Ae's narrative begins in an uncrackable prison inside a star where he's been jailed for his latest murder. Indeed he's the only living murderer in humanity's vast interstellar utopia, the "t'T". A voice in his head offers freedom and wealth if he'll perform one little chore: murdering an entire planetary population of over 60 million people without destroying the planet.
It's a tough proposition, since t'T people are crammed with "dotTech" nanomachines that extend life, repel disease, and repair fatal injuries. Nevertheless Ae escapes from the star-jail with heavy technomagical assistance, has good and bad times (and kills again) on various worlds, and acquires a carefully hidden info-chip loaded with cutting-edge physics. With this armoury, planetary murder becomes possible. Just take 12 smallish stones...
What baffles Ae is the mystery of who's employing him. Could one of the galaxy's other harmless-seeming human societies be launching war on the t'T? The answer is much stranger and connects with Ae's repeated musings on quantum mechanics as he follows his destiny. Other weird science appears: for example, t'T space is divided by the Trench, a mysterious zone 1,000 light years long where gravity reaches fatal extremes, but there's no mass to account for it.
Like Roberts' previous SF novels, it's an odd and offbeat mixture. Chilling insight into Ae's psychology mingles with flamboyantly space-operatic gadgetry. Though intriguing and inventive, Stone promises more than it ultimately delivers. --David Langford