Books I Recently Forced Myself to Finish So that I Would Have the Right to Blog About Them, According to My Arbitrary Rules

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

WTF is Gone Girl? Gone Girl is a really popular book by Gillian Flynn about a guy who probably murdered his wife, but nobody knows for sure, because for now she’s just “gone.” It was made into a really popular movie that I didn’t like. *Spoilers* *spoilers* *spoilers* but the big twist in the book is that she’s not really dead.

Was the book better than the movie? Yes.

Does that mean you liked the book? Not really.

I have a newfound appreciation for the work Gillian Flynn did in adapting the book for the screenplay – the book is really rooted inside the characters’ heads, and relies a lot on narrating their thoughts. Surprisingly a lot of the nuance comes through in the movie without that crutch to lean on. That kind of thing would be hard to pull off, so kudos to her for doing it.

I was also a lot more interested in gone girl Amy in the book than I was in the movie – we spend more time with her and get to know her better in the book. And, from a technical perspective, the writing is really good, the voice is really strong, and the story drew me in and made me want to find out more.

That said, my essential problem with Gone Girl is still the same: in a world where violence against women is a real, serious problem, and where it’s really fucking hard to get people to pay attention to that problem and take it seriously in the first place, Gone Girl is a story that appears to be about this very real, very serious, oft-dismissed issue, and instead turns into a lecture about how men are the real victims because they’re falsely accused of misogyny sometimes.

My least favourite part of the book is a passage near the end, where the male protagonist realizes that he’s not misogynist for hating his wife, by gosh, because she’s such a horrible person. Within the context of the story, that’s completely true – she is a horrible person, and hating someone for being horrible to you is not a form of sexism – but, if I’m listing the problems we have around gender, as a society, the fact that some men may be too quick to judge themselves when they think something mean about a woman is not one of the most pressing ones.

Why is it still at the top of this post? Because, up until the part where I started to get angry, it was fun to read.

The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell

WTF is The Bone Clocks? The Bone Clocks is a hella-long urban fantasy novel about a bunch of body snatchers fighting a bunch of vampires in a drawn-out war that we learn about through a massive infodump, right toward the end. The central character is Holly, who is neither a body snatcher nor a vampire, but becomes a chess piece in their war because she’s psychic and (unwittingly) promises to let one of the body snatchers hide in her subconscious for, like, forty years or something.

The first and last sections of the book are narrated by Holly – the other sections are narrated by people who are important to her at some point in her life, and get drawn into the same body snatcher vampire war in other ways.

The coolest part of the story is right at the beginning, when Holly’s creepy little brother creepily gives her a maze he drew, and tells her to memorize it so that she can find her way in the dark, because dusk follows you through the maze and, if it touches you, you die. The worst part of the story is waiting another 500 pages for Holly to enter the maze.

But, what’s a bone clock, though? “Bone clock” is this book’s more symbolic term for “muggle.”

Are you seriously saying this is worse than Gone Girl, the story you have complained about incessantly since you first learned that it existed? It’s more like a tie. I don’t like what Gone Girl’s doing ideologically, but I think it’s a well-written, entertaining book. The Bone Clocks is less entertaining than Gone Girl, but also less anger-making. There were also a couple of parts that were genuinely touching, and delivered in a much more subtle way than you’d get in Gone Girl.

What makes me kind of meh about The Bone Clocks is the second-to-last section, which is supposed to be the pay-off for all the mysterious things that have been happening around the fringes of the story, where we finally find out about the body snatchers and the vampires and what their deal is. Because, the way we find out what their deal is is that the body snatchers and the vampires stand around talking to each other, and to Holly, and explaining at great, great, great, great length what their deal is. And who’s who. And what their powers are. And what they’ve been doing for the last two thousand years. And all the esoteric rules of how the whole thing works, and who’s double-crossing who, and why it’s actually a double-double-double-cross instead – and they’ve made up silly terms for everything, so, after a book that’s been pretty much normal, they’re suddenly all like, “Let’s go up the Way of Stones and suasion the oldest Anchorite in the Temple of the Blind Cathar using the psychosoteric energy inside our chakra eyes!”

And, because it’s a book, and not real life, you can yell back, “Let’s go solve the fucking maze, you mean! That’s all I’ve ever wanted!” and they’ll just keep talking like they can’t even hear you.

Do they ever solve the maze? Yes.

Comparing this to Cloud Atlas, The Bone Clocks is about a lot of the same things – how, when you take a long view of history, and the rise and fall of civilizations over time, we’re all united as a species; how people can be reincarnated over and over again and be the same person in some ways but different, and particularized, in others; how there’s an apocalypse in our near future that will send us back to the pre-industrial age; how we should think about that and be nicer to people, and show them compassion, when we’re the ones who happen to be on top.

It’s a smart book, and it’s doing something ambitious in the way it’s structured and set out – something I could never do, and which I absolutely admire, because of that – but the supernatural elements, in my opinion, were not executed well. And, like Cloud Atlas, there was probably a 1:5 ratio in terms of Things I Actually Cared About and Felt Connected To vs Extraneous Detail I Forgot About as Soon As I Had Read It. I really cared about those one-in-five things. It was just a lot of reading to get there.

Image: Gone Girl; Crown Publisher | May 9, 2015