Karl Drinkwater's Reviews > The Stone Gods

The Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson
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Mar 23, 12

Read from March 17 to 23, 2012

I had real problems with this book. I wanted to like it. I agreed with the politics. I thought some of the writing was incredibly effective, especially the Easter Island sections. However, lots of things also irritated me, usually inconsistencies. I'll mention the main ones.

1. Having finished the book I was left confused as to whether I'd been following the story of two characters at different times, or two different characters on different worlds that seemed to have the same names and background (which is just silly). Every time I try to make sense of it I will find a section that contradicts my hypothesis. This is not enjoyable for the reader. The only conclusion I could come to at the end: since the first and last sections have the same character names, the same corporation names, the same references to Earth's past (e.g. Liza Minnelli), they must be the same world and time. Yet the protagonist dies differently in each, which is just confusing.

2. The novel shows that humans make a mess of the planet by treating it as if we own it and can do as we wish. Yet as soon as they get to another planet in the first section (Planet Blue) those who should be wise enough to know better resort to hunting and treating the indigenous inhabitants as theirs to utilise as they wish - going against what the characters seemed to have perceived earlier as that attitude being one of the causes of the end of the world that they are running from.

3. The main character, Billie, was born in the 50s. She was not 'fixed', so will age normally. She is in a world of the future, beyond world war 3 and the subsequent rebuilding. Which makes her maybe 60 years old. Yet she states in a few cases that she looks as good as the people who have been 'fixed' at young ages (20-30). It just makes no sense.

4. The romantic relationships were unconvincing and cartoonish - in fact, many elements were written in a throwaway style reminiscent of Barbarella. Which is incongruous when some elements of the novel are so well-written with understated believability.

There were smaller things that distracted me too, usually typos or mistakes. In the Easter Island section the narrator says "I had in my bag two small bananas given by the Natives" - yet elsewhere we find out the natives had already cut down all the trees (the last was a palm, I think), so where did they get fresh bananas from? At least in the edition I read (Mariner, 2009) there were a number of cases of missing or incorrect speech marks (e.g. p79), though maybe the publisher is solely at fault there.

Maybe I just didn't get it. All I can say is that, much as I support the idea of this book, as a reader I found it to be frustrating as a story.

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