THE STONE GODS by Jeanette Winterson (Knopf), 224 pages, $29.95 cloth. Rating: NNNN
Jeanette Winterson is hot. I just have to start by saying that.
It doesn’t matter if she’s writing about lighthouses or oranges or cherries or even, in the case of The Stone Gods, eco-disaster. Desire heats everything up.
Winterson’s latest novel, part polemic, part satire, tells three stories – each with an element of gender fuck and all related to the planet going straight to hell.
In the first, set in the near future, the new technocracy’s PR hack, Billie Crusoe, scores a trip to another planet with robot Spike. In the second, set in the late 1800s, one of Captain Cook’s cabin boys is left on a slowly decaying island – extending the Crusoe metaphor. In the third, Billie returns with a longing for her birth mother and still in love with Spike.
Don’t look for hard science here. The ecology info will probably drive nerds insane. But Winterson’s prose is, as usual, smooth, lilting and irresistible.
She’s more interested in social commentary. Though Earth is indeed in trouble, sexual politics have gone just as crazy. Women try to stay young via cryogenics and fashion via cosmetic surgery ludicrously distended sexual parts so as to remain attractive to men.
Eco-disaster and increasing starvation have turned Billie’s part of the planet into a full-on police state, with only one rogue country left. Winterson loves an outlaw, so Billie and Spike try, in part three, to find the last humane place on earth.
As the planet dies, the only thing that can save it is love. Here’s where we get vintage Winterson, as the ache of sexual desire permeates the pages. Winterson’s so good at this that even a robot can be a credible love object.