Jeanette Winterson’s The Stone Gods is a fascinating exploration of modern society, the circular mindedness of human nature, and timeless love.
The story begins in a futuristic post-apocalyptic science-fiction world, Orbus, which humanity has almost destroyed with its wars, greed, and perversions, which are taken to their extremes. This creates a surprisingly realistic world. When protagonist Billie is framed for terrorist actions, the corporate-governing body sends her and a crew to Planet Blue, humanity’s chance to start again. The scheduled-for-termination robo-Sapiens, Spike, a life-like artificial intelligence, sneaks aboard and forms a relationship with Billie. Things go awry when the ship’s captain miscalculates the trajectory of a meteor they send towards Planet Blue to kill the dinosaurs.
The story then shifts to periods in Earth’s history, such as Easter Island during the eighteenth century. Versions of Billie and Spike resurface in these stories. These sections, which fantasise history, are somewhat confusing, not matching the tone of the rest of the novel, and are it’s least compelling parts.
In the final sections, the story shifts to a near-future time after a war, called Post-3 War, devastates Western society. A corporation takes over governing society in Tech-City. Billie resurfaces as a woman training a primitive robo-Sapiens, also called Spike, who was created to make humanity’s big decisions, since humanity can’t be trusted to do this anymore. As part of Spike’s training, Billie takes her to Wreck City, where people who refuse to be ruled by a corporation live in ruins. Again, things go awry for Billie, who makes a shocking and powerful discovery.
As with many of Winterson’s novels, the final version of Billie confronts issues of maternal abandonment. This section is powerfully emotional, and, given the contents of Winterson’s memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, is perhaps wish fulfilment.
The Stone Gods reflects on modern society, the destructive nature of our “war on terror”, and humanity’s constant repetition of its mistakes, despite commitments not to do so. It criticises capitalism as a self-consuming social system that seemingly offers people opportunities while simultaneously taking away their rights and freedoms. It is a very poignant and powerful story that comes highly recommended.