When Shipton takes himself to a remote island to commit suicide, he feels that all is lost. His wife has died in chidbirth and he has severed links with his family and his job as a bureaucrat. As he sits alone on the island, trying to figure the best way to end his life, he is rescued by a ghost, who seeks his favour in return for saving his life.
Led by the ghost, Shipton travels to a far off university, a massive stone structure surrounded by sea. Here, amidst the labyrinth passages, staircases, rooms and apartments, Shipton is forced to do the ghost’s bidding and extract revenge against a professor who has wronged him. But lurking deep beneath the university is a creature whose demands may indeed be stronger than those of the ghost.
This is a dark but intriguing first novel, with the reader never quite sure what is real and what is not. The University is a massive place, managed by a Kafkaesque bureaucracy and presided over by a chancellor who has lived for more than two hundred years. In the library, rampaging librarians battle over books and relics, and books which have lost their meaning rot in dark cellars. The creature which dwells beneath the university feasts on the dead and on those who must be punished.
Readers with a love for the absurd will revel in this brooding fable.
The Stone Ship, by Peter Raftos
Pandanus Books, 2005