cover image The Stonehenge Gate

The Stonehenge Gate

Jack Williamson, . . Tor, $24.95 (316pp) ISBN 978-0-7653-0897-9

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. Agent, Eleanor Wood at the Spectrum Literary Agency . (Aug.)