Christine Strelan - Between the Covers

The Stone Gods

Jeanette Winterson

Hamish Hamilton 2007

Human beings arent just in a mess, we are a mess. We have made every mistake, justified ourselves, and made the same mistakes again and again. Its as though were doomed to repetition. Or are we? In Jeanette Wintersons inventive new novel, earth is dying, and a new Planet Blue has been discovered just in time. Its a lush hive of jungle, clean water, and dinosaurs. Will we make a hash of this one as well? Winterson isnt optimistic. Massive corporations are already hatching plans for full urbanisation, once theyve got rid of those pesky reptiles. Humans have given away all their power to a they. You arent able to fight the system because without the system none of you can survive. You made a world without alternatives, and now it is dying, and your new world already belongs to they.

The Stone Gods explores themes of discovery and exploitation, from the colonial era, through the deforestation of Easter Island, to space age dreams of crossing that final frontier and starting all over again. Shes a highly original writer, and all these big ideas sit easily in prose that can be intensely poetic, bitterly cynical and evilly witty, often in the same paragraph.

The books divided into three sections: the first is a wildly romantic love story between human Billie and robot Spike. Think Lesbian Blade Runner with a sense of humour, and youll come close. The second sees similar characters appearing on 18th century Easter Island, just in time to see the last tree get cut down. The third part returns to the not-too-distant future, with Billie and Spike meeting up under different circumstances this time. The whole thing is daring and complex, with a twist at the end, and I found it riveting, moving and amusing.

Wintersons dystopian futures would be depressing if her writing wasnt so lively. And she never quite loses faith in some of our better qualities: no matter how disgracefully we behave as a group, there are always individuals capable of courage, wisdom and love (Love is an experiment. What happens next is always surprising.). After the disappointing detour of her last book, Tanglewreck, Winterson is definitely back on form.

Books reviewed are available from Book Warehouse, Keen St, Lismore, and at Lismore Square.


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