the Little Red Reviewer

ReReading Sheri S Tepper’s Raising the Stones

Posted on: March 31, 2017

Will 2017 be the year of the reread? only time will tell. In the meantime, I’ve been enjoying Sheri S Tepper’s Arbai trilogy. Again.


Raising the Stones by Sheri S. Tepper

published in 1990

where I got it: who knows. I’ve had it forever.



If you’d asked me five years ago for a list of my top five favorite novels, Sheri S. Tepper’s Raising the Stones would have been on that list.  Is it still in my top five? Sadly, no.  Is it a hella good book? Absolutely. I wrote a review of Raising the Stones back in 2011, which gives a great overview of the plot if you’re interested in the plot end of things.


I’ve been itching for some comfort reads lately, escapist novels that I know I will enjoy no matter what is happening in the world around me.  Tepper’s Arbai trilogy fits that bill a hundred percent.  I have no idea how many times I’ve read Raising the Stones, I know exactly what happens in it, I know who dies at the end, who the jerks are, who should have known better, who was blinded by their own narrow-mindedness. It’s neat to read a book that you know so well, to set aside everything that you know you know about it, and find everything else that was hiding there in plain sight all along.


Something that did catch my attention this read through was how the novel is paced, and that the pacing matches exactly something else that is going on in the background. Lemme ‘splain.  The first half of the novel is painfully slow. I’d forgotten how slow it was. Slow isn’t bad per se, there is buckets of fascinating worldbuilding and learning about the various cultures in this star system and their beliefs; characterization of Maire, Sam, China, Jep, and Saturday; the slightest beginnings of what’s happening behind the scenes on the planet of Hobbs Land. There is tons of good *stuff* in the first half of the novel, it just doesn’t feel like anything is happening. Maybe I was just antsy for the good stuff? I dunno, but it felt sooooo sloooooooow.   The last third of the novel is solid anxiety. Everything comes to a head, rebellions and coups are put into action, what’s been happening behind the scenes on Hobbs Land is suddenly very much the center of attention.  It’s like something finally reached a critical mass.


And that’s exactly what the pacing of the plot mirrors – the pace of the growths on Hobbs Land reaching their critical mass.  Very slow, barely detectable at first, and then slowly increasing, and then reaching a point where it has no choice but to asymptotically reach for infinity.  Pretty brilliant trick for an author to pull off, when you think about it!

Another fun little parallel I noticed is how the novels in this loose trilogy are spaced out, time wise. This novel takes place at least a thousand years after Grass.  During those thousand years, the Baidee took what their prophet said and twisted it all over the place, interpreting “don’t let people mess with your head” as a ruling that hair should not be cut, and no one should attempt to tell anyone else what to think – and neither of those are anything close to what she meant. Eventually, I’ll get around to the third book in the series, SideShow, (which jumps in time maybe another thousand years?) where what was seen as good and helpful, or at least harmless, in Raising the Stones is suddenly seen as the most horrible thing in the universe.  Time heals all, but the passage of time really screws with communication! What makes us need to read so far between the lines that we lose sight of the original message?


On the topic of something less esoteric, I want to punch Sam Girat in the face. The last couple times I read this novel, I barely paid attention to Sam, I was far more interested in Maire, Jep, and Saturday’s stories.  Sam desperately wants to learn about his father, and becomes obsessed with old Earth heroic mythology. If the computer can give him all the info he wants about Perseus, why doesn’t he bother looking up information about his father’s culture? Surely he could have found someone on Hobbs Land who was from Voorstod or nearby? Sam has this misguided and romanticized of his father, yet he never tries to learn about his father’s culture or religion.  He only hears what he wants to hear, sees what he wants to see. Because Sam is convinced he needs to have a hero’s journey, he can’t understand that the people around him want and need different things for themselves. He’s a lot like his father, that way.  Still, I want to punch him. But, aren’t we all like that from time to time? We see only what we want to see, hear only what we want to hear?


Sam does eventually realize that while a hero’s journey makes for a great bedtime story, it doesn’t translate into every day life the way he’d hoped. Real life is about exactly that – living each day, day after day. Raising your kids, protecting your family, living your life and finding solace in what you have.


Also? Raising the Stones isn’t Sam’s story. It’s the story of everyone else, the people who simply live their lives day after day.


Raising the Stones in nominally the middle book of Tepper’s Arbai trilogy, but this can absolutely be read as a standalone.
In five years I’m sure I’ll come back to this novel again. I wonder what I’ll get out of it then?


2 Responses to "ReReading Sheri S Tepper’s Raising the Stones"

What is this thing called “reread”??


right? It’s my coping mechanism for feeling overwhelmed and pressured to only read new stuff.

Liked by 1 person

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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