The Stone God Awakens by Philip José Farmer (book review).

Originally published by Ace Books in 1970, Meteor House have given ‘The Stone God Awakens’ its first limited hardcover edition, alongside an unlimited trade paperback edition.

In his introduction, ‘Awaken For The Adventure, Stay For The Wonder’, Danny Adams (co-writer of the final novel in the ‘Dayworld ‘series, ‘A Hole In Wednesday’, with Farmer) makes some very interesting points. The main one being that Farmer has revisited many of the elements to be found in his other works, including the ones he borrowed from Edgar Rice Burroughs and put a lot of thought into subverting them.

As in so many Burroughs adventures, we’re presented with a protagonist who finds himself stranded in an unfamiliar world, full of unfamiliar animals and people. In this case, Ulysses Singing Bear has not been transported to another planet, but into the far future of Earth. At first, it would seem that these creatures and the rather strange races he encounters are somewhat unlikely, but we’re soon given hints as to how and why these species came to be.

The method by which Ulysses finds himself displaced into this unfamiliar world is particularly interesting. He’s a scientist, who was working on a method of ‘stoning’ matter at a molecular level…a sort of stasis, which is very similar to a process that was later employed to great effect in his ‘Dayworld’ series. It doesn’t seem likely that the ‘Dayworld’ books take place in the same universe as ‘The Stone God Awakens’, but we have seen Farmer play with the multiverse concept since this book was originally published. Ulysses accidentally ‘stones’ himself and it proved impossible to reverse the process, until it happens by accident millions of years in the future.

He awakens to find himself in the middle of a battle between a race of cat people, and a race of what he originally takes to be racoon people. It’s almost as if H.G. Wells’ Dr Moreau has repopulated the planet!

One of the ways in which Farmer subverts what would seem on the surface to be a very ERBian adventure is that Ulysses Singing Bear soon comes to realise that he can’t take one of the females of these new sentient races as a mate. The biology simply won’t work, at least as far as producing any progeny goes. It never even occurred to Burroughs that his heroes might not be able to mate and breed with the human-like races they encountered on other planets. Since they were at least set on planets in our solar system, it could be explained that in some distant past, humankind was spread across the other planets, but that’s something for future ERB Universe novels to explore, should the publisher choose to.

As one reads, it becomes more and more apparent that Farmer had given an immense amount of thought to how things got to be the way they are, in this far removed future. Much is hinted at as to what happened to the human race and who was responsible. I could go into much more detail about these myriad hints, but I fear that would be too spoilerish.

As one would expect in a Burroughs-influenced adventure, Ulysses encounters many races on this future Earth and eventually becomes a leader who brings about alliances between them to combat a common enemy. The idea of a ‘World Tree’ is not new, even amongst Farmer’s other work, but it takes quite an imagination to understand how a parasitical, perhaps sentient tree so huge that it covers most of the planet and actual rivers run along it’s branches could work. It’s hard to even visualise such a thing, but Farmer is up to the task.

Danny Adams mentions in his introduction that Farmer “creates a pacing that remains breathless even during the slower parts, as there are not only no chapter breaks, but no breaks of any kind. Everything unfurls in one long narrative flow. It creates an immediacy and urgency which would be difficult if not impossible to replicate otherwise and one he went on to use to great effect in some of his other works, including another far-future Earth Farmer classic, ‘The Wind Whales Of Ishmael’.” I have to confess that I personally found this slightly problematic, due to the fact that I read most of the book in an advance pdf, albeit I finished it with the hardcover once it arrived. I have suffered problems with eye strain of late when reading for long periods on my tablet and frankly would have been rather grateful for some obvious indication of places to take a break.

However, that problem aside, Adams is correct. ‘The Stone God Awakens’ is an exciting ride and certainly never gets dull. I don’t think it’s really much of a spoiler to reveal that the first major battle is won at quite a cost for the good guys, but the book ends with Ulysses and the other survivors returning home to find another serious problem awaits them.

I was told that there were no current plans at Meteor House for anyone to write a follow up, in fact they hadn’t even considered the possibility. I would suggest that they give it some thought, because this book absolutely cries out for a sequel!

The story ends with things left to be done. As I said, this book only covers the first battle in a war, so to speak. There are all those hints about what happened to bring about the world Ulysses Singing Bear now finds himself in. I find it hard to believe that Farmer had never intended to write more, I suspect he simply hadn’t got around to it. But apparently there was nothing in his papers to suggest he had set down any actual ideas for such a thing. I can think of a few authors who would be up to the task of writing it. Danny Adams for one and I really hope they will consider it.

At the time of writing, the 150 copy limited edition hardcover, signed by Danny Adams, and cover artist and one internal illustration Charles Berlin is still available to buy, but I can’t imagine they will be for long.

Dave Brzeski

October 2022

(pub: Meteor House, 2022. 218 page enlarged paperback. Price: $23.00 (US) ISBN: 978-1-94542-726-8. Hardback available for $55.00 (US) – both only available directly from them)

check out website: https://meteorhousepress.com/the-stone-god-awakens

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.