Tag Archives: fantasy element

Mid-Readalong Thoughts on The Bone Clocks #BoneClocks17

I’m three-quarters of the way through The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, so if I don’t do a Mid-Readalong post soon, I’ll have to do a Wrap-Up post instead. It’s a good thing the #BoneClocks17 readalong was scheduled for a leisurely pace, because I’ve been at it for well over a month, interspersed with other reading. (I seem to remember I took forever to read Cloud Atlas, too!)

It’s a good book to read slowly because The Bone Clocks is all about time and the brevity of the human lifespan. There are naturally atemporal beings (resurrected souls) who never die, characters who die tragically young, and otherwise regular people who suffer from debilitating visions of the past and future. I don’t think I’m giving any spoilers here in this post, but it’s a discussion post, not a book review, so if you’re a paranoid, spoiler-averse reader like myself, be forewarned!

I’ve been reading The Bone Clocks in ebook format downloaded through the library, so I lost the notes and highlights from the first half of the book when the ebook loan expired (twice). There is a lot happening, and a lot to ponder on every page, so notes would have been helpful!

I knew nothing about The Bone Clocks going into the readalong. The only other book by David Mitchell that I’ve read is Cloud Atlas, which also has loosely connected stories widely separate in time and place and characters who appear in the periphery of other books. The Bone Clocks has an element of dark fantasy that I don’t recall from Cloud Atlas. After The Bone Clocks comes Slade House, (which I mistakenly thought came before, at the start of the readalong) and that has some recurring characters, too, I believe.

I also had been confusedly thinking that I’d read David Mitchell’s first novel before he was a well-known writer, which would have been Black Swan Green from 2006, but turns out I was mixing up my authors and was thinking of A Question of Attraction by David Nicholls from 2003. (Are there as many English novelists named David as there are American novelists named Jonathan, I wonder?)

The section of the book narrated by the literary enfant terrible character, Crispin Hershey, adds a metafictional aspect to the dark humor prevalent throughout The Bone Clocks, which over all, has a melancholy, rather than funny, I would say. (Being a good person in the time you have on earth is a good thing, but no one can really say why.)

Crispin Hershey’s later novels never sold as well as his first cult classic, Dessicated Embryos (referred to earlier in The Bone Clocks before readers meet Crispin Hershey) and he’s way beyond the deadline for turning the new novel about the lighthouse in Australia he’s under contract to his publisher for.

cover imageIn this passage from The Bone Clocks, Crispin is on the phone with his agent, Hal, desperately trying to avoid paying back the advance on the nonexistent next book, which sounds suspiciously like the The Bone Clocks:

“Where does the Australian lighthouse fit in?”

I take a deep breath. And another. “It doesn’t.”

Hal, I am fairly sure, is miming shooting himself.

“But this one’s got legs, Hal. A jet-lagged businessman has the mother of all breakdowns in a labyrinthine hotel in Shanghai, encounters a minister, a CEO, a cleaner, a psychic woman who hears voices” – gabbling garbling – “think Solaris meets Noam Chomsky via The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Add a dash of Twin Peaks…”

Hal is pouring himself a whisky and soda: Hear it fizz? His voice is flat and accusative: ‘Crispin. Are you trying to tell me that you’re writing a fantasy novel?’

‘Me? Never! Or it’s only one-third fantasy. Half, at most.’

‘A book can’t be half fantasy any more than a woman can be half pregnant. How many pages have you got?’

‘Oh, it’s humming along really well. About a hundred.’

‘Crispin. This is me. How many pages have you got?’

How does he always know? ‘Thirty – but the rest is all mapped out, I swear.’

Hal the Hyena exhales a sawtoothed groan. ‘Shitting Nora.’

Enjoying an unexpected day off due to the major nor’easter named Niko that blew in early this morning. I hope the storm doesn’t bring harm to anyone who has to go out in it today!

Bone Clocks Readalong button
I’m off to read other mid-Readalong posts now:

The Bone Clocks Readalong Part 1

The Bone Clocks Mid-Read Thoughts

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Waiting for the next book now: The Magician King by Lev Grossman

If you’ve read The Magicians by Lev Grossman (reviewed by me in 2009) you can expect the same high level of humor, action, cool-nerd references, and weird magical adventures from the sequel, The Magician King, along with the same underlying levels of both deep-seated sadness at the human condition and giddy awareness of the preciousness of life.
For King Quentin, life is simple in Fillory when the story opens. The magical land described in the beloved children’s books is where he had always wanted to be. But the pleasures of a settled existence and royal routines (waving to the Fillorians from the balcony, sitting ceremonially on one of the four thrones, etc.) have started to wane, especially when he remembers the dangers he faced before settling down to rule over Fillory. Plus, Queen Julia (always a bit strange and a little rough around the edges) is exhibiting signs of restlessness. This worries Quentin, who cares for her in his self-absorbed way. When unusual events start occurring beyond the castle walls, Quentin decides to do something. King Eliot and Queen Janet — content to remain as they are– only protest for form’s sake when Quentin and Julia set off on a voyage. The voyage turns into a quest, which turns into a life-or-death struggle for the future of the magical kingdom.
Alternating with the present is the story of Julia’s past and her dangerously unorthodox route to magic  that led to her being scarily more powerful than the others. (Unlike Quention, Eliot, and Janet, she’s not a Brakebills College of Magic graduate.)
You definitely need to read The Magicians before this one to get the references to the earlier book. Also, be aware that this is a book for adults and there is adult content. It is not the book to buy for your ten-year-old looking for something to read after Harry Potter. If you liked American Gods by Neil Gaiman or Patrick Rothfuss‘s Kingkiller Chronicles, but skipped over The Magicians when it came out, you might want to get started on it now. This sequence of Magician novels seems like a sleeper that should slowly become a cult classic, but more fortunately for the author, it’s well on it’s way to being an open secret.
Read an excerpt of The Magician King here.
Read the Boston Globe review here.
Other opinions about The Magician King (mostly good):
Entomology of a Bookworm
Escape Reality, Read Fiction
Jenn’s Bookshelves
The Ranting Dragon
Uncertain Principles

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

This week’s pre-publication “can’t-wait-to-read” selection is:

The Uncoupling
By Meg Wolitzer
Publication Date: April 5

With a semi-magical event in it, this one is a little different from her other novels, which were all very realistic, but Meg Wolitzer is one of my favorite authors, so I’m sure it’s going to be good. Here’s what Nick Hornby says:

Meg Wolitzer, like Tom Perrotta, is an author who makes you wonder why more people don’t write perceptive, entertaining, unassuming novels about how and why ordinary people choose to make decisions about their lives.

If you like Tom Perrotta’s books, but haven’t discovered Meg Wolitzer yet, here’s your chance.