Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Stone Gods

Rate this book
On the airwaves, all the talk is of the new blue planet - pristine and habitable, like our own 65 million years ago, before we took it to the edge of destruction. And off the air, Billie and Spike are falling in love. What will happen when their story combines with the world's story.

207 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2007

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Jeanette Winterson

101 books6,210 followers
Novelist Jeanette Winterson was born in Manchester, England in 1959. She was adopted and brought up in Accrington, Lancashire, in the north of England. Her strict Pentecostal Evangelist upbringing provides the background to her acclaimed first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, published in 1985. She graduated from St Catherine's College, Oxford, and moved to London where she worked as an assistant editor at Pandora Press.

One of the most original voices in British fiction to emerge during the 1980s, Winterson was named as one of the 20 "Best of Young British Writers" in a promotion run jointly between the literary magazine Granta and the Book Marketing Council.

She adapted Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit for BBC television in 1990 and also wrote "Great Moments in Aviation," a television screenplay directed by Beeban Kidron for BBC2 in 1994. She is editor of a series of new editions of novels by Virginia Woolf published in the UK by Vintage. She is a regular contributor of reviews and articles to many newspapers and journals and has a regular column published in The Guardian. Her radio drama includes the play Text Message, broadcast by BBC Radio in November 2001.

Winterson lives in Gloucestershire and London. Her work is published in 28 countries.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
1,446 (24%)
4 stars
2,003 (34%)
3 stars
1,597 (27%)
2 stars
584 (10%)
1 star
172 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 715 reviews
Profile Image for Ian.
2 reviews35 followers
April 10, 2008
When I bought my copy of The Stone Gods, the bookseller told me two things: it had received strong reviews, and “It’s science fiction, you know.” I parried this last one with some fuzzy comment that much of Winterson’s fiction violates expectations, and we left it at that, both sounding smart and not having said much.

And then I started reading: sure enough, page after page, the thing read true to the sci-fi genre. And not just in the details: it sounded like sci-fi, it thought like sci-fi, it even carried sci-fi’s common politics—as much genre work tends to be, it sounded downright reactionary. The main character, Billie Crusoe, sounded as if she had actually been beamed into her era from our own; she spoke constantly of the contrast between then and now, as if she’d been witness to our time, and was quite conscientiously leading us through hers, tour-guide style, with heavy asides to the reader and a general lack of believable selfhood.

I was a bit taken aback; in fact, at several points, I had to remind myself of Winterson’s previous work—I said to myself, in fact, “prose this obvious, this flat and predictable, has been put in place for a reason.” And even fifty pages from the end, after the place and the style had shifted radically—several times, in fact—I was still sitting a few seats back in the auditorium, wondering whether she knew what she was up to.

But the connection comes—again and again, in surprising, subtle, parallel, spooky ways. In fact, much of the intersection is rightly described as spooky; quantum, in fact. As she did in Gut Symmetries, Winterson spends a lot of time pulling on the greater metaphor of quantum physics as she sees it mirrored in human life: it would not be a stretch to say that this book, as was Gut Symmetries, is something of a quantum novel, and that Billie Crusoe, strange particle that she is, exists outside of Newtonian plotting: where we want characters to make choices and suffer results—we want them to see three doors, walk through one, then lose forever what was behind the other two—Billie exists simultaneously in all three. The book travels through three different frames of time and space, and she is there—not only that, she is reading about herself in a manuscript left on the Tube, and she is stumbling across her own adventures in the journals of Captain Cook.

At every turn, she meets human short-sightedness: waste, folly, power. And at every turn, she ends up in a dead world, one sacrificed on the altar of power, but with the promise of a new birth coming soon—a new planet, a new peace, a new sapiens—that will never make the same mistakes again.

And this hits on one of the themes running through: the impossibility of denying the limbic, the spooky, the unreal. It’s not emotion that kills us off, it’s control. It’s our fear of a world more complex, less divided, and less clear that leads us to kill off the potential that exists when control falls away. We see this in the corporate governance of MORE, and we see this in the war between the Ariki Mau and the Bird Man on Easter Island. We see this, too, in the Robo sapiens, free of the unpredictability of emotion, to lead us from the damage of our own fuzzy natures. It’s clear, though, that the obsessive attempts to hide from our fuller selves have brought on our ending.

It was clear to me that the novel was, in part, Winterson’s response to the upsurge in media/commodity culture and feel-good authoritarianism that seems to be cresting so fervently at this time. Initially, I thought to myself, “what a shame that the novel will end up such a didactic response—so flat and obvious.” With the patters apparent, though, I see that the “message” of the book, in fact, is nowhere near as easy and flat as the initial section seems to belie. Maybe I’m a sucker for flash and experimentation, but the risk that Winterson took in the Stone Gods felt—to me—brave, insightful, and revelatory. It’s certainly not her first foray into these waters, nor is it the first book to reinvent linear narrative; however, the mission it takes and the tools it picks match up perfectly. I’m glad I stuck it through.

June 2, 2020
When one has to give a Jeanette Winterson novel a two star rating, it's blindingly obvious that today is not a good day. I adored Written on the Body, The Passion and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. This book was a mess, and was a concoction of genres that at the end of the day, just didn't work.

Winterson is an incredibly unique writer, and she has a wonderful way with words, and that is one of the main reasons why I enjoy her works. I feel like The Stone Gods wasn't thought through enough, and a truck load of ideas were just chucked into the plot, with no real structure. It felt chaotic, and with Winterson, that's usually a positive aspect as I usually embrace chaos, but with this, it made the story pointless.

There were no real character developments here, and when I actually did become interested in a character, that section of the story was closed, and another had began. I was left high and dry.

I usually love how Winterson writes about love, it is truly magical, but within these pages, I was doing some serious eye rolling. It makes me wonder if Winterson was quite well when writing The Stone Gods.

This is definitely one of Winterson's weaker books, especially in comparison to Written on the Body, and I'm left feeling rather unfulfilled, unfortunately.
Profile Image for Elf M..
95 reviews40 followers
October 30, 2011
So, I’ve finished reading The Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson, and my reactions are mixed, to say the least. My primary reaction was one of intense sadness: she really does believe that she’s braving new territory. She is completely unaware that she’s hacking through a jungle right next to a long, well-trodden road and the crew that’s building it is far, far ahead of her, and her course takes her away from the best conclusions. She’s off in a strange, dualistic universe in which robots come to feel “just because.” There are dialogues about how humans have emotions and yet this obviously emotional robots does not, and yet not a single word toward the general consensus that emotions are what give us the capacity to come to a conclusion, to shut rationalization down and make a decision, to break ties between competing choices, and without emotions we would be helpless. When a video game acts as if it wants to defeat you, it has been given that want by its developer; at some stage, we turn off the abstraction and act as if the game wants to defeat us. Winterson doesn't understand this. Winterson picks up the glittering tools of modern science fiction and engages in bronze-age reflections with them.

The Stone Gods is science fiction written as an excuse to do whatever the hell she wants, without regard for the reader’s sense of continuity or rationale. The sense of used furniture is strong.

Winterson is trying to do too much: she’s trying to tell a love story. She’s trying to tell a story of ecological disaster. She’s trying to tell a story about fatalism, and about how fatalism is the only logical attitude to take given Mankind’s tendency to destroy himself. Individual death is a metaphor for the world’s end– not in an entropic sense, but in a personal one, and an immediate one.

Toward the end of the book her lyricism returns, coupled with some really stupid scenes stolen from the worst post-apocalyptic fiction you could possibly imagine. Think Shirow’s Appleseed, watched without translation or subtitles, and the author then tries to re-write what she saw as farce. That’s where it’s going.

But the ending makes me cry because the writing is so good, even if the writer is telling you the character is hallucinating as she dies. But Winterson makes me cry reliably. I wouldn’t waste my time reading her “science fiction” ever again. If you love breathtakingly beautiful writing, check out The World, And Other Places, her collection of short stories. Each is small, worth your time, and not an insult to your intelligence.
Profile Image for Pierce.
183 reviews70 followers
August 1, 2008
Okay, okay. This is tricky.

We all give ratings to books (and everything) within their genres. I do anyway. Five stars for this thing is not the same as five stars for that thing. But the problem with that is that the genres have to mean something. And be identifiable.

I have real thing for Jeanette Winterson. It dates back to Gut Symmetries, which I read at an impressionable time (maybe 17, though all my times are fairly impressionable). It was just beautiful and expansive and different and sentimental. And had physics and lesbians and everything. And The Passion was another knockout beautiful book. And there's been others that have been less satisfying, but I'm still hooked.

So this is science-fiction. Loosely. Some of my favourite science-fiction is by people who don't do science-fiction. Atwood's Oryx and Crake. God science-fiction is such a stupid label.

Anyway, it's starts out very-traditionally science-fictiony, to the point where you have to believe it's intentionally so, and then moves on through different lives and eras. It tells the story of environmental dystopia, through three ages on different planets, but really it's more about us. About the things we do and what we are. Emotional and power-hungry and wasteful and incapable of change. It's like a tribute to society and the individual's condition that is both an admonishment and celebration all at the same time. I just can figure it out. Why is this even a love story? It's imbalanced.

Just back to the sci-fi thing for a second: There's a scene where the men in a star-ship are sitting around telling tales about planets. And man that is some beautiful stuff. I'd copy out a passage but I left the book elsewhere. There's so much potential for imagination in stories of other worlds. In infinite space you can paint whatever landscape you desire. And yet most of what we get sticks to spaceships and laserguns. This story has some of what I'm wanting, but not quite enough, and in the end it's only a side to her deeper themes, so I'm probably raising this in the wrong place anways.
Profile Image for Joy D.
1,680 reviews203 followers
February 25, 2020
Science fiction that weaves together future, past, and present in three separate but interlinked stories that comment on humanity’s penchant for destroying the world, contrasted with an individual’s ability to love. In the first section, we see a futuristic setting where materialism and vanity have been taken to extremes. The planet Orbus has been decimated by the inhabitants, so they are searching for a new planet on which to start over. In the second part, we are abruptly shifted to the 18th century, where Captain Cook’s ship is visiting Easter Island. The titular “stone gods” are a reference to this island’s moai statues. In the last story, set near present time, Earth has experienced World War III (called Post-3 War), a corporation governs society, and people impacted by the fallout are attempting to survive in the wreckage. The protagonists in each of the three times have the same names (Billie/Billy and Spike/Spikkers), and the relationship forming between them is another primary area of focus.

In two of the three timelines, Spike is portrayed as a “Robo-sapiens,” programmed to gain an understanding of humanity, and designed to learn enough to eventually be able to make better decisions for the benefit of society, rather than to its detriment as humans have done. I would like to have seen more deeply drawn characters, especially Spike, as she is of core importance. The dialogue can seem overly-explanatory, but the prose is elegant. At its heart this is a cautionary tale of history repeating itself, not learning from mistakes of the past, and the dangers of overindulgences without regard to impact. Winterson applies this message to themes of environmental responsibility, authoritarian control, and abuse of technology. She examines questions of how an individual can cope in such a society.

The book itself, The Stone Gods, makes several appearances, as well as Captain Cook’s Journal. At times it can be confusing, requiring patience and re-reading in certain sections, but eventually Winterson brings it all together. It’s definitely not for everyone, as it reflects a rather bleak outlook for humankind and the message can become rather heavy-handed. It will appeal to readers of “literary science fiction” in the vein of Ursula K. LeGuin or Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy.

Memorable quotes:
“The key to happiness…is tolerance of those who do not do as you do.”

“Love is an intervention. Why do we not choose it?”

“[T]he future of the planet is uncertain. Human beings aren’t just in a mess, we are a mess. We have made every mistake, justified ourselves, and made the same mistakes again and again. It’s as though we’re doomed to repetition.”
Profile Image for Jill.
414 reviews218 followers
April 16, 2017
Auuugh this book is a mess. The pitch must have been something like, "I'm thinking Robinson Crusoe but scifi and with androids, and also post-WWIII dystopia, but also space exploration and Easter Island and dinosaurs. Okay, and I also wanna get Nietzsche's eternal return in there, and what it means to be human, and nature vs nurture, and adoption. Ohhh and none of it will connect except through really obvious hung lanterns like calling the protagonist of each section Billie/y, and how awful humans are."

Jeanette Winterson loves chaos in her narratives. Sometimes this works like magic, other times she misses -- massively. This was a big miss. The pacing was completely off -- just when she'd finally built enough character depth and motivation for you to get mildly invested in a narrative, she'd switch to the next one. And, unfortunately, her main characters were all the same as her usual (what I'm starting to suspect is autobiographical) protagonist -- acerbic, lonely British lesbian who doesn't fit in and falls in love with a woman/robot/whatever beyond her means.

I dunno. Maybe if I'd read this a few years ago, the complete disconnect from line to line, paragraph to paragraph, wouldn't have bothered me so much. As it stands, I was rolling my eyes at all the random "beautiful" bits about love and in no way invested -- which is too bad, because I always appreciate how Winterson writes about love, so something was really off here. Nothing anyone did really made sense, and it all seemed like a vehicle for Winterson to test out scifi as a genre...while still sticking to everything she'd done in the past, and not...really...going much further with it.

Sadly -- too disjointed, too irrelevant, too ridiculous for any real import. Gorgeous cover though.
Profile Image for Gary.
126 reviews117 followers
April 9, 2021
The bad news: If you haven’t read Jeanette Winterson yet then your life has been, hitherto, a waste.

The good news: Not to worry; it’s not too late. There’s plenty of her work around and you can get started putting your life in order right away.

More good news: Her work is short. Generally, her books run 150-200 standard sized pages. In these days of children’s books with five or six times as much verbiage, that’s quite brief. However, her work isn’t a quick read. Oh, I’m sure you could blow through it quickly, but it really needs to be read the way one would read poetry. That’s not only because her work is somewhere between prose and poetry--sometimes dipping right into free verse nestled in paragraphs and periods--but because her skill with the language is such that it requires reflection and consideration in order to digest properly.

Here’s a sample of what I mean:
The new world – El Dorado, Atlantis, the Gold Coast, Newfoundland, Plymouth Rock, Rapanaui, Utopia, Planet Blue. Chanc’d upon, spied through a glass darkly, drunken stories strapped to a barrel of rum, shipwreck, a Bible Compass, a giant fish led us there, a storm whirled us to this isle.
That’s a refrain—or one version of it—that appears several times in The Stone Gods. It’s a lovely bit of prosetry (prose + poetry) and I’m still mulling through it. Variations appear in each of the four parts of the story. (Individual novellas, perhaps?) These four parts are widely separated in time and space, mostly differ in characters (with a few particularly notable exceptions) but directly related in theme. That theme? Well... basically, what she’s getting at is that humans shouldn’t screw up the environment. We’re going to, but we should knock it off. We’ve done it in the past, and we’re going to do it again. Technology isn’t the solution to the problem either. Technology just makes it easier for humanity to move on, virus-like, to another planet to screw up, and once there we will recreate the same conditions that ruined our home the last time around, assuming we don’t manage to screw up the new planet on the way over.

Kind of dark, right?

Well, yeah, but it's not a complete downer. There’s humor. There’s a dark, ridiculous core to the madness of human ruination that does not escape Winterson in any way, and she capitalizes on it in her work. In fact, the entire book could be read that way; an absurdist God's eye view of the suicidal petulance of humanity. The humor is wry, to be sure, but there are plenty of smirks and sniggers for those inclined to gallow's humor.

The four sections of the book are these:

"Planet Blue" is in a futuristic past, where humanity’s destruction of its own world, Orbus, means it has to be abandoned for a new world. Earth? Nope probably not. One of the steps betwixt hither and yon in the vast expanse of time.

"Easter Island" is in the 18th century when natives on that island are in the midst of destroying their culture, their environment, and themselves--and, as humans, they just can't get quite those things together intellectually.

"Post-3War" In a future alternate Earth, Blue Planet, 3War/World War III went nuclear and the world is now run by a corporate fascistic commercial state called MORE. Everything gets a MORE tag. MORE-Food. MORE-Commerce. Like that. Get it? Support MORE to get more. Shocking that some corporate marketing wonk hasn't come up with that one by accident already. Oh, but the MORE corporation makes AI robots, and in the way of sci-fi, robots are better people than people, so corporate techno-feudalism can’t be all bad, right?

"Wreck City" Also on the Blue Planet, but on the other side of the tracks—if the tracks are nuclear fallout, that is. Resentment, unrest and revolution loom....

Throughout the book Winterson references many science fiction standards, and she does so pointedly. The subtle reference is itself a process that references any number of literary names. In certain lit-crit circles references are the height of a writer’s art. See, for example, the academic fascination with T.S. Eliot, whose work is a mosaic of obscure and not-so-obscure literary references. In The Stone Gods there are clear references to science fiction authors like Heinlein and Dick. In the above quote, for example, the "scanner darkly" is a reference to Dick's work, and Dick was referencing a Bible passage, so in the group mind that is the world of literary criticism, Winterson has "tagged" them, graffiti style, and so now owns them both. It doesn't really work that way in the real world, of course, and Winterson is well aware of both the lit-crit standard and her own role in it. Therefore, her references are done in a cute, subversive way. They aren’t meant to simply relate to those authors. Rather, she reinterprets them in a way that challenges them in the original. Her character Friday, for example, is a reference to Heinlein’s eponymous character; who is a male sexual fantasy sex kitten often wildly misinterpreted as an independent "action" character, but really is nothing more than a private sexual fantasy presented exhibitionist-style. (Heinlein was the kind of guy who, at a circle jerk, would finish first and yell "I win!") However, Winterson makes her version a man, leader in the anarchistic “lower class” community, and generally a reversion or inversion of the Heinlein character. Picking out more of these references could be the subject of a successful grad school thesis.... Let's just say that the book is rife with them.

Further, the stories reference each other, weaving themselves in and out of the consciousness of the POV character in a way that is surprisingly gratifying to the attentive reader. I could see how a more casual reader might not see those connections, however, meaning the transitions between the sections of the book might be jarring, particularly the transitions into and out of the second section, “Easter Island.” Rather than present that as a criticism of the book, however, I think it really should be seen as an admonishment: read carefully!

But Winterson’s real genius is for language. She wields words like a painter, and drives character in a way that very few other authors manage in their best work. I’ll give you an example. Here she is describing a boy, one of the victims of the radiation that has ravaged Planet Blue after 3 War.
A small boy and a small dog, the dog hairless and pink, tongue lolling, body worn thin like hope, the boy with a bad stomach wound sewn up at his home or his hole, subcutaneous fat pushed on the outside like a roll of tripe. He had the dog on a lead and he was still managing to be a boy with a dog and the dog was still managing to be a dog with a boy because not even a bomb gets to wipe out everything.
Youch. You can see them there, can’t you? Where most authors would be fine describing the scene, Winterson gives you that characterization, "still managing to be a boy with a dog..." which turns the horror into something touching—and then all the more horrible for it. It's a gorgeous little bit of work, and there are many more like it in this book. The section describing the planets that had been discovered reads like something Carl Sagan would have wept over. She brings to life villagers in a way that anthropologists seem to think they do with their dry, narcissistic studies, but in fact they completely fail. Ten words from Winterson are worth a dozen academic culture studies.

Overall, what she’s getting at is the cyclic nature of human folly. Progress means we just fail on a larger scale and at a faster pace. Failure also means we start over again, more or less from scratch. Because of that cycle, this is one of those books that bears a second, a third or a dozen readings because there are levels beneath the levels can only be picked out with time and contemplation, and the references go both forward and backward, so giving it a single analog read won't quite do the trick. That means I can’t recommend you read this book. I can recommend you read it more than once, though. In fact, I’ll end on Winterson’s self-referential words about the manuscript of The Stone Gods that appears late in her story in the hands of an old man:
“Read it. Leave it for someone else to find. The pages are loose—it can be written again.”
Profile Image for Brian.
71 reviews13 followers
June 28, 2008
As she did in "The Passion", Winterson displays her gift for punching the reader in the face, then kicking you in the heart, and you still come out of the experience saying, "Can someone read this to me, out loud?"

It's a critique of the modern world, a critique of the future (extrapolated from the modern world), a re-vamped look at the past, and then another critique of the future. Seriously.

Oh... also...? It's fantastic. Bleak, beautiful, poignant, hopeless, hopeful... and definitely not for the faint of heart.
Profile Image for Claudia.
942 reviews503 followers
July 4, 2016
I must have a special talent in finding really weird books. Really, really weird. This particular one is not only weird; it’s also kinky, almost pornographic. But the story behind all these peculiar things it will shatter your heart; it will depress and break you to pieces.

It’s also the most acid attack on today society I ever encountered in a story. It has so much virulence in those words that you’ll feel them like a slap in your face.

Up until about 30% I found it somewhat amusing and I thought to myself that it has a lot in common with Bester’s Deceivers. And it has, up to a point. Then it becomes really caustic (next to Jeanette Winterson, Bester is an inexperienced child, in terms of ridicule.)

I laughed out loud at the inflamed imagination of the author: “Translucents are see-through people. When you fuck them you can watch yourself doing it. It’s pornography for introverts.”[…] Peccadilo is a perverts’ bar, and we’re all perverts now. By that I mean that making everyone young and beautiful also made us all bored to death with sex. All men are hung like whales. All women are tight as clams below and inflated like lifebuoys above. […] I am on a level with her impressive breasts – more so, because where I would normally expect to find a nipple, I found a mouth. Her breasts are smiling, and so is she.”

But slowly, I begin realizing the disgust and bitterness behind all that; the acid attack on society and the consequences of our wars, power, marketing and consumerism; the fact that human race does nothing besides destroying the planet.

“Out of the window, where it’s going dark, I can see the laser projection of Planet Blue. She needs us like a bed needs bedbugs. ’I’m sorry’, I say, to the planet that can’t hear me. And I wish she could sail through space, unfurling her white clouds to solar winds, and find a new orbit, empty of direction, where we cannot go, and where we will never find her, and where the sea, clean as a beginning, will wash away any trace of humankind.”

Although I do share some of her convictions and I usually very much enjoy a fine irony, I found myself disturbed by a good part of the book - too much vehemence, frustration, anger behind it. You can feel it with your every pore. Yes, we are a stupid species and we do a lot of stupid things, which eventually, if we do not wake ourselves up, it will doom us. But only pointing to others will not help at all; neither if we will pity ourselves. And that’s exactly the feeling I got at the end of this book.

On one hand, I think the story is one of a kind and worthy to be read. The entanglement between sci-fi and reality, past and present, the construction and connection between the 4 stories within are so cleverly weaved. But on the other, I can't shake the bitter taste I was left with.

Anyway, I will leave some excerpts below and they are not the shattering ones. If you feel in the right mood, then go ahead and read the book.

“’It was never death you feared: It was emptiness.’ Handsome nodded. ‘That’s because there’s no such thing as empty space. Only humans are empty.’ ’Not all of them.’ ‘And not all of them are humans.’”

“Human beings are the most aggressive species on the planet. They will readily kill each other for territory and resources, but they will also kill each other for worshipping the wrong sky-god, of for failing to worship any god at all.”

“’Billie’, said Spike, ‘why are you crying?’. “Because it’s hopeless, because we’re hopeless, the whole stupid fucking human race.’[…] And my tears are for the planet because I love it and we’re killing it, and my tears are for these wars and all this lost, and for the children who have no childhood, and for my childhood, which has somehow turned up again, like an orphan on my doorstep asking to be let it.“

“I wondered if there is a place beyond this, where the dark dice didn’t play, where life itself became the winning number, not gambled away later by people like us who valued life so little that we lost it. A human society that wasn’t just disgust.”

“A quantum universe – neither random nor determined. A universe of potentialities, waiting for an intervention to affect the outcome. Love is an intervention. Why do we not choose it?"
Profile Image for Tony.
1,355 reviews70 followers
May 6, 2012
This book strikes me as a very good example of a mainstream "literary" fiction writer experimenting with genre, and failing horribly. Winterson is a highly respected, award-winning English author, and many friends of mine love her writing. However, this foray into speculative fiction ventures into thematic territory (namely the essentially destructive nature of humanity, both with regards to each other and the natural world) that's been deeply explored, and displays all the traits of the worst kind of strident, polemical fiction. So, while certain elements and certain scenes work fairly well, the book is really quite a chore to slog though. Had I not been reading it for my book club, I probably would have left it unfinished after the first 40-50 pages, and in our discussion, I learned that I was not the only one to feel that way. Indeed, none of us eight readers found it to be a book we could recommend to others -- even Winterson fans (of which our group has two).

The book is divided into three sections: the first takes place largely on another planet during the time dinosaurs roamed the earth, the second on Easter Island circa 1774, and the third in some relatively near-future post-World War 3 England. A version of the same heroine (with the groan-inducing name of Billie Crusoe) inhabits all three stories, and serves as an authorial proxy, a voice of conscience whose tedious inner thoughts are rendered in italics. The first story is somewhat reminiscent of the film Idiocracy, spinning a few contemporary Western cultural trends out to their extremes (such as the obsession with youth leading people to "fix" their age at a teenage level), in it, Billie is sent as part of a mission to test a promising planet for colonization. The second finds a cabin boy sailing with Captain Cook marooned on Easter Island and witness to the disintegration of the island's society. The final story is a near-future post-WWIII story following Billie as she steals a prototype artificial intelligence robot owned by the MORE corporation, which now runs the world (or at least, what we can see of it).

None of the scenarios in the book feel fresh, the time-hopping triptych narrative structure feels like a poor-person's version of Cloud Atlas, and Winterson's writing style is both pretentious and boring. Every now and then there's a nice detail, or interesting minor idea, but the book is a dud. Of course, if you've never read any speculative fiction (aka "science fiction"), I suppose you might find it more appealing than I did.
Profile Image for Megan Baxter.
985 reviews656 followers
April 27, 2018
I was looking to fill out a theme in my SF/F book club entitled "Even the Lands Have Changed," a mix of post-apocalyptic and climate change fiction. I needed one more book. I'd read the other four, knew they were good. I came up with a list of four more that sounded good, and let my group decide. The Stone Gods was on there, because I have loved Jeanette Winterson's books quite a lot, and seeing what she could do with dinosaurs and planned/unplanned extinction level events and science fiction sounded pretty exciting.

Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Profile Image for Brad.
Author 2 books1,669 followers
January 1, 2013
I am a car in neutral with my wheels in a metal track, covered in the mud and salt and grime of the roads that scar Orbus, Planet Blue, Earth. I am dragged into position; the chemicals hit my shell. Acidic, corrosive, an unsubtle back and forth to knock loose the corruption I've picked up in my travels. The wash cares not at all about delicacy. It shoots it fine mist of torture and hustles me into the frame. Once in that frame, that frame of hanging, dangling mitters, multi-coloured tassels, twin maypoles to conjure festival days of sometime and someplace, the thrumming beat of fabric begins. Up and over and down and beside. One way and back. Massaging me with circadian beat of my mother machines, soothing me into a belief that all can be okay. Then the water blasts me: shocking, hard, cleansing, a roar of pressure to slough off all that had been chemically burned and lovingly knocked loose on my metallic skin. Water poisoned to clean me, falling onto the pollution that is concrete, spilling down the pipes to soak into the groundwater somewhere. Clean me. Dirty everything. Now the ROAR of air. The rubber tires hitting my glass. The air firing like a jet against my shell. Water beads and blows away. A scream of anguish too loud for me to hear. Much too loud to make out what I am being told, but the air angles up and away from, and I am nudged off the rails and back into the road. I travel despite what I've learned. There's nothing for it but to roll on as hopeless as can be.
Profile Image for Tetiana ☾.
114 reviews46 followers
June 17, 2021
“Everything is imprinted for ever with what it once was.”

The Stone Gods is a sci-fi novel with the main theme that the world is repeating itself.
The novel consists of four parts that are set in different time periods. All parts have something in common, but the first, third and fourth are set on the same planet. The second one is the story of Easter Island. The novel itself is self-referential.
Orbus is dying but luckily new planet is found with everything that is necessary for survival - Planet Blue. It is a chance for everyone to start over. Even though the technology on Orbus is advanced, no one is actually happy. There is a controlling government that can falsely accuse you of any crime. Everyone looks amazing as they can genetically fix themselves any age they want. But it makes things even worse as men are no longer attracted to women, they are more interested in young girls. Women, on the contrary, are looking for something more brutal and aggressive. Everyone is convinced that on the new planet life will get better.
We get to meet robots and Robo sapiens that are made to make people's lives easier and help prevent new mistakes. There is also a love story between a Robo sapiens and a human.

The novel shows us the consequences of war and progress and the fact that humans can never learn from history and are going to make the same mistakes over and over again.


4 stars
Profile Image for Vishy.
661 reviews206 followers
June 28, 2018
The Stone Gods' is science fiction. The first part of the story, which spans nearly half the book, is set in a futuristic world. Science and technology is highly developed, people eat and drink synthetically made food, people can genetically freeze their age and always look young, space travel is highly evolved, humans have robots to do many tasks. But some of the old human flaws and vanities remain - the difference between the haves and have-nots, how celebrities still try to differentiate themselves when everyone looks young. But the most important thing is this. Humans have polluted the planet, there have been wars, things are bad, and in the not-so-distant future, the planet might turn out to be uninhabitable. Then the scientists discover a new planet. It has everything that is required for human life. There are some big, dangerous animals there though, like dinosaurs. So a spaceship goes there on a mission. The plan is to humanely kill the dinosaurs and help establish a human colony there. Once things are setup and stabilized there, the plan is for people to start moving there. Of course, things don't go according to plan. What happens after that is told in the rest of part one. In part two, the story takes us to the 1770s, when Captain Cook visits Easter Island and describes what happens then. In the the third and fourth parts of the book, the events happen closer to our time. How these three story strands are woven together into one fabric is revealed finally.

I felt that the first part of 'The Stone Gods', which covered nearly half of the book, was the strongest. But all the different story strands were interesting in their own way. The surprise that is revealed in the end is interesting, but I think I saw it coming. The book says some interesting things about our world and where it is going - offering a commentary on the human condition - and it is hard to disagree with it. Jeanette Winterson's prose is charming, irreverent and humorous and is a pleasure to read. I loved most of the characters in the book, but my favourite was a robot who is almost human, called Spike. She is cool, stylish and charming.

An interesting thing happened, when I started reading the book. The narrator of the first part of the story is called Billie Crusoe. I made an automatic assumption that Billie was a man and he was straight because later he falls in love with a woman. Imagine my surprise when I discover that Billie Crusoe is a woman and she is (probably) a lesbian. There is a word called 'hereronormative'. I think I first saw it in a book called 'The Argonauts' by Maggie Nelson. In my understanding, it means that when we get introduced to a new character in a story, we automatically assume that the person is straight. I also went one step ahead and assumed that the narrator is a man. In my defence, I have never seen a female Billie in fiction. But when I think about it, I realize that there is Billie Piper, the English actress, who is famous for her wonderful roles in 'Doctor Who' and 'Penny Dreadful'. We keep an open mind, guard ourselves against making assumptions, but traditional conditioning just creeps in silently and unexpectedly. That is what I realized when I thought about all this.

I liked 'The Stone Gods'. This is my first Jeanette Winterson book and I am happy to discover that she has a long backlist. I can't wait to read more of her books.

I will leave you with some of my favourite passages from the book.

"The thing about life that drives me mad," I said, "is that it doesn't make sense. We make plans. We try to control, but the whole thing is random."
"This is a quantum universe," said Spike, "neither random nor determined. It is potential at every second. All you can do is intervene."

"There's a planet," said Spike, "made of water, entirely of water, where every solid thing is its watery equivalent. There are no seas because there is no land. There are no rivers because there are no banks. There is no thirst because there is no dry.
"This planet is like a bowl of water except that there is no bowl. It hangs in space as a drop of water hangs from a leaf, except that there is no leaf. It cannot exist, and yet it does. I tell you this so you know that what is impossible sometimes happens."

"Words are the part of silence that can be spoken."

"The trouble with babies is that they are made like a safe - no way to see what's inside and no guarantee that the effort will be worth the trouble. Spin the numbers, crack the code, but the door won't swing open. Babies are safes on a time-delay. It takes years for the door to swing open, and even when it does, the best minds are undecided as to the value of the contents.
And to make life more difficult, babies who come as treasure bring with them their own magician. Open the box and it may be empty. What's inside may already have been spirited away. By the time you get to it, there may be nothing there. Rot? Evaporation? A vanishing trick? Are all those empty adults born so? Or did something happen in the box?"

"I have never understood the physics of legs. My legs are longer, so why can't I keep up with a dog? Even dogs with very short legs run faster than humans with long legs. How does this work?"

"I thought of something I'd read about the impossible beauty of the landscape before the industrial revolution. Particularly the beauty of woodland, because an oak takes three hundred years to grow, three hundred years to live, and three hundred years to die."

"You can change everything about yourself - your name, your home, your skin colour, your gender, even your parents, your private history - but you can't change the time you were born in, or what it is you will have to live through.
This is our time."

Have you read 'The Stone Gods'? What do you think about it?
Profile Image for Daphne.
945 reviews46 followers
April 6, 2016
Maybe I just didn't get this book, but I definitely didn't enjoy it.

The start was somewhat promising, it had potential to be a good story with a powerful message but I feel like after the halfway point the author sort of dropped the ball. The book then became confusing and disjointed for me.

I also felt like there was a little too much time spent on the message the author was trying to put in and too little on the story. I didn't feel connected to the characters and neither did I feel like I ever really understood their motivations.

I felt like a lot more could have been done with this premise.
Profile Image for Keegan.
107 reviews
March 26, 2012
Here's the thing: science fiction is always...ALWAYS heavy handed social commentary. It was designed that way by the early pioneers: Zamyatin, Orwell, etc. This is why so much science fiction is dystopian: because the author's only see negative outcomes from the actions of people today.

When I started reading The Stone Gods, I was ready for it, and Winterson includes the usual suspects: abuse of the planet and natural resources, suspicious wars against technologically weaker races, the hubris of mankind to assume dominion over nature which has made it this long despite us, corporate greed, etc. She tossed in a few robots to raise questions about the nature of humanity. All of it a good foundation for science fiction gold.

The problem here, though, is that Winterson has forged these social concerns into hammers, and uses each one to smash the reader in the face. The book lacks subtly. The book lacks narrative. The book is stuffed full of characters telling you things: "Robots feel things to, so what now? We must be human. YOU, READER! YOUR NOTIONS OF HUMANITY ARE WRONG! BUY ORGANIC AND READ MORE!"

Her main character, the unsubtly named Billie (sometimes Billy) Crusoe is meant to bring Defoe's book to mind (especially in section four where the resident of Wreck City, Friday, teaches Billie how wrong she is about freedom). The allusions were lost on me, and I read a lot of books. Billie doesn't seem to colonize things, which was one of Defoe's Crusoe's most honed abilities. He doesn't shed the light of Christianity on anything. She isn't stranded alone on an island figuring out how to make it without the modern conveniences of 18th Century England. She does own a farm when most people ingest their food by means of synthetic processes, so I guess in that way she is stranded alone as the last person to know how to make bread and butter. Billy (in section 2) is the only sailor, and does happen to get stranded, but ends up having a weirdly sexual relation with another white guy, also stranded on the island.

Naming choices aside, the last section of the book, where Billie and Spike (the robot head designed to make objective decisions for the massive corporately run, safe, hygienic society of Tech City) wander into Wreck City (the inverse of Tech City: stuffed with radiation, no safety, everyone living in squalor, no corporations) was too much to handle for me. The characters essentially have one discussion after another about how being free, regardless of the consequences, is always better than taking orders from some faceless corporation. Having heavily sided with the Occupy Movements, I generally agree to this, but Wreck City was a nightmare of irradiated children missing arms and legs not being cared for by citizens who are more interested in cutting off their own noses to spite their faces. Certainly, the idea of socialized living can be scary, but Tech City seemed to be doing alright: everyone had jobs, and health, and were living longer, and now robots...what's not to like? Spike, though, decides that were life is and defects to the rebels, who, not surprisingly are overrun by the neighboring overlords who decide everyone should be cared for...by force. And that the mutated children, missing limbs and teeth, living in the forest of nuclear waste should probably be put down. Which, given Winterson's descriptions, seems humane.

Again, I'm not sure what the point is: that robots make shitty decisions? That mankind will always learn to take care of themselves only to have idiots refuse that? That Robinson Crusoe would have been better with robots? It seems clear what we are supposed to think, but I disagree with a lot of what she suggests. And there isn't really a story to build that argument, just lots of talk. In the end, it was like listening to a very idealistic young person give a rambling monologue for nearly 300 pages.

And it wasn't all that convincing.
Profile Image for Jenny.
167 reviews5 followers
September 14, 2008
Winterson leaves me astounded. Her prose is simply fantastic - I am amazed at how she makes the simplest observations read like poetry, and what could be a very fatalistic narrative is instead deeply seeded with hope.

Early on in this book, I was thinking I would rate it four stars, since I felt that though truly engaging, and in her wonderful style, her book, "The Passion" was a superior work. I've changed my mind. This is as good as "The Passion". Wholly different, but just as good. It almost hurts to put it back on the library shelf, because this is one I have to own.
Profile Image for Karlijn.
196 reviews
October 3, 2019
Vast niet de hoofdboodschap van het boek, maar ik ben helemaal voor een toekomst waar lesbische relaties tussen mens en kunstmatige intelligentie klimaatverandering wel overleven
Profile Image for Megan.
737 reviews75 followers
December 15, 2008
I've liked some of Jeannette Winterson's books in the past - most notably Oranges Aren't the Only Fruit and her more typically surreal (and admittedly a little schmaltzy) The Passion. There were some really interesting ideas in this book that were sort of shallowly explored. I love the idea of a 'Robo sapiens' - the first of its kind perhaps - falling in love for no particular reason. But there really was no particular reason, other than falling in love with the sort of main character is the easiest way to tell that story. But that whole story could have been so much more - not as a romance but as an exploration of humanity, and emotion, and who you allow yourself to have feelings for and uncanny divide type prejudices... but really it was just... shallow and frustrating. There was a bit of ... sort of time-hopping? or something going on that was honestly a little confusing. I mean, Winterson's sort of famous for that kind of stitching together of different perspectives in different times, but this one felt a little pat and over-reached. It reminded me a little of The Fountain, too, or something like that, with its attempt to almost reincarnate people "meant to be together" in different places and times. That's frankly something I've never liked, and am growing quite tired of - and that's when it's done in such a way that it makes sense. And some attempt was made, that for me at least totally failed, to connect these different time periods and different failing societies in history and different explorers 'discovering' new worlds to each other with some kind of metaphor - particularly something was going on in trying to reach for a larger metaphor with the title. I'm assuming the author was trying to reference what happened to the people on Easter Island when they realized they had doomed themselves with their overuse of resources, particularly to build their giant and now famous statues. But this attempt at meta just doesn't work. I get the idea, and the message... but, I really feel like this book could have been really interesting if it had just been written by someone else. Or perhaps if Winterson had tried to venture a little further away from her usual style of writing. Winterson's style leaves a little too much hanging in the surreal to make enough connections or sense, or to explore any of her most interesting ideas in any real depth. Fans of Winterson might feel differently, but this book was ultimately disappointing for me.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kristine.
139 reviews2 followers
November 6, 2012
Yeah. What to say.

On the plus side, the last chapter has some funny parts, and the protagonist sort of gets a happy ending.

On the minus side, from beginning to end this reads like a bunch of liberal hand-wringing about sexism, government/corporate control, and the exploitation of nature and of other humans. Don't get me wrong, I'm a liberal, and I do plenty of hand-wringing myself, but this was a little over the top. Really, the characters were pretty uniformly flat and uninteresting, though that doesn't even really describe it. You have a protagonist who is not all that interesting despite being, on paper so to speak, someone who should be interesting. She's really just maudlin and disgusted by the world around here. Playing the backdrop to her disgust are a long line of despicable straw-men: Pink, the surgically-enhanced woman who is so desperate for her pedophile-husband's affection she want to change herself into a child; the corporate boss who is in on the conspiracy to force the protagonist into conformity or prison; the long string of other men whose only objective is conquest, and women whose only objective is consumption. It's a depressing list of characters. Sadly, the contrast between these vices incarnate and our virtuous, suffering protagonist, Billie, doesn't actually manage to imbue her with much sympathy. She's dour and cynical, and her obvious disdain for anyone heterosexual doesn't help matters.

Might be a fun book to MST3K; not so much fun otherwise.
Profile Image for Tori.
141 reviews19 followers
February 24, 2017
"One day, tens of millions of years from now, someone will find me rusted into the mud of a world they have never seen, and when they crumble me between their fingers, it will be you they find."

Hopefully someday I can review this book better, hopefully someday I'll be able to find the words and the thoughtfulness that it deserves. For now all I can say is 1) I'm immeasurably thankful that everything fell into place to allow me to be someone who can read and appreciate Jeanette Winterson, and 2) this was fucking crazy to read as the Trappist-1 planets were discovered.
Profile Image for Erin-Elizabeth.
99 reviews17 followers
March 26, 2019
I always find Winterson a little hit and miss. I absolutely LOVED The Passion, but then couldn't get in to Gut Symmetries at all.
I enjoyed elements of this, mainly the first and last sections about Billie and Spike. It had a good premise and the moral comment about the way we mistreat and destroy our planet was poignant. I just found myself getting distracted about how you're left to flounder without much linking explanation. The narrative jumped around from paragraph to paragraph and I found I was trying to make connections and piece together the story myself. I found it quite tiring and found myself 'done' with the story about 40 pages from the end. I think you have to be in the mood for Winterson's style of writing as the metaphorical and beautiful language comes first and you have to, kind of, unpick the story from underneath. Sometimes, though, I just want to be swept along by a story and not have to work too hard.
A really clever story, but maybe the wrong time or frame of mind for me to read it.
Profile Image for Maureen Farrimond.
132 reviews6 followers
Read
July 7, 2021
I read a few bad reviews on this book which made be a little apprehensive. Whilst some of their points were justified. The book does take some strange twists and turns but this does not distract from the excellent storytelling skills of Jeanette Winterson. I was totally enthralled by each of the separate time lines. Jeanette's wit shines through as usual.
Profile Image for Kelly.
522 reviews76 followers
July 16, 2020
I really loved the first section of this novel. It is the kind of literary science fiction I most enjoy. The next few sections lost me a little bit. So overall, a pretty okay reading experience. Some beautiful writing as usual from Jeanette Winterson.
Profile Image for Jacqueline.
183 reviews16 followers
June 26, 2021
I'm not sure what I just read. Other than saying it was a multi-dimensional/multi-timelined story about love and criticism towards the power in place.

Interesting, shocking and thought provoking, but not for the faint of heart.
11 reviews6 followers
July 10, 2019
This review might be very unfair: I can see how someone would love The Stone God's, but I didn't. It's way too post-modern for me. Full of interconnected plot lines, non - linear storytelling, self-referential and self-insert.
The book is divided into several parts which are, kind of connected but exist in different times, perhaps different universes, different timelines? Who knows? Parts that refer to themselves, or to other parts of the book, as parts in a book... You get the idea. Too much for my cup of tea. The only real criticism I have is that it's easy to tell that the sci-fi dystopian parts, are not written by a sci-fi dystopian author. It's a bit clumsy in its descriptions and rule-setting and world building.
But, if you like, as my partner would say, "post-app dystopian feminist novels" then do give it a shot.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 715 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.