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Stone by Adam Roberts

Stone (original 2002; edition 2010)

by Adam Roberts (Author)

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270742,050 (3.66)11
Authors:Adam Roberts (Author)
Info:Gollancz (2010), 304 pages
Collections:Read but unowned

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Stone by Adam Roberts (2002)



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I give the plot 3.5★s and the writing 2★s. I kept reading it because I was curious about the storyline, which did interest me. However, there was a lot of sludge in the writing. I can only guess Roberts was trying to prove himself a write of "hard scifi" or some such, because there was a lot of senseless "factual" science-type information scattered around, and plenty of repetition amongst this "data" the reader is provided. For no reason at all. It doesn't help with the story, it doesn't move the plot along, it slows it down and takes you out of the story. The ending... I suppose it was alright, but after a whole book of trying to figure out the who/why of it, it felt a bit like a let-down to me. I'm also admittedly a bit concerned with his ideas about relationships/sex. E.g. "Imagine yourself rattled with another stone, a smooth marble pebble of white milky coloration - imagine that, you and this other pebble cupped between two hands and rattled and shaken together, so that you clack and bounce off one another. That's something like it. Then imagine you and this fellow-stone were tossed together into the furnace, so hot a furnace that your brittly-tough layer of oxidised skin melts away, and the igneous rock-substance out of which you are made goes gluey and runs and deliquesces in the heat; as your lava mixes and flows with the lava of your fellow stone." Also, that a utopia means everything is chill and casual therefore everything revolves around sex.

There were some interesting aspects to this story but overall, I would be hard-pressed to recommend it. ( )
  .Monkey. | Oct 6, 2016 |
This novel took a while for me to engage with it properly. In a far future space-faring society, where nanotechnology is ubiquitous and allows the society's inhabitants perpetual health, safety from injury, a cure for many of the less complex forms of death and the ability to reshape themselves at will, a murderer is sprung from an escape-proof jail to carry out the biggest contract of their life - the murder of an entire planetary population.

Roberts engages in some interesting world-building, and that is very much a part of the story. The world-building places a range of constraints on the plotting and the direction of the narrative. The main protagonist is telling the story in flashback, and a lot of their inner dialogue plays a part in the novel. Indeed, we are set up to wonder, along with the protagonist, whether their commission is real or fantasy.

The act of murder itself is told in a few paragraphs and actually plays but a small part in the story. The overall resolution is a logical result of the world-building, but isn't flagged up in a advance in any way. I wouldn't say it was a surprise because it's not that sort of novel.

Roberts' novels are continually different and this book is no exception. ( )
  RobertDay | Nov 8, 2013 |
This is an epistolary novel unusual in that the addressee of each letter is the stone of the title.

In a space-faring society known as t’T where crime is all but unknown Ae starts her narration awaiting execution in a seemingly inescapable jail situated in the upper atmosphere of a star. The death sentence is carried out by the removal of her dotTech (nanodevices which repair any deleterious damage and render humans effectively immortal.) However, having struck a bargain with mysterious would be liberators to kill the inhabitants of an entire planet she is soon sprung from her confinement. Unfortunately we do not get to this climax for a long part of the book as Ae travels the galaxy and meets with various people fascinated by the injuries, illnesses and scars she suffers as a result of her lack of dotTech.

She kills one who has begun to suspect her status as an escapee - this is a necessarily laborious process because of their dotTech and is gone into in detail - yet later takes a lover. A lot of discussion centres around a galactic phenomenon known as the Great Gravity Trench, an anomaly where space has been bent back on itself like a ruffled sheet. Indeed it sometimes seems as if Roberts is using his story to present a primer text on quantum theory. The faster than light mechanism works by means of simultaneous quantum adjustments but is constrained by mass - effectively anything larger than a human is debarred - and also by the volume of space involved; fast-space allows up to 3000c, slow-space up to 3c and sub-light space only Einsteinian travel. These areas are seemingly influenced by the Gravity Trench.

To portray a mass murderer in any sort of sympathetic light is a difficult trick to pull off. While Roberts does not quite succeed in this he nevertheless draws the reader in to the story. In many ways I felt I was reading a 1950s or 60s piece of SF, here. The characters seemed a bit wooden, but of course they were being filtered through Ae’s consciousness.

It is a neat authorial trick to get round the information dumping problem by having the narration couched as what is effectively a confession but also as a translation (supposedly from Ae’s language Glicé into Amglish) complete with footnotes. Under a psychiatrist’s suggestion Ae is telling her story to a stone due to her inability/reluctance to communicate with other humans.

Stone is an interesting read but with some longueurs. I’ll look out for more Roberts. ( )
1 vote jackdeighton | Aug 25, 2011 |
The premise: in this utopian far-future, criminality is pretty much extinct, but criminal mentalities do pop up, and our narrator, who refers to him/herself*** as Ae, is one of those mentalities. S/he is a killer, and someone wants his/her services very, very badly. So badly they'll spring Ae from a prison in the center of a star so that Ae can murder the population of an entire planet. Ae's happy to do so, but s/he wants to know why, and who's behind it. The employers won't tell him/her, so Ae takes it upon him/herself to discover why, and thus plays the role of both the detective and the murder at the same time.

My Rating

Worth the Cash: to be honest, I think I liked Gradisil better, but this book is doing something very different from Gradisil so it makes it difficult to compare, even though both are penned by the same author. I really enjoyed the tightness of the narrative and the focus on the story, the various uses of technology, particularly the AI and the dotTech and how all of it played together in the ultimate climax of the book. I also enjoyed how our narrator told his/her story to a stone, of all things. It was charming, in a way, and it worked because Roberts's writing is just very solid, very strong. I also loved the characterization of Ae. Not a sympathetic character per se (though at times, you can't help but feel sorry for him/her), but certainly a fascinating one and one that's easy to understand, especially by the end. I'm glad I decided to get this particular title, and I'm still interested in reading more of Roberts's work, because he's a very good writer, literary in some regards. Stone is a piece of SF that's literary while still entertaining, and offered more "science" in it than I would've expected, though I shouldn't be surprised, given the level of science offered in Gradisil. If you liked Gradisil, you should give this a shot. If you didn't like Gradisil, but were interested in Roberts's writing, this is a very different tale and definitely worth reading, so check it out. Even if you are in the US like me and have to order the UK edition. :)

Review style: breaking the review into two parts has become the norm in my LJ, and that's what I'm doing with this one. What I liked and what I didn't, both including spoilers because this is one of those books that helps to talk about in full instead of generalities. So if spoilers DON'T bother you, feel free to click the link below to my journal. As always, comments and discussion are most welcome. :)

REVIEW: Adam Roberts's STONE

Happy Reading! :)

*** = the reason I keep using s/he or him/her and so on and so forth is because while Ae is phyiscally female, the voice is very much male--in fact, the only reason Ae isn't physically male is because the dotTech, which allowed the body to be male, was taken away from him/her. So it's hard to refer to Ae as one gender or the other, because S/he is both, IMHO. ( )
  devilwrites | Jul 25, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0575073969, Paperback)

Sprung from a prison in the center of a star, the universe’s last criminal is employed to kill the entire population of a planet—and leave the planet itself intact. It is a crime that will tear apart an interstellar utopia that has existed for centuries. To keep ahead of detection while the crime is prepared, the killer voyages to the worlds where, in exotic and varied landscapes, mankind searches for the excitement of a new experience And all the while, the killer is re-awaking the instincts required for murder.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:33 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

SCIENCE FICTION. Sprung from a prison in the centre of a star, the universe's last criminal is employed to kill the population of a planet. It is a crime that will tear apart an interstellar utopia. Keeping ahead of detection and preparing the crime, the killer voyages to numerous worlds and hones the instincts required for murder. And wonders who is behind the contract. Roberts' new novel is an extraordinary fusing of ideas, exotic locations, personal drama and an enquiry into the nature of crime in a society that thinks it has forgotten how to commit it.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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