This is something of a paranormal story. Or maybe fantasy? Whatever you want to call it, it has Atemporals, people who were born long long ago, and when their current bodies die, after 49 days they are reborn in a new body, changing genders every rebirth. They are reborn as different races, on different continents and speak different languages in each new life.
But something new has arisen in the world. A man, the Blind Cathar, back in the 1200s, I think, built a monastery in some Alpine redoubt, Sidelhorn Pass, in the Bernese Alps, and discovered the secret to immortality — of a sort. By ‘decanting’ the souls of a special kind of person who is born with a mystical ‘third eye’, and then tossing the body into the deep ravine, then mixing the soul and the blood with wine, drinking it, they can live another three years without aging. They call themselves the Anchorites of the Dusk Chapel of the Blind Cathar of the Thomasite Monastery of Sidelhorn Pass.
Needless to say, these folks are predatory and heartless. A group of Atemporals calling themselves the Horologists have been waging a war against this bunch for over a hundred years, but their numbers, which never have been large, are dwindling.
Into the middle of this struggle comes Holy Sykes, teenage daughter of a pub owner in Kent, England, in the eighties. She has a couple of strange experiences with visions and voices, some odd occurrences as she runs away from home because her boyfriend dumped her. But her revenge stomp-off is interrupted by the news that her seven-year-old brother has disappeared, and she goes back home. The brother is never found.
We follow Holly’s life, which is periodically intersected by the characters of the Atemporals, through the lives of several other characters, who each have a substantial story. And then we learn more about the Horologists through the first person narrative of Dr. Marinus, a black woman psychiatrist in this birth cycle. And then we come to the final battle between the two factions of Atemporals.
Finally, we find Holly at age 72 living in Ireland in a small protected area, raising a granddaughter and a small child who washed up on her shore. The climate change has damaged irrevocably the world and its ability to continue producing power and food. People are coping with increasing scarcity and banditry. An apocalyptic vision of our future, in 2025.
What can I say about this book? It sounds much more improbable and goofy in précis format than it actually reads. It is quite compelling, with its dual story line and interweaving characters. It is most of all entertaining!
Bone clocks is a reference to the temporal nature of the human body.
Mitchell is the author of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, as well as Cloud Atlas, Number 9 Dream and Ghostwritten.