Deathstalker Return by Simon R. Green
Roc / Penguin Putnam HCVR: ISBN 0451428218 PubDate: 01/01/04
Review by Jeffrey J. Lyons
480 pgs. List price $ 23.95
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The Golden Age of peace in the galaxy is threatened by two entities; the passed-over King's champion who seeks revenge and the Terror that is prophesied to destroy all humanity. Lewis Deathstalker, the ancestor of the legendary Owen, leads a motley crew of outcasts on a frantic, yet amusing interstellar quest to stop the end of the universe. Such is the premise of Deathstalker Return by British writer Simon R. Green.
Lewis leads a crew that is comprised Jessamine Flowers, a singer turned Queen-to-be, a cowardly con man, an immoral gladiator, and a flesh-eating reptiloid. They hop from planet to planet seeking clues to the whereabouts of the great Owen Deathstalker, the man who brought peace to the galaxy. The man they believe can stop the Terror. The Deathstalker name carries clout and respect at every stop allowing the crew to gain access to areas that would mean certain death to other travelers.
Meanwhile back at the Empire, King Douglas emerges from the cesspool of a self-imposed exile over the loss of his true love Jessamine to be upstaged by a clone of his dead older brother. Douglas is skeptical about the true intentions of his onetime friend and confident Finn Durandel, the denied King's champion. Durandel secretly works to force a return to the pre-Golden Age, with himself as its leader, killing and manipulating members of the governing party along the way.
Off the wall? Absolutely! It is also a fast-paced, lively read with plenty of humor thrown in to make it more fun. Just don't take any of it seriously. Lewis's crew is reminiscent of the misfits that made up Roj Blake's crew on the old TV show Blake's 7. There is plenty of intrigue and double-crossing back in the Empire to keep you interested too.
This book is the second installment in the Deathstalker Legacy series that Green began in 2002. However, It is not quite as punchy as the original 5-part Deathstalker series that began in 1994, but it still has its own element of twists and turns. There are two different stories going on here and they both reach individual conclusions but not a single conclusion. Indeed, the very last sentence on the very last page deliberately opens up a whole new can of worms to set the stage for the next book in the series. Talk about a tease! After reading this one, I anxiously await the next installment so I can see how it all ends and I certainly hope the "good guys" win.
Deathstalker Return is an action-packed space opera in the pulp tradition. If you like that sort of stuff, you will like this book.