The Stone Gods
A new world that weighs a yatto-gram. But everything is trial size; tread-on-me tiny or blurred-out-of-focus huge. There are leaves that have grown as big as cities, and there are birds that nest in cockleshells. On the white sand there are long-toed clawprints as deep as nightmares, and there are rock pools in hand-hollows finned by invisible fish. Trees like skyscrapers, and housing as many. Grass the height of hedges, nuts the swell of pumpkins. Sardines that would take two men to land them. Eggs, pale-blue-shelled, each the weight of a breaking universe. And, underneath, mushrooms soft and small as a mouse ear. A crack like a cut and inside a million million microbes wondering what to do next. Spores that wait for the wind and never look back. Moss that is concentrating on being green.
First of all, how evocative are Winterson’s first lines? I mean really, she is a literary genius. The way she strings sentences together in such an beautiful way . . . The Stone Gods is a dystopic novel, so all you dystopian fans take notice. The format of The Stone Gods is a bit disjointed, which can be problematic, but essentially it is a few novellas tied together to form one novel. Billie Crusoe is the main character and we meet her living in this strange, futuristic world. Billie is involved with the political side of the new world, begrudgingly, but her home is that of the old world. She lives on a farm, complete with animals, which is not the norm in this new world because now you can have robotic pets. Who needs the real thing when you can have a version that doesn’t shed or have “accidents”? But Billie is of a different way of thinking and for that reason, she is an outcast. She is forced to make a getaway to Planet Blue, a new planet that has been discovered just in time because the current planet that is inhabited has been decimated by misuse. Although the inhabitants of Orbus (Billie’s planet) have discovered Planet Blue, there is one small issue. Planet Blue is inhabited by dinosaurs. The residents of Orbus therefore set an asteroid to hit the new planet and destroy the dinosaurs, thus enabling them to move to the new world.
The book also portrays two other time-periods. There is a portion devoted to the year 1774 (which was the portion I disliked the most) and then ended with a world dealing with the trauma of World War III, in which the actions of the government play a large role.
Winterson explores many idea in this book. How we treat our planet for one—the idea of global warming is prevalent—are the grievances we have committed to our own earth going to come back to haunt us? Orbus’ inhabitants are forced to contemplate a move to another planet because they have so ravaged their own planet. And yet they do not hesitate for one instant when it comes to setting up their new planet in the same manner. It’s almost as if their worlds are disposable. Their own planet is wasting away, so they’ll just find a new one! A metaphor for today’s world, I’m sure. We know some of our actions cause the planet harm, but we do little, or nothing, to deviate from our destructive behavior. The situation in The Stone Gods is just a magnified, hyperbolic display of our own behaviors.
The Stone Gods also involved a love story, although it was not, in my opinion, as big a part of the story as some of the book descriptions make it sound. The love affair is atypical of the usual relationship you would see, in part because it is between Billie and another woman, and even more so because the other woman is a robot, referred to in the book as a robo sapien. There are many different types of robots in the book—in fact, there is kind of a robot class hierarchy going on. Some robots are of a lesser social standing. Robo sapien would be the highest echelon of robots; they have the most knowledge and insight and were created by the government to make impartial decisions on the government’s behalf. This seems to be a good idea, in theory—wouldn’t it be nice if all decisions were made on a bipartisan level? But in reality, it didn’t turn out to be such a great idea.
Overall I think The Stone Gods was executed very well. I was immediately drawn in, but then again I am usually a big fan of dystopic literature, so it didn’t take much! I do think the flow was disrupted quite a bit by the merging of what could have been separate novellas. My concentration level dipped dramatically during the middle section—I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as the beginning or end sections. In fact, I think the first portion of the book was by far my favorite and the most engaging. The end section definitely had its merits too, but it seemed a bit sloppier than the first part. If you’re a fan of Winterson’s writing, you should definitely read this book. Personally, I have read Sexing the Cherry and Lighthousekeeping. In regards to the former, I could. Not. Stand. It for the first few pages. I found Winterson’s writing style to be difficult to adapt to. But adapt I did and I ended up absolutely loving StC. Then I read Lighthousekeeping and I was never able to get into it. I found it to be boring and devoid of any type of engaging plotline. So in a sense, The Stone Gods was a test of sorts. Had I disliked it, I may have written Winterson off. But as it stands, I think she’s an exceptional writer and I look forward to reading more of her work, especially Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.