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The Stone Gods Hardcover – April 1, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First US Edition edition (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151014914
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151014910
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,078,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Prize-winning Brit Winterson applies her fantastical touch to a sci-fi, postapocalyptic setting. Heroine Billie Crusoe appears in three different end-of-the-world scenarios, allowing Winterson to explore the repetitive and destructive nature of human history and an inability (or unwillingness) of people to learn from previous mistakes. In the first section, inhabitants of the pollution-choked planet Orbus have discovered Planet Blue (Earth), and soon set about launching an asteroid at it to kill the dinosaurs that would prevent them from colonizing the planet. The second and third sections are set on Earth in 1774 and then in the Post-3 War era. Though passionate condemnations of global warming and war appear frequently, the book also contains a triptych love story: Billie meets Spike, a female Robo sapien capable of emotion and evolution, and falls (reluctantly) in love with her. In each of the scenarios, Billie and Spike (or versions of them) fall in love anew while encroaching annihilation looms in the background. Winterson's lapses into polemic can be tedious, but her prose—as stunning, lyrical and evocative as ever—and intelligence easily carry the book. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


PRAISE FOR JEANETTE WINTERSON "One of our most brilliant, visionary storytellers."—San Francisco Chronicle

"If words were diamonds and sentences necklaces, Jeanette Winterson would be the De Beers of literature."—Entertainment Weekly

"Prize-winning Brit Winterson applies her fantastical touch to a sci-fi, postapocalyptic setting...stunning, lyrical and evocative..." (Publishers Weekly 2008-01-24)

"This is science fiction with a satirical twist, part Daniel Defoe''s Robinson Crusoe and part Virginia Woolf''s Orlando." (Ms. Magazine 2008-08-01)

"The apocalypse is coming. You''ll need something to read. THE STONE GODS, Jeanette Winterson''s new novel, makes an excellent choice for desert-planet reading --scary, beautiful, witty and wistful by turns, dipping into the known past as it explores potential THE STONE GODS for new discoveries in language, love and what it means to be human." (The New York Times Book Review 2008-03-30)

"The Stone Gods is a vivid, cautionary tale - or, more precisely, a keen lament for our irremediably incautious species." (Ursula LeGuin The Guardian (UK) 2008-01-15)

"A rangy pirate, a world-swashbuckler, a plunderer of stories, literatures and hearts, with one foot in the sea and the other planted so firmly in England that her placeless, faceless fiction glints with facets of pure Englishness, the grandeur of Shakespeare, the absolutism of Lawrence, the stillness of Woolf, the traditional cocky farce of Chaucer and Carry On films. She can shift shape, self and time, she uses repetition as if it were spell-making. Everything she does suspends readers between the mind and the body, between `atom and dream'. She is a kind of magician. She can do anything." (Ali Smith 2008-01-15)

"This book is a tour de force that skips backward in time." (Library Journal 2008-02-28)

"[I]ntricately structured, emotionally lucid.With Virginia Woolf''s Orlando as her template, literary prowess to burn, and an incandescent passion for life, Winterson critiques human folly in myriad forms and laments the pillaging and poisoning of the earth in this mordantly funny,fast-paced, and elegiac speculative novel, in which books literally save a life." (Starred Review) (Booklist 2008-02-28)

"The latest from the eclectically adventurous Winterson (Lighthousekeeping, 2005 etc.) is equal parts meta fiction and science fiction...Winterson employs the plot as a backdrop for an environmental manifesto, making grand pronouncements--''History is not a suicide note-- it is a record of our survival''; ''Perhaps the universe is a memory of our mistakes'' -- amid allusions to Beckett, Sartre and Camus, as well as the inevitable Dafoe." (Kirkus Reviews 2008-01-15)

"A playful but impassioned novel. Winterson cloaks her disillusionment with out political excesses in a sustained imaginative jeu d'esprit. Her writing is funny and beautiful." (The Times (London) 2007-09-20)

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Customer Reviews

Think of an Asimov plot with Winterson's style and language.
M. Pyra
In addition, the third section of the novel, which returns to the first time period, doesn't seem to mesh quite well with the first section.
Scott Johnson
Its lyricism is not limited to the writing, but extends to the portrayal of this world and its characters.
Ed Seneca

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By gonzobrarian on September 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Despite a mere 200 pages you too can experience what seems like an epic, multi-volume heap of guilt vomited upon the vulgar vanity with which us humans tuck ourselves in each night. We describe ourselves as civilized, perhaps even progressive, yet in her book The Stone Gods, Jeanette Winterson skillfully reiterates what what we humans are so good at, and obliterates such vanity like a bear would to a sausage pinata.

The problem with us, Winterson reminds, is that for all our abilities, we just can't seem to learn anything from history. This recurring idea is the theme of 3 and 1/2 short stories, vignettes maybe, all intertwined within The Stone Gods. The first story, centering around the newly discovered Planet Blue, deals with a very advanced "civilization" coming to terms with its interplanetary recolonization, or at least it's inevitable effect upon colonization. The second story, a historical speculative taking place on Easter Island, illustrates the more aged impulses involved in worshiping your chosen god while sacrificing your home in the process. The third + 1/2 story deals with our near-future hubris after the inevitable Post-3 War, or a not-so-subtle hint at World War III.

This novel is a brilliantly conceived yet complex mix of science fiction and dramatic literature. It's up to the reader to discern what worlds, time periods, even places Winterson is alluding to, and she does fantastic job of speculating human behavior, if it is indeed human, within each. She grapples with relevant concepts of today such as war, artificial intelligence, global warming, cosmetic enhancement, all the stuff we humans turn toward when we we turn away from ourselves. Our nuance is that we accept how flawed as a species we are, yet we still are too lazy to do anything about it.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By abx400 on May 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
a pleasant and enjoyable book with powerful ideas sprinkled through that make it well worth reading. while the political issues are timely as the world slides further into the destructive ideology of violence, these are not treated with much depth, nor are the characters very thoroughly crafted. great pushing of conceptual boundaries of sexuality for those who do not live in metropolises where we've seen (done? ;-) it all perhaps. implausible plot points occasionally bordering on silly. that said i'd still recommend it for the interwoven aspects of truly deep, touching, and thought provoking associations between characters and existential concepts.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ed Seneca on May 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Stone Gods is an exceptional book. It is lyrical but dense, a deep love story that also discusses some fundamental ideas of humanity (freedom, maturity and humanity, sexuality and love) against the backdrop of a frighteningly possible future (a third world war resulting in corporate takeover and an untenable environment). It mixes these elements together impressively and in only 200 pages has considerable impact. I can understand why Atwood (who wrote "Oryx and Crake," another excellent novel about the 'end' of the world) likes this book so much.

Many of the low reviews for this book appear to have wanted a potboiler. This is not a book read solely for the series of events that happen in it. Its lyricism is not limited to the writing, but extends to the portrayal of this world and its characters. The names of the characters (Billie Crusoe is later assisted by Friday, Cpt. Handsome, etc.) reflects this, as do some of their decisions, and complaints of "unbelievability" are misplaced.

One low reviewer appears to be offended by the discussion of pedophilia and sex in the book. I think Winterson does a masterful job demonstrating a consumer culture's sexual appetites, and presents a believable progression of current society. Maybe a "degradation" to pedophilia would be more appropriate, since the protagonist is strongly opposed to the practice, and I think in part it is presented as a reflection of society's failure to mature past childhood. Second, this speculative fiction (as Atwood would say) appears to treat people as people in the purest sense, and has little interest in trapping them by being male or female. It is implied being straight is uncommon, although not necessarily a negative.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By D. Cloyce Smith on May 16, 2011
Format: Paperback
Jared Diamond, in his book on environmental destruction "Collapse," poses a question first asked by his students, "What did the Easter Islander who cut down the last palm tree say as he was doing it?" In the central section of "The Stone Gods," Jeanette Winterson transforms Diamond's historical account into the story of Billy, a young boy who abandoned on Easter Island by Captain Cook's crew and who becomes a witness to the final stages of the demise of the native society. Young Billy's story mirrors the themes of flanking sections of the book, which are set in two alternate versions of a future. In the first, Billie Crusoe and her fellow refugees have been banished to a faraway planet to make it habitable for colonization--but their mission goes irreversibly awry. In the final section, yet another Billie ends up in a post-apocalyptic ghetto composed of the dregs of environmental degradation and population overload. Unlike their literary forebear Robinson Crusoe, however, each version of Billie/Billy is stranded not on a desert island but in a desert civilization, where the problem is not the lack of people but their surfeit, along with their seemingly innate inability to tell when things are FUBAR.

Is one of these versions of the future fiction-within-the-fiction? Or is Winterson suggesting parallel universes? As the robot Spike says in the first section, "Any civilization will think as we did--that they are the first and the only." (Shades of "Battlestar Galactica"?) I'm sure the ambiguity is intentional; it's certainly worthwhile to flip back through the book and try to figure out how all the pieces "fit" into one coherent "Twelve Monkeys"-style narrative. But, while fun, that's an exercise that seems to me somewhat beside Winterson's point.
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