Stone (2002)

Backcover Synopsis: 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. Across known space engineered humans live lives of idle contentment, their every need catered for by the nanotech machines that teem in their blood. To keep ahead of detection while the crime is prepared, the killer voyages to the numerous worlds where, in exotic and varied landscapes, mankind searches for the excitement of a new experience. And all the time the killer is re-awakening the instincts required for murder. And wondering who is behind the contract. In a society that has forgotten how to commit crime, who could possibly aspire to genocide?

Roberts seems to combine high literary writing with idea-driven SF, not an unpleasant combination. It works rather well in this novel, an interesting main character, an even more interesting background and a mystery where the detective is the killer himself. The solution to the mystery was quite good, and came naturally from the premise and yet wasn’t easily foreseeable. The plot is partly like a travelogue, the main character voyages to different worlds of a future utopian society. The main character is an outsider and the interaction between him and the people of the future utopia is interesting and creates the kind of tension that easily translates into an absorbing plot.