The Zero Stone

~ 1st Novel in the Zero Stone Series by Andre Norton

(Series aka) Murdoc Jern



Synopsis ~

Write-up from the front flap of 1968 HC ~

Andre Norton is well known as one of America's best writers of science-fiction. In this book, the author takes the reader once more to remote galaxies which reveal their strange secrets only to the adventurous.
A mysterious stone, born of worlds long extinct, is the key to powers unimaginable to man - powers that could enable its owners to control the universe. Murdoc Jern, gem trader, finds that procession of the stone has led him to the center of a web of intrigue and murder.
With his companion Eet, an inscrutable feline mutant with phenomenal esp powers, he is haunted through space, coming finally to a long-forgotten alien planet inhabited by apelike "sniffers." They're facing the predatory sniffers, false arrest by the Patrol, and the crisping lasers of the underground Thieves Guild, he must seek the source of the stone and bargain for his rights to pursue his destiny as a free man.
Fantasy, man's primitive past, and space-age adventure have been fused to create a story of extraordinary imagination.


Write-up from the back of the ACE paperback editions ~

A mysterious stone, born of worlds long extinct, is the key to powers unimaginable to man - powers that could enable its owners to control the universe. Murdoc Jern, gem trader, finds that possession of the stone has led him to the center of a web of intrigue and murder.
With his companion Eet, an inscrutable feline mutant with phenomenal ESP powers, he is hunted through space, coming finally to a long-forgotten planet inhabited by apelike "sniffers." There, facing the predatory sniffers, the antagonistic Patrol and the laser-guns of the Thieves' Guild, Murdoc must seek the source of the Zero Stone and bargain for his right to pursue his destiny as a free man.
Fantasy, man’s primitive past, and a space-age adventure have been fused to create one of andre Norton’s best novels.


Write-up from the back of the UK paperback edition ~

The mysterious powers of the zero stone on his ring bring danger to young Murdock Jern. Together with his strange feline companion Eeat, he is hounded through space by the murderous Thieves’ Guild, helped only by Eat’s super-human intelligence and the unpredictable stone itself. For older readers.
“… an atmosphere of alien worlds which few writers for the young have equaled.” (Margery Fisher in Growing Point)


Write-up the back of the ROC paperback edition ~

Catch a falling star and then put it in your pocket…
Murdoc Zern was on the run.
But then, as a gem trader practicing a dangerous trade, Murdoc had spent most of his life on the run, in search of the truth about the mysterious ring stone of phenomenal powers in his pocket, a legacy from his father who’d been murdered for it. Now this stone, born of worlds long extinct, may involve him in the trade of his life as he is hunted through space by an unscrupulous religious order that has chosen him as its unlawful sacrifice.
Marooned on an alien planet with his feline companion, Eeat, Murdoc, faces danger from the predatory “sniffers,” arrest by the Patrol, silencing by the order of the Green Robes, and the crisping laser of the Underground Thieves Guild. Somewhere in this web of intrigue and deceit lies the answer to his only bargaining tool, the source of a power unimaginable known only as… The Zero Stone


Write-ups from fans ~

The Zero Stone is the first novel in the Murdoc Jern series. Murdoc is the son of Hywel Jern, a former prime assessor to a sector boss of the Thieves' Guild who bought out when his patron was assassinated. Hywel migrated to Angkor and married the daughter of a local hock-lock operator. Shortly after the marriage his in-laws and many others in the vicinity of the port, died from disease brought by a plague ship, but Hywel and his wife survived and even performed some of the necessary governmental functions during the emergency. Some five years later, Angkor became a hub for interstellar trade in that sector and the Jern business thrived through Hywel's many off-world contacts, both legal and illegal, but he maintained a low profile, operating from the same modest hock-lock.
 One day, the first officer of a space liner brought in a ring with a dull stone that was found in interstellar space, far from any star, on the finger of a space suited corpse. The crude stone is plain and cloudy but has a remarkable hardness. The stone gives an impression of great power to Hywel and Murdoc, but not to the rest of the family. Hywel is obsessed with the stone and arranges an apprenticeship for Murdoc with Vondar Ustle, a master gemologist who searches for new sources of precious stones, so that Murdoc can search for more information on the ring and stone. Hywel is well satisfied with his life as apprentice to Vondar and, when he returns for a visit, finds that he no longer fits into his family.
 One evening, Hywel stays home to conduct some business while the rest of the family goes to a party. Leaving the party earlier, Murdoc returns home to find his father tied to his chair, bloody and dead. Murdoc takes the ring and stone from its hiding place and leaves his home forever. ~ SL

Space-suited alien corpse floating in space. It wears a large ring with an unidentifiable stone. What is it? Where did it come from? What value does it have to make men willing to die to possess it? Apprentice gemologist, Murdoc Jern, foster son to Hywel Jern (the last dead owner) must find the answers to those questions while dodging the Thieves Guild and the Patrol. In this endeavor, he has the aid of a mysterious telepathic mutant alien born out of a ship's cat. Definitely action packed. The trials and tribulations the pair went through boggles the mind and is an example of space opera at its finest. ~ PG


Reviews ~

Kirkus Reviews ~ Issue: March 1st, 1968
Murdock Jern is the adopted son of a man who spent a lifetime, sometimes on the wrong side of the law, collecting and examining. . . trading. . . the treasures of the universe. He taught Murdock the intricacies of gem evaluation and left him a special legacy. . . a mysterious, curiously lifeless alien ring which he dubbed the Zero Stone. But apparently others are anxious to claim it. Murdock's father died a brutal death and now Murdock finds himself pursued by the notorious "Thieves' Guild" as well as the Space Patrol. Fortunately, he has found an ally in the odd little mutant Eeet, a mind reader with an assortment of unusual talents. Miss Norton's extraordinary imagination is again at work as she reels her hero from a city where they choose sacrificial victims by lottery to a ship where he is condemned as a plague victim through space sans ship where the "Zero stone" acts as a strange propellant to a planet with hidden tombs bearing the bodies of the "Forerunner races," creatures of legend. Good sustaining action in what could be the start of a very nice series. 


Various reviews ~ For more info and other listings see Articles Over the Years

1968 by P. Schuyler Miller in Analog Science Fiction -> Science Fact, October
1969 by P. Schuyler Miller Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, November
1969 by Ted Pauls in Science Fiction Review #34 (fnz), December
1970 by Gary Zachrich in The Pulp Era #74 (fnz), Spring
1971 by D. Halterman in Son of WSFA Journal #18 (fnz), April
1974 by Edward Blishen in Times Educational Supplement, March 29
2014 by James Nicoll
2018 by Judith Tarr
2020 by Patrick Reardon


Dedications and Acknowledgements ~

For A. M. Lightner,
who was the “Godmother” for EET


Bibliography of English Editions ~

  • (1968) Published by Viking, HC, LCCN 68016065, $4.50, 286pg ~ cover by Robin Jacques {Gray Cloth Boards}
  • (1969) Published by ACE, PB, 0-441-95960, $0.60, 221pg - #95961 1970 $0.75 221pg - #95962 1974 $1.25 221pg - #95963-6 1978 $1.75 221pg - covers by Jeff Jones ~ #95964-4 1981 $2.25 221pg - #95965-2 1983 $2.50 221pg - #96966 1985 $2.75 221pg - covers by Walter Valez
  • (1974) Published by Gollancz, HC, 0-575-01615-9, £1.60, 288pg ~ UK printing ~ cover by Robin Jacques {Blue Paper Boards}
  • (1977) Published by Beaver Books, PB, 0-600-39534-0, £0.45, 238pg ~ UK printing ~ cover by John Raynes
  • (1992) Published by ROC, PB, 0-451-45162-7, $4.99, 252pg ~ cover by Tom Canty
  • (2015) Published by Open Road Media, DM, eISBN 978-1-504025-47-8, $7.99, 193pg ~ cover by Barbara Brown ~ re-released in 2017 with new cover-art by Ian Koviak
  • (2023) Published by Open Road Media, TP, 978-1-504079-72-3, $17.99, 155pg ~ cover by Ian Koviak


Non-English Editions ~

  • (1969) Published in Munich, Germany; by Moewig, OCLC: 73842701, DM2.40, 144pg ~ translated by Birgit Ress-Bohusch ~ cover by Karl Stephan ~ German title Der schlüssel zur Sternenmacht [The key to star power]
  • (1984) Published in Milan, Italy; by Editrice Nord, 88-429-0149-0, 5,000 lir, 224pg ~ translated by Annarita Guarnieri ~ cover by Edward Blair Wilkins ~ Italian title La gemma aliena [The alien gem]
  • (1986) Published in Japan; by Hayakawa, 41-501-0648-7, SF S61, 340pg ~ translated by Hazime Yasuko Kaji ~ cover by Katou Masaki ~ Japanese title ゼロ・ストーン [Zero Stone]
  • (1995) Published in Poland; by Wydawnictwo Poznańskie, 83-861-3814-9, 255pg ~ translated by Marta Starczewska ~ cover by Agentur Luserke ~ Polish title Zerowy Kamień [The Zero Stone]
  • (2001) Published in Warsaw, Poland; by Amber, 83-724-5571-6, 182pg ~ translated by Konrad Brzozowski ~ cover by David Gonzales ~ Polish title Kamień nicości [Stone of nothingness]
  • (2003) Published in Poland; by Amber, 83-724-5571-6, 184pg ~ translated by Dariusz Kopociński ~ cover by Fred Gambino ~ Polish title Kamień nicości [Stone of nothingness]
  • (2017) Published in Moscow, by Eskmo, 978-5-699-93829-2, HC, 320pg ~ translation by D. Arsenyev & O. Kolesnikov ~ cover by I. Ulyankina ~ Russian title Камень Предтеч [Forerunner Stone] ~ Limited 3000 copies ~ includes article by Arkady Rukh. "The ring of omnipotence in space" pp. 5-10


Russian Omnibus Editions ~

  •  (1992) Published in Kaliningrad by Russia's West, 5-829-4-30109-6, HC, 500pg ~ cover by B. Trubin ~ Russian title Камень предтеч [Forerunner Stone] ~ The book also sold with 2 pirated dust jackets


    • Leonid Tkachuk. There are miracles ... (article), p. 3-7
    • "Catseye" as "Cat's gaze" ~ translation by D. Arseniev , illustrations by I. Shaganov, pp. 8-140
    • "Star Guard" ~ translation by L. Tkachuk , illustrations by I. Shaganov, pp. 141-301
    • "The Zero Stone" as "The Baptist Stone" ~ translation by A. Prokofieva , illustrations by I. Shaganov, pp. 302-502


  • (1993) Published in Zelenograd, by Zelenogradskaya Books and Angarsk, by Amber, 5-863-14018-6, HC, 416pg ~ Russian title Камень предтеч [Forerunner Stone]


    • "The Zero Stone" as "The Baptist Stone" ~ translation by A. Prokofieva, pp. 5-222
    • "Uncharted Stars" as "Stars not marked on cards" ~ translation by Z. Khashimov, pp. 223-414


  • (2005) Published in Moscow, by Eksmo, 5-699-12410-1, HC, 448pg ~ Russian title Камень предтеч [Forerunner Stone] ~ Limited to 5000 copies


    • "The Zero Stone" as "The Forerunner Stone" ~ translation by D. Arseniev & O. Kolesnikov, pp. 5-176
    • "Uncharted Stars" as "Stars not marked on the map" ~ translation by D. Arseniev & O. Kolesnikov, pp. 177-340
    • "Secret of the Lost Race" as "The Mystery of the Lost Race" ~ translation by D. Arseniev & O. Kolesnikov, pp. 341-446


  • (2015) Published in Moscow by Eksmo, 9785699775194, HC, 1088pgs ~ cover art by A. Dubovik ~ Russian title Брат теней [Brother of shadows] ~ Limited to 3000 copies


    • "Brother to Shadows" as "Brother of Shadows" ~ translation by O. Kutumina, pp. 5-300
    • "Night of Masks" as "The Night of the Masks" ~ translation by A. Schupov & I. Golovshchikov, pp. 301-462
    • "Forerunner Foray" as "Visit to the Forerunners" ~ translation by D. Saveliev & J. Saveliev, pp. 463-672
    • "Uncharted Stars" as "Stars not mapped" ~ translation by D. Arseniev & O. Kolesnikov, pp. 673-874
    • "Garan the Eternal" as "The Eternal Stone" ~ translation by D. Arseniev & O. Kolesnikov, pp. 875-1085


  •  Pirated editions, marked as being published by "North-east", a non-existent publisher. ~ cover by C. Achilleos ~ Russian title Камень предтеч [Forerunner Stone] ~ see: 1992


Ukrainian Omnibus Editions ~

  • (1996) Published in Kyiv, Ukraine by Alterpres, 5-770-73611-9, HC, 576pg ~ cover by S. Pavlenko and T. Kostecki ~ Ukrainian title Камень предтеч [The Forerunner Stone] ~ Limited to 7000 copies


    • Article by L. Tkachuk "Life Given to a Dream" ~ pp. 5-8
    • "The Zero Stone" as "The Baptist Stone" ~ translation by A. Prokofieva, pp. 9-212
    • "Uncharted Stars" as "Unknown stars" ~ translation by S. Snegur, pp. 213-408
    • "Star Guard" ~ translation by L. Tkachuk, pp. 409-575

View the Original contract

View the 1975 ACE contract

View the 2004 Russian contract

See Also: Timeline 1 - Andre's Universe entry for this title.

For information on editions currently available visit the Book Store

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