A young girl gets pulled into a centuries-long war between two factions of immortal beings. That premise may sound a bit YA for the author…

The Bone Clocks

David Mitchell has a watchmaker’s eye for detail, his novels graceful and elegantly constructed timepieces that, if you pry off their bezels, reveal an inner beehive of precisely moving parts. His new book, The Bone Clocks, is ambitious even by his standards — in both length and depth — though it doesn’t stray from his well-established formula: multiple narrators, separated by time and geography but connected by a subnetwork of chance, fate, and literary mysticism. Here, they include a young girl who runs away from home in 1984, a scheming and sociopathic university student in 1991, a foreign correspondent in Iraq in 2004, and an aging Martin Amis-like enfant-terrible novelist in 2015. They all get caught up in a centuries-old war between factions of psychic immortal beings known as Atemporals. While that last bit may sound like an attempt to launch a YA franchise, Mitchell smartly deploys the fantasy elements in a way that’s both fun and heady. (He also includes a plethora of characters and concepts from his past books, hinting at a Grand Unifying Theory of the Mitchellverse.)

Mitchell is a master of the first person. Like his debut novel, Ghostwritten, The Bone Clocks features incorporeal entities that can inhabit other minds and bodies. The author may possess this ability himself. Hopping from one ”I” to another, he reveals his characters’ inner lives slowly and with care, as if unfurling an old map. Holly Sykes, the teenage runaway whose working-class English voice fills the novel’s first section, is the closest thing to a main protagonist — she’s the key to ending the psychic war — and she figures prominently in the stories of the subsequent narrators. After ushering us into Holly’s mind, Mitchell paints the course of her entire life through the eyes of others. It’s a magical effect, one that perfectly illustrates the idea that we’re all the heroes of our own lives as well as single cogs in a much larger and more beautiful mechanism. A