Sally P Bennett
on Sep. 12, 2011 :
A technothriller with a nebulous ending, this first-person story puts you in the head of an ordinary man caught up in extraordinary circumstances.
Midway over the Atlantic on his way to England, a Canadian vacationer meets a redhaired goddess worshiper, and his life takes an abrupt turn for the interesting. From encountering escaped elephants at Stonehenge to uncovering a plot to manipulate people’s emotions via frequencies broadcast under the guise of pest control, Ty and Jen take it all in stride.
Ty, a suspicious but otherwise average fellow, first has his attention caught by Henry the pink ferret and then takes notice of Henry’s handler, Joe, a technician who seems out of place among his pest-control companions. When people nearby turn into a mob, Ty embarks on a mission to find out why.
Eventually, they co-opt Joe to figure out a way to counteract the technology, which he developed (exhibiting the stereotypical scientist’s dissociation from the real-world consequences of his research). With the help of Jen’s New Age comrades, they then harness the positive energy of England’s standing stones and, at least temporarily, defeat the corporate enemy that would exert mind control over the populace.
The humor in this book is clever and lighthanded: “Just radiate good thoughts,” Jen tells Ty. The narrator says to us, “I held her hand and radiated.” These humorous elements do much to characterize Ty and simultaneously keep the reader engaged.
In combining plot elements derived from both the old (mysticism, standing stones, goddess worship) and the new (high-tech recording and playback, corporate conspiracies, military technology), this intellectual novel intrigues and fascinates without resorting to the gore and elevated horror that drive so many thrillers.
The first-person voice is sometimes a little distracting, with sentence fragments and stream of consciousness, in addition to jumping levels of psychic distance, but these drawbacks are standard with this point of view, and the author handles the narration well for the most part. The internal thoughts tend to drive the plot more than hardcore action or dialogue, because everything is experienced through Ty’s perceptions.
Editorial quibbles for those who care about such things: the practice of minimizing punctuation marks is taken a little too far in this book. For example, where paired commas should appear, there is frequently only one comma; and where a comma would help separate clauses and make for easier reading, no comma is provided. This, along with the sentence fragments, means that the reader has to work a little harder to follow the story. The Canadian British spellings are consistent and correct, but Americans will have to adjust to them.
(Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book to review.)
(reviewed 45 days after purchase)
on Aug. 30, 2011 :
Stone Song is a story about two tourists who meet en route to Glastonbury and inadvertently discover the use of a new technology used to shape crowd behavior.
On a flight to England, opposites attract and Ty, a guy with nothing to lose, and Jen, a new age Goddess freak, fortuitously meet. But trouble finds them immediately when a riot breaks out and they overhear a pest management team discussing technology that may have caused the riot. Wanting to avoid further trouble, they head to Stonehenge where they have an odd encounter with an escaped circus elephant. Unusual events stack up as Ty and Jen tour the English countryside, unable to get in touch with a missing friend. Worried, they arrive in Glastonbury where they befriend Joe from the pest management company. Then Ty and Jen learn they may be the only people who can keep a dangerous new technology out of the wrong hands.
Stone Song is a mix of thriller, soft science fiction, and cyberpunk wrapped up in a light-hearted tourist jaunt. Having been to some of the places Ty and Jen visit, I think the author captured the feeling of being on holiday and driving around the English countryside to see the sights. The colloquial dialogue captures the flavor of England as much as the description does. Then there's the tension between Ty and Jen. They are distinctly different people so it is terrific to see how they come together. Add in the premise of a technological development that could affect us all any day now, and the stakes rise. All in all, this is an enjoyable read.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on Aug. 2, 2011 :
It took me a few pages to get used to Phil’s style – written in the first person (Ty), his own narrative sentences are somewhat economic but they are Ty’s innermost thoughts – and of course we don’t all think in grammar book English! It wasn’t a style I’d come across before, so whilst it was unusual for me personally, this won’t necessarily be the case for all readers and I did soon settle into it comfortably.
Two young travellers meet on a plane from Canada, both coincidentally heading for Glastonbury in the UK. Jen is a bit of tree-hugging modern day hippy, Ty is a relaxed, laid-back, take-it-as-it-comes sort of guy. Comfortable with each other, Jen appoints herself Ty’s driving companion, as he has arranged for a rental car for his onward journey. What they hope to be a tourist circuit of the famous ancient stone monuments of the west of England turns out to be a bizarre adventure which includes an escaped elephant, a fluorescent pink ferret, a techno-nerd, a dead goat, a dead body and the MI5; all of this is mixed with inner-cleansing chanting and ‘omming’, alfafa salads and green tea; in short, a delightful mix of bizarre, comedy, romance and technological wizardry. Not a long book, it’s enjoyable and entertaining, just right for a long flight or quick holiday read.
(reviewed 4 days after purchase)