The Stone Gods – Jeanette Winterson
December 7, 2009 § 1 Comment
Stories are always true. It’s the facts that mislead.
Sometimes I wonder what it is about Winterson’s books that seem to have this magnetic force over me. Whenever I walk past the shelves in the library, her books just shout out, “Pick me from the shelf. Pick me!”, and amazingly, I listen, even when I’m weighed down by six or ten other books in my arms. And once they’re home, they still shout out at me, “Read me! Pick me!”, and sure enough, I listen too.
The Stone Gods starts off with the story of one Billie Crusoe. Her world, or rather, the world she lives in is a world where humans can no longer survive without the aid of robots. There are robots for everything, from cleaning your carpet, to telling the world leader what to do. And then, there is the Robo sapien, the ultimate of all robots, programmed to think like humans do.
I forget all the time that she’s a robot, but what’s a robot? A moving lump of metal. In this case an intelligent, ultra-sensitive moving lump of metal. What’s a human? A moving lump of flesh, in most cases not intelligent or remotely sensitive.
Carbon dioxide is at 550 parts per million. The conditions dictate that humans have very little time left on this planet. And luckily for them, they have found a new one, one that is conducive for human activity. And they have named it Planet Blue.
Billie is sent to this new planet, together with Spike, the Robo sapien, and some other people, to help get Planet Blue ready for the migration of people. For all that is good with Planet Blue, there is one thing that deems is completely uninhabitable: the existence of dinosaurs. And their quest, is to rid the planet of them.
Reeling back from there, we are then taken to the time when Easter Island is discovered by Captain Cook.
His is a story of the Stone Gods, the eyeless, upright, stone statues of faces; and the island on which they stand. Taken in by a European looking man amongst the Natives, Billy learns the story behind those statues, and of the feud between two of the Native clans. He learns about how the Island, initially flourishing with life, has now become barren land.
Mankind, I hazard, wherever found, Civilized or Savage, cannot keep to any purpose for much length of time, except the purpose of destroying himself.
Enter again Billie Crusoe. Enter again Spike.
Billie picks up a book titled The Stone Gods, a book about repeating worlds.
I hope I have not mislead anyone to thinking that this book is about the future, the past, and the future again. For it is not so simple. The book gives us a gazillion different possibilities. Could it be, perhaps, that everything is happening at the same time, only in different dimensions? Perhaps on different planets? Or maybe it could all have happened on the same planet, only during different lifetimes of the same planet? Must everything that happen necessarily have a past, present, future?
We split time into three parts. The brain, it seems, splits it twice only: now, and not now.
The book, I feel, sends a very strong message, so strong it almost feels like the message is radiating out of the book, overflowing with cryptic wavelengths. It seems we learn not from our past mistakes, and we repeat what we ought not to.
And so, while we were all arguing about whether it was Christian or Pagan, Democratic or Conservative to save the planet, and whether technology would solve all our problems, and whether we should fly less, drive less, eat less, weigh less, consume less, dump less, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose to 550 parts per million, the ice-caps melted, and Iran launched a nuclear attack on the USA.
Nothing gets done until it is too late. Is this a habit we have somehow developed over the centuries?
I really enjoyed this book. Of the few books by Winterson that I have read, it seems that the main themes revolve mostly around parallel worlds, time-bending, past-present-future, reality-illusion… Her stories feel so unreal at times, and yet somehow, however unbelievable, I am hooked. I don’t believe the story, but I want to know what happens next.
And of course, her writing style is just beautiful.
Spike said, “Human beings often display emotion they do not feel. And they often feel emotion they do not display.”
Though I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all the books from Winterson that I’ve read so far, for the life of me I just can’t get enthused about reading Oranges are not the Only Fruit. And I don’t know why..