Jeanette Winterson (2 stars)

The Stone Gods (Hamish Hamilton)

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Jeanette Winterson

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The Stone Gods offers up four stories about civilisations destroying themselves, and the individuals who find unconventional love among the ruins. Some of these work better than others, with Winterson ill at ease and over-explaining robots and other sci-fi staples in her dystopic future. The dialogue is often forced and unnatural, and references to current political issues are unsubtle and add little to her own largely plotless narrative.

Winterson is on more familiar ground in a story about a young sailor marooned on Easter Island, but the poetic sparkle that defined her earlier works is all but gone. The Stone Gods is grandiose and ambitious, seeking to rewrite our own history as well as providing a terrifying glimpse of the future. But with little of her trademark flair, the attempt feels stilted and flat even as the stories reach what should be their tenderly poignant conclusions.

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