Slade House by David Mitchell – A Book Review

Much of the promotion surrounding this book touts it as a haunted house story, a work of horror.  However, it readily became apparent that it is nothing of the sort – it’s an unrelenting companion piece to The Bone Clocks.  In fact, if you haven’t yet read The Bone Clocks, I wholeheartedly recommend you read Slade House first.  It serves as an excellent introduction to that book’s general plot and tone.

Like The Bone Clocks, Slade House is fairly direct storytelling from David Mitchell.  Yes, he bends genre brilliantly to suit the story’s needs, and his ideas are inventive as well as captivating, but the writing isn’t necessarily difficult to read.  In fact, I rather like the fact that Mitchell is streamlining his style a bit.  Make no mistake, though, this is still an extremely creative artist who forges worlds masterfully.

Though a quick read, Slade House forces us to dive deeply into the lives of doomed characters, characters connected from one decade to the next, characters with no hope against the monsters hunting them.  But, as you well know, monsters always have hunters of their own, and I believe the reader will be satisfied by this tale’s conclusion.

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell – A Book Review

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.

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Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell – A Book Review

I’m not going to lie to you, this book took a tremendous amount of effort and, while reading it, I hated almost the entire thing.  I say this as an avid reader and an outspoken lover of literature.  My favorite authors are Chabon, Proulx, Auster, and McCarthy, so it’s not like I’m unaccustomed to challenging reads.

But then something miraculous happened … After I finished the book, I started to like it more and more.  It’s almost like how exercise stinks while you’re doing it, but when you see the end result, you love it.

I can’t explain the book.  I just can’t.  It spans centuries, there are six different storylines that brush against each other, Mitchell splits up the six storylines into two different sections strategically placed within the larger context of the novel, he plays with language and sentence structure to the point it’s nearly incomprehensible … just read it.  Or don’t.

I read this book for two reasons.  The first, and strongest, was pride.  The smartest guy I work with read it and loved it and challenged me to read it … how could I say no?  The second reason, and you book lovers will relate, I wanted to experience it before the movie came out and altered my perceptions of the characters and settings.  I managed to get it read right before the movie came out, but it’s taken me this long to work up the nerve to try to review it.

Maybe I should have listened to my instincts and resisted that urge.

Okay, try to focus, Scott.  The book is difficult but ultimately rewarding.  It is not a page turner, but it will join your essence after having completed it.  You will be confused much of the time, but through thought you will appreciate it all the more.

On a side note, I still haven’t seen the movie, but I bought the soundtrack and it is excellent.  I listen to it all the time as I write.  It gets my creative juices going.