Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

The Bone Clocks: David Mitchell

David Mitchell writes short stories and then interweaves them so they turn into novels- and now it's apparent- seven books in- that he's also interweaving all his novels so they'll turn into a comedie humaine- covering not just one society (as with Balzac) but the whole of the planet and the entire history of civilisation. This is an admirable thing to be doing and fun for the reader- who has the pleasure- on a par with crossword puzzling or sudoku- of working out how the parts fit together- and spotting characters that have turned up elsewhere in the oeuvre.

When the whole construction is finally assembled- which may be never- because who can predict when death will come calling or inspiration fail?- The Bone Clocks is going to be seen as the keystone of the arch. It's here that Mitchell finally gets to explain in some detail how reincarnation and functional immortality- concepts which structure his fiction (when characters recur they may not always do so in the same body)- actually work in this universe of his. This is a dangerous thing to be doing for two reasons- firstly because he risks boring or annoying his reader-something he avoids by mixing in some high-octane, cinematically-styled, paranormal action- and secondly because there's the danger that a mystery which looks deep when only hinted at may seem a little trite when fully exploded- and this he hasn't entirely manage to dodge. If Balzac is his competition- and what seriously ambitious novelist wouldn't want to go mano a mano with Balzac?- then the Frenchman- in Seraphina- is the greater, more instinctive, better informed metaphysician. On the other hand, Balzac has fewer explosions and paranormal light sabre duels.
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