Lamb, Ed Brubeck, Crispin Hershey. Ed was fine as a teenager but a bit dull as an adult, and seemed to be there mostly to earnestly explain to us that Iraq was a hideous mess, in case we didn’t know. (Nice sequence involving a missing toddler though, reminiscent of the beginning of McEwan’s Child In Time.) Hugo was loathsome and – this is possibly a naive response - I didn’t want to spend that long in his company. He and Crispin were both almost, sort of saved by loving Holly, but Crispin’s section was the weakest of the three. It seemed to arrive from a different novel, it could have been removed entirely without any damage to the plot. Crispin was a cross between David Mitchell himself and Martin Amis, a successful author whose success was ebbing, and the whole section smacked of a writer who’d run out of things to write about.

So, disappointing, slightly, from one of my favourite living novelists, but I did like Holly, and her story kept me interested and caring and wanting to know where we were going for nearly 600 pages. It’s a much inferior book, but it might make a better film than Cloud Atlas.