In this dazzling new novel, humankind has rendered its planet unlivable and is beginning to colonize a new, pristine planet. Our hero, Billie Crusoe, a former activist turned government scientist, is offered a place on the next mission to Planet Blue—her boss convinces her that it is safer for her in space than in the middle of a brewing political scandal at home. Billie is joined on the expedition by Captain Handsome, a space privateer; Pink McMurphy, a contest winner whose prize is to join the expedition team; and Spike, a beautiful female Robo sapiens. Together they will colonize Planet Blue, using a gravity charge to cause an asteroid to collide with the planet and wipe out the dinosaurs that currently make it uninhabitable for human life. Only, the explosion goes very, very wrong . . .
1. The view of the universe as neither random nor determined, but only full of potentialities awaiting intervention, appears throughout the novel. The author writes, “Love is an intervention.” In what ways does love intervene in the events of The Stone Gods?
2. The novel is a story told in four parts that are wildly different and yet very similar. How does the author’s choice of structure reinforce or detract from your reading experience? Compare and contrast the plot line, characters, and themes of each of the sections.
3. Life in the Central Power is supported by a distinct hierarchy of robotic life forms: “There’s Kitchenhand for the chores, Flying Feet to run errands or play football with the kids . . . We have TourBots, for hire when you visit a new place and need someone to show you round. We have bottom of the range LoBots, who have no feet because they spend all their time on their knees cleaning up” (p. 14). How does this robotic hierarchy relate to the human social structures in the novel? Why do you think such hierarchies persist?
4. Spike tells Billie, on page 29, “Humans share ninety-seven per cent of their genetic material with apes, but they feel no kinship.” She suggests that humans will feel kinship with robots in time, as the differences between us and them decrease. How does the characters’ inability to think of Spike as a person relate to Spike’s observation about apes? According to the novel, what are some of the broader implications of an inability to feel kinship with nonhuman life forms, even those significantly similar to us in genetic makeup?
5. One of the many questions this novel asks is “What does it mean to be human?” On the expedition to Planet Blue, Pink McMurphy says it has to do with blood. Billie argues that it has to do with emotion and the ability to feel. Spike suggests that it is a matter of consciousness. Make a case for each of these possible answers, and discuss which one makes the most sense to you and why. Use examples from the novel to support your opinion.
6. On page 169, Billie says, “Perhaps I have to say that the landing-place I am really looking for isn’t a place at all: it’s a person, it’s you.” To whom is she talking? What does this statement mean?
7. The author has introduced a lot of subplots and details relating to issues of sex and gender. Identify and discuss a few of them. For example, on Planet Blue, Pink and Billie are completely at odds in their opinions of Fixing, Genetic Reversal, and other “perversions.” Handsome and Billie argue about the reasons men and women can or cannot be successful as world leaders. How else do issues of gender play out in the novel?
8. In Wreck City, Billie muses, “The brain doesn’t have separate regions for past and future; only the present is differentiated by the brain. We split time into three parts. The brain, it seems, splits it twice only—now, and not-now” (p. 204). Assuming this is true, what are the repercussions of the brain’s inability to process time linearly, as we experience it? Does this give you a different perspective on the events of the book? Why or why not?
9. The title, The Stone Gods, is derived from the Easter Island section of the novel. How does this section relate to the others, considering it stands out as the only nonfuturistic portion? Why do you think the author chose this title?
10. The sections “Planet Blue,” “Post-3 War,” and “Wreck City” all describe “futuristic” worlds (in a repeating story, it’s unclear what is truly past or future). Did you find these worlds believable based on our own world’s current trajectory? Why or why not?
11. The Stone Gods is the story of a story that repeats itself throughout human history and, according to the author, will continue to repeat itself forever. What is the significance of this? Do you think the story repeats itself because, as the author writes, “everything is imprinted for ever with what it once was”? Or because we never learn, or simply can’t change human nature? What would you say in response to Billie’s question on page 205: “Love is an intervention. Why do we not choose it?”
12. Why do you think the author chose to use names like Crusoe, Friday, and James Cook? How do these fictional and historical figures relate to the characters in The Stone Gods?
13. Would you ultimately categorize this book as hopeful or dystopic? Explain your opinion using examples from the novel.