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An SF Novel by Jack Williamson

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A disappointing novel from a Grand Master of SF

  • Feb 21, 2011

The Stonehenge Gate

by Jack Williamson

I was disappointed.

The book revolves around four poker loving friends who discover a mostly buried set of stone trilithons similar to Stonehenge deep in the driest and most deserted portion of the Sahara Desert. Combined with a story from one of them of one of his ancestors seemingly being a Kaspar Hauser of some sort, and possessing a mysterious pendant as that legacy, the four discover that the Trilithons are, in Stargate like fashion, a portal to another world...

The book has some virtues which are overshadowed by its many flaws. We do get to see a number of interesting and varied worlds, and the sensawonder is in full force as the characters explore the system of Trilithons. Robots, old technologies, and strange landscapes draw the reader in for much of the novel.

And yet, I came away very disappointed in the book. The sensawonder and the landscapes and the idea of the Trilithons are not enough. The characterization is extremely poor. When the characters aren't being cardboard cutouts who seem to exist solely for the purpose of showing the worlds off, they act in a whiplash and vacillating manner. A very long set piece where two of the characters are trapped in a slavery dominated world is where the book jumped the shark for me. Since I didn't have enough invested in the characters, when the forward progress of the two characters (seperated from their companions by this point) is halted and they are trapped in a nasty and ultimately genocidal racial conflict, I stopped caring.

One of the characters develops a bond from a young denizen of this world in a father-son relationship that has absolutely no precedent whatsoever in anything we know about the character (which isn't much). The other character similarly winds up in a doomed interracial romance from this world that again has no precedent or real basis. It seems to exist only for the purposes of plot.

Finally, the end game seems just as arbitrary, as the characters, once united, decide what they are going to ultimately do about the Omegans and their Trilithons and the choices once again seem vacillating, and arbitrary to get to a desired ending.

I've read a couple of Williamson's books before, some time ago (e.g. Legion of Time), so I have to say that this book was a gigantic disappointment and so I do not recommend the book.

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Editorial Reviews From Publishers Weekly
This trippy stand-alone from Hugo- and Nebula-winner Williamson reads like a novelization of Paul Verhoeven directing Jules Verne's combined rewrite of H.P. Lovecraft's The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath and C.S. Lewis's Perelandra. It follows the world-hopping adventures of four poker buddies: physicist Derek and archeologist Lupe, both so obsessed with exploration and getting grants that they have no sense of personal safety; Ram, a linguist descended from an extraterrestrial deity; and Will, a weak-willed English professor who just wants to go home. Williamson's artificial creatures are brilliant as always, so much so that the shape-shifting intelligent metal caretakers of these distant planets are more lovingly and intricately described than the people. Derek and Lupe's absence through most of the book renders them mere plot devices, and Ram and Will's search for their compatriots turns into a humorless parody of the clever dark-skinned native leading the stumbling white man through the jungle. Lush descriptions and a refreshingly brisk pace buoy the novel, but the characters are so uninteresting that disbelief soon becomes as hard to suspend as the space elevator that carries them between worlds.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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