Thursday, June 19, 2014

David Mitchell's Influences

This is not a review of David Mitchell's new novel, The Bone Clocks, which I finished yesterday. I'm reviewing The Bone Clocks for the newspaper in September and I'll reread it & write a comprehensive review then. No, this is a blog post about what I think are main influences on the book. I will say in parenthesis that I thought the novel was very good and quite the change of pace from his last work, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet, which was a historical romance set in eighteenth century Japan. 
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Like Thousand Autumns, The Bone Clocks takes place in a world the reader initially thinks is our own but which isn't quite our Earth because of the existence of magic. In brief The Bones Clocks is about a cult of immortals with magical powers who provide the link between a series of long sections told from the perspective of different characters. Temporally the novel runs from the mid 1980's to the middle of the twenty first century. In Latin America these types of novels are known as magical realism but David Mitchell's writing is very dry, sceptical and English and not really anything like the works of the magical realist bigwigs such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Isabel Allende (but it does owe a debt to the intellectual and speculative ideas of Jorge Luis Borges). 
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Mitchell was born in 1969 so he's a little bit younger than me, but he grew up in 70's Britain and now lives in rural Ireland so we've got something of the same cultural background. Where Mitchell leaves me behind however is the 15 years he spent living in Japan which has had a profound influence on his style. Much of Mitchell's recent writing reminds me of the work of the Japanese master Haruki Murakami with the strong visual influence of manga and the cinema of Hayao Miyazaki.
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Other influences that I can sniff out in The Bone Clocks are Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Thomas Pynchon, Kinglsey and Martin Amis (The Alteration & Time's Arrow) Michael Moorcock, Iain Banks, Philip K Dick and of course JG Ballard.
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Like I say I'm not allowed to review The Bone Clocks here but if all this sounds like an interesting and heady mix to you you can pre-order The Bone Clocks now at all good bookshops or at the usual online outlets.  
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One more thing, if you don't mind a slight spoiler and you really enjoyed 1000 Autumns of Jacob De Zoet highlight the following hidden text: Dr Marinus from Jacob is a character in Bone Clocks...dont ask me how - that wd be telling.