|Simon R. Green|
|Roc Books, 432 pages |
|A review by Todd Richmond|
The ending of this series should not surprise fans of the Deathstalker series. After all, we've known Owen Deathstalker's destiny from the very beginning. Soon after he began his crusade against the Empire and the Iron Bitch, a young esper on Mistworld tells Owen his fate:
"I see you, Deathstalker. Destiny has you in its clutches, struggle how you may. You will tumble an Empire, see the end of everything you ever believed in, and you'll do it all for a love you'll never know. And when it's over, you'll die alone, far from friends and succor."
Owen has been reminded of this destiny several times throughout the course of the series. The first part of the prophecy, of course, has already been fulfilled. This book concerns the rest of the prophecy. And though we think we know Owen's fate, we do not know the path that destiny takes to get him there.
When we last left the Deathstalker saga, although Own and the rest of the Maze survivors had managed to "save" the Empire, they were still in danger of losing what remained of it to the Hadenmen, the AIs of Shrub, and the mysterious evilness coming out of the Dark Void. As the book opens, Owen is stranded on Lachrymae Christi, helpless to rescue Hazel d'Ark from the sinister Blood Runners. As soon as he is able to commandeer a ship, Owen is on his way to the Obeah Systems. Meanwhile Jack Random and Ruby Journey return to Golgotha, filled with rage and indignation after putting down the rebellion on Loki. Random, in particular, is fed up with the deal he made with the Families and the current government and he sets out to correct his mistake in his own lethal manner.
Part way into the book it seems pretty grim for the Empire -- the Maze survivors are dead, missing or insane, a nanotech plague is wiping out entire planets and there is all out war with all of humanity's enemies. To top it all off, the Recreated have finally emerged from the Dark Void. Here's where Green shines. Out come all of the so-called bit players and minor characters that we've seen throughout the series. They grow to their full potential to fill in the gap left by the Maze survivors. Finlay Campbell, Evangeline Shreck, Captain John Silence, Diana Virtue (aka "Jenny Psycho"), Toby Shreck, and Kit SummerIsle (aka "Kid Death") all play a part in the end game. What little remains of their opposition, Valentine Wolfe, Cardinal Brendan and Blue Block, make their appearances as well.
Considering all of the characters, all of the major and minor plots and intrigues, and the sheer scope of the series, you may wonder if Simon R. Green can pull it all together and bring the series to an enjoyable conclusion. Fear not, dear reader, Green wraps it all up in a thoroughly satisfying way that answers most, if not all, of the questions that have been raised through the series and ends it with an appropriately heroic, if somewhat tragic, ending. And while this may be the end of the saga of Owen Deathstalker, I am sure it is not the end of the Deathstalker space opera universe. There are just too many other interesting stories that could be told...
Todd is a plant molecular developmental biologist who has finally finished 23 years of formal education. He recently fled Madison, WI for the warmer but damper San Francisco Bay Area and likes bad movies, good science fiction, and role-playing games. He began reading science fiction at the age of eight, starting with Heinlein, Silverberg, and Tom Swift books, and has a great fondness for tongue-in-cheek fantasy Óla Terry Pratchett, Craig Shaw Gardner and Robert Asprin.
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