The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Ingrid Fleming, a solitary young woman given to dreaming, takes a cousin, Hugh Drapier, to see Devil’s Tor, which bears a crag shaped like a human face. She has always believed, intuitively, that the tor is the tomb of a mysterious female. Lightning strikes and splits the “face,” revealing a staircase. Drapier goes down into a cavern, where he sees a vision of the Earth-Mother. He also finds a piece of stone that he does not realize at first to be one half of a broken flint, the other half of which already is in his possession. Its mate was consigned to his care by explorer Henry Saltfleet and archaeologist Stephen Arsinal, who stole it from a temple in Tibet.

An earthquake seals the tomb, and Drapier is killed by a rock slide. Saltfleet, who comes to reclaim his half of the stone, finds Drapier’s corpse clutching the other. Saltfleet is eager to reunite the two halves but is delayed by wrangles over ownership that involve long conversations in which the various characters discuss the implications of the stone’s existence and the possible consequences of it being made whole again.

It emerges that all the major characters have been manipulated since birth (and in some cases before) by an active Fate that intends to rejoin the pieces of the stone. The personification of this Fate is the Earth-Mother, the “demiurge” responsible for the creation of the world at the instigation of the Ancient (that is, God). The rejoining of the stone...

(The entire section is 410 words.)