The Stonehenge Gate
By Jack Williamson; Read by Harlan Ellison
7 CDs – 8.5 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
ISBN: 9780786146550 (Cassette), 9780786174119 (MP3-CD), 9780786167784 (CD)
Themes: / Science Fiction / Stargate / Journey / Slavery / Evolution / Aliens /
This is Jack Williamson’s last book, at least it’s the last book published in his lifetime. The man has had a long career, a very long career. Jack’s first story was published in the fairly new Amazing Stories in 1928. Jack has been able to adapt his fiction to the changing and maturing literature that we call Science Fiction, again and again.
One admirable quality of Jack’s work that remained consistent over the nine decades in which he wrote, was his ability to tell a good yarn. His stories can always hold your attention, and he never forgot to have a beginning, middle and an end. This may sound like a trait that all writers should have, but it is really not the case. This always kept Jack’s works above the average SF writer.
In The Stonehenge Gate, we have four poker buddies that find a gateway into other worlds. The four characters are academics who are excavating a site under the sands of the Sahara. Will is an English Professor who narrates the story. Ram is an African professor who has a strange birthmark that mimics the shape of the Stonehenge Gate that they find. Stranger still is that the birthmark seems to be hereditary.
They soon pass into many new worlds throughout this novel. The majority of the novel takes place in a world inhabited by a preindustrial society with institutionalized black slavery. The characters have to grapple with functioning in this world while supporting abolishinest causes. There’s a dark quality to this part of the journey that has more than a passing nod to Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness.
Harlan Ellison’s narration is spectacular. This is likely the only audiobook that is written by one SF Grand Master and read by another. Of course, there aren’t any SF Grandmaster’s that have also won an Audie award like Harlan has. Harlan throws himself into his acting. He’s energized and seems to be convincingly living the parts he’s portraying to a greater degree than can be said of most voice actors.
How does this book stack up against the rest of the Williamson cannon? I don’t believe this is one of Jack’s best books nor one of his lesser efforts. Placing it somewhere in the middle. But in the case of Jack, that’s a pretty damn good book.