Stone (GOLLANCZ S.F.) Hardcover – 18 Jul 2002
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Stone is Adam Roberts' third SF novel following Salt and On--all three independent and very different from each other. His psychopathic narrator tells the story of his life and crimes to--for special personal reasons--a stone...
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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The Universe¿s first mass murderer for thousands of years confesses; mind-bending SF from one of the genre¿s brightest talents.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
The story is the monologue (as told to a stone) of a prisoner, and how he came to be where he is. The prisoner, Ae, is given a mission in return for his freedom; a mission to commit murder. What makes Ae special is that he is capable of murder - in this future murder is almost unheard of. Life is peaceful, there is no scarcity, and, thanks to nanotechnology, humans may live for many hundreds of years.
What unfolds is a linear story of Ae's mission, and this could be a very ordinary sci-fi tale. Why makes it otherwise, is an intelligent and entertaining writing style.
Compared to Salt, this novel has more and better science, and richer characterisation. It does lack complexity and originality, and to some readers these will be critical shortcomings, but to me it was a solid and worthwhile read.
I gave the author the benefit of the doubt, however, and read 'Salt', his first book, which was dreadful enough to put me off sci fi for a while - one of those hackneyed, formulaic colonisation sagas that only appeal to people who read nothing but sci-fi, the only surprise being that it didn't feature a beautiful alien female who inexplicably fell for the central character.
Then I saw 'Stone', and I decided to give the guy another go. And I'm so glad I did, as this is one of my all-time favourite books - in any genre.
It's an intelligently and beautifully written road trip of a book that stands up to repeated readings and that, in 50 years time, I hope will be held aloft as an example of how imaginative, intelligent science fiction can match the best novels in any other genre, in terms of quality of prose, narrative drive, and emotive power.
The plot is deceptively straightforward, with a destination that's spelled out from the opening chapter, but which, thanks to a masterful build-up of tension teased out over a number of superbly-written episodes along the way, doesn't disappoint or feel contrived. As the central character, Ae, stumbles inexorably towards a genocidal destiny that ought to make the reader hate and fear him, we instead come to sympathise with him, seeing him for what he really is: a tragically suggestible and mentally unhinged human being who, because of a genetic anomaly at birth, is the last known living being in the universe who is still capable of murder.Read more ›
In a place where anybody can be anyone-or-anything and where crime has been long forgotten, we encounter the last criminal, fighting to remain sane, confiding his inner thoughts to a stone.
Committing the ultimate crime and trying to solve the crime mystery at the same time, Stone proves to be a very enjoyable read, one of the few books that deserve a second read, and for this reason 5 stars are well deserved.
There is no doubting Roberts' intelligence. He understands enough of the science to make for interesting speculation, and he understands that much of the interest of science fiction stems from the interaction between technology and human psychology - the way in which changed possibilities in the physical world change our sense of who we are. In 'Stone' he tries to marry radical speculation about technology - particularly the likely consequences of nanotechnology - with speculation about the nature of consciousness and what it is to be human, with mixed results.
The form of the story is conventional. Set in a world in which faster-than-light travel is commonplace and technological advances have enabled something close to a functioning utopia, it is in effect a murder mystery with a twist. A terrible crime is to be committed. We know who will commit it. But who has commissioned this act, and why? The narrator's - and the reader's - quest for the truth is not helped by the fact that the narrator is unreliable: an undoubted psychopath who may or may not be schizophrenic.
This suggests many possibilities: but the book has serious failings. At this stage of his career Roberts still seems to lack some of the necessary qualities of the writer, for which intelligence is not a satisfactory substitute. His ability to construct character is limited; his prose style is undistinguished; and he seems to have difficulties with structure, employing blatant delaying tactics that irritate the reader who wants the story to progress.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Enjoyed this immensely. Some wonderful ideas, snappily written. A well realised and nicely original take on the galactic society thing. Read morePublished on 27 Sept. 2012 by Dan
I've now reached the point when i am struggling to find good SF to read, i honestly feel like i've read them all. I downoaded this and was really suprised. Read morePublished on 25 Sept. 2011 by HFrank
Another classic offering from Gollancz and really has made this a great month for Science Fiction . Well written, this first person examination into a future from a sociopath's... Read morePublished on 21 Jun. 2009 by Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog
Good intelligent prose without becoming too wordy...Adam Roberts has written this completely from the perspective of the main character and manages to vividly capture and draw you... Read morePublished on 2 April 2007 by Mr. A. Farooq