The Stone Boatmen evolved from Sarah Tolmie's fascination with the fourteenth-century visionary poem, Piers Plowman, which she has also explored in the media of virtual reality and dance. The novel weaves a tale of three cities, separated by oceans, lost to one another long ago: the first, the city of rituals, of ceremonies; the second, the city of words, of poetry; and the third, the city of the golden birds, of dreams. In their harbors stand the stone boatmen, pointing outward toward the unknown. Now the birds are fostering a new-found relationship of the three cities of the ancestors, and the voyages of the ship Aphelion and its crew are beginning to rebuild the links.
Ursula Le Guin declares of The Stone Boatmen: ''Certain imaginative novels never best-sell, yet remain alive, a singular treasure to each new generation that finds them -- books such as Islandia, The Worm Ouroboros, Gormenghast. The Stone Boatmen has the makings of one of these quiet classics. It is lucid yet complex. Its strangeness fascinates, captivates. To read it is to find yourself in a country a long, long way from home, taken on a unforeseeable journey -- and when it's over, you wish you were still there.''