Around 1994, my parents started buying me a super hero Christmas ornament every year. My wife quickly picked up the tradition, as did her own parents. As you can imagine, my super hero Christmas tree is now something to behold. My six-year-old has enjoyed helping me put the ornaments up for the last few years, and we’re looking forward to when my youngest daughter can join in the fun. We use a pathetic little fake tree I bought fourteen years ago when I was unmarried and living alone. We think it’s charming as it stands proud in the basement, bedecked in all things super. (Pay no attention to the sparse Bears ornaments … they are not so super.) Look upon it in awe!
Primal, captivating, and unique, Snowpiercer is honestly unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
The premise is simple. Mankind, in an effort to reverse global warming, succeeded all too well – it sent the world into a deep freeze. Snowpiercer is an incredibly long train that shelters the last of humanity. The tail of the train houses the less fortunate, and as one progresses along the train, life gets more and more advantageous.
Chris Evans plays a character named Curtis who reluctantly leads his fellow impoverished in revolt through the length of the train. No uprising has ever succeeded, but his mentor called Gilliam played by John Hurt assures him that they will experience success this time. Curtis and his crew must first get past Mason, played by Tilda Swinton. Mason easily steals the movie because she is one of the oddest characters I’ve ever seen.
I won’t give away the ending, but there is lots of bloodshed, plenty of action, some unexpected twists, and even some pretty good acting. In fact, this is probably Evans’ best role to date. I love him as Captain America, don’t get me wrong, but Curtis is no Captain America, and Evans brought depth and validity to this character who is by no means a hero in the traditional sense.
Snowpiercer is not perfect. There are several plot holes that still irk me, and you will definitely feel like you’re missing at least half of the overall story. Yet, the film mesmerizes. It has a quality that forces the audience to pay attention, to stay riveted, and to occupy the edge of the seat. It forced me to ignore its flaws and instead appreciate the raw vitality displayed throughout.
Like you, I felt excited to read The Bone Clocks because David Mitchell also wrote Cloud Atlas. Now, I’ll be honest, I consider Cloud Atlas one of the more difficult books I’ve ever read, and, as a former English major, that’s saying something. In fact, I really didn’t decide that I liked Cloud Atlas until after I finished reading it. It was a labor of love, and my pride wouldn’t let me give up on it.
Having said all that, The Bone Clocks is every bit as imaginative as Cloud Atlas, and, I’m happy to share, far more accessible. In fact, The Bone Clocks engaged my heart and mind immediately.
The Bone Clocks is another work of interwoven plots, fateful coincidences, and miraculous occurrences. It is also, I’d like to add, an incredible character study. In fact, I feel that these are some of Mitchell’s most believable characters yet. Ironically, he also includes some of his most unbelievable characters. I don’t say that because these unbelievable characters feel fake, but rather because they are deeply ingrained within the realms of fantasy and science fiction.
Though I personally loved it, The Bone Clocks is largely written as a very realistic story of family, loss, love, resolve, and indecision; however, there are significant moments when Mitchell pulls no punches and throws you into the deep end of an otherworldly conflict that has existed for centuries. Mitchell is a fine writer, a pleasure to read, but some readers may find the sudden travels to an alternate plane of reality too jolting, too unrealistic, and too out of context. Except it’s not out of context. Mitchell lays the foundation of this fantastical tale from the very beginning, and by story’s end, you realize you’ve been reading a superb work of genre from the start.
Like Michael Chabon, I love genre. I think genre should be celebrated. Some of our dearest works of fiction, those belonging to the classical canon, could easily be considered genre works. Mitchell has given us the best of literature – an expertly written story that offers insight into the human soul while regaling us with a tale that enlivens the imagination.