The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Charles Williams’ novels often concern an occult MacGuffin pursued by the characters, a touchstone that reveals their true natures. This novel concerns a jewel from the crown of Suleiman ben Daood, King of Jerusalem—that is, Solomon, known as sage, lawgiver, and in some traditions sorcerer. Like the alchemists’ Philosopher’s Stone, the Stone of Suleiman is made of the primary matter from which everything was created; it therefore has many powers. It may be a microcosm of the whole world or somehow even contain the universe within it. The Tetragrammaton—the holy Name of God—is at its heart. When the Stone is divided, each resulting part is identical to the original.

Sir Giles Tumulty, a villainous archaeologist and occultist also seen in Williams’ earlier novel War in Heaven (1930), has the Stone. He and his nephew, Reginald Montague, wish to use the Stone, Montague to obtain money and Sir Giles to obtain power. With Abel Timothy Palliser, a professor of relative psychology, they experiment, using the Stone for instantaneous travel through space and time. In an experiment with time travel, an innocent assistant, Elijah Pondon, is trapped in the past, endlessly repeating the moment he used the Stone to visit. Sir Giles also uses the Stone for thought control and even to thwart death, with grisly results.

Pondon eventually is rescued by the heroes of the novel, Lord Christopher Arglay, Lord Chief Justice of England, and his...

(The entire section is 565 words.)