With The Bone Clocks, Mitchell rises to meet and match the legacy of Cloud Atlas. The novel tells the story of Holly Sykes' life in six episodes while also, surprisingly, linking his books set in 20th-century England, 18th-century Japan and various far futures … As a central character, Holly is an odd amalgam. The glimpses of the supernatural universe surrounding her are effaced from her consciousness, so she has no curiosity about them, no yearning to reach or understand them, no quest. She lives a very human life, with loves, losses and achievements, which is heroic on its own … In The Bone Clocks, interconnected lives stretch across time; human contact is both frightening and vital. This novel electrifyingly unites Mitchell's fictions into one universe while telling the story of Holly Sykes, an ordinary young woman whose chance encounters give her life meaning.
Mitchell unfolds Holly’s larger story from the 1990s to the 2050s through narrators who are each directly linked to her...These intensely told, brightly imagined sequences are riddled with the sudden entry and exit of shadowy characters who are keenly interested in Holly and given to making crazy declarations … Holly and reader alike at last learn more definitively about the theological origins and the time, space and logic-defying nature of the labyrinthine conflict that has surrounded her, claimed her little brother (who is more than just her little brother) and invaded her consciousness and very being for decades … This all must sound ridiculous, exhausting, cheaply exciting and dangerously lowbrow and yes, by every measure it is, save one: David Mitchell has written it.
Pure storytelling seems to have triumphed here; the human case has disappeared. The novel keeps producing iterations of itself, in different places and times—England in the nineteen-eighties, Iraq in 2004, America in 2025, post-apocalyptic Ireland in 2043—but instead of formal capability there is a sense of empty capacity. It hardly helps that threaded through the book is a science-fiction plot about warring bands of immortals, named the Horologists and the Anchorites. Weightless realism is here at slack odds with weightless fantasy … Mitchell has written a theological novel of sorts, and just as certain kinds of theology threaten to rob human life of intrinsic significance—since theology exists to convert worldly meaning into transcendent meaning—so Mitchell’s peculiar cosmology turns his characters into time-travelling groundlings, Horology’s dwarves.