Simon R. Green,
Deathstalker Coda
(Roc, 2005)

After seven previous novels totaling thousands of pages, two intergalactic revolutions, the deaths of billions of people across a vast spectrum of home worlds, the apocalyptic threat of two all-but-unstoppable alien forces, and heaven only knows how many humorous remarks by a succession of over-the-top characters, the Deathstalker saga finally comes to an end, I am sad to report, in Deathstalker Coda. I'm hoping Simon R. Green will pull another Deathstalker rabbit out of his hat at some point, but it really looks like Deathstalker Coda brings one of the most frolicking space opera series of all time to its completion.

It should come as no surprise when I suggest to you that you shouldn't start your Deathstalker journey here -- at a minimum, you should first read Deathstalker Legacy and Deathstalker Return because those two novels chronicle the final chapter in the life of the universe's greatest hero. For the full back-story to the climactic events of Deathstalker Coda, however, you really should read the entire series. I promise it won't hurt a bit, as all of the Deathstalker novels are all incredibly entertaining and quite addictive.

As this novel opens, more than two centuries have passed since Owen Deathstalker, quiet historian turned intergalactic hero, and his band of unforgettable rebels overthrew the despicable Empress Lionstone XIV, stopped the galaxy-destroying power of a mysterious alien force called The Revenant and ushered in (after a lot more fighting) a new era of peace throughout the galaxy. The golden age ended, however, when the power-hungry Finn Durandal betrayed basically everyone and usurped the throne from the rightful King Douglas. (One thing that has not changed over the years, however, is the Deathstalker luck, as Owen's ancestor Lewis has been branded an outlaw after running off with Douglas's beautiful fiancee.) Under Durandal's capriciously iron rule, the worlds' enforcers of justice have been decimated, and billions of citizens once again suffer under the megalomaniacal despotism of a royal fiend.

And that's not even the bad news. All of these woes tend to pale in comparison to the approaching threat of the Terror, a destructive, world-eating force that dwarfs even the unparalleled horrors of The Revenant. Since Owen's disappearance two centuries earlier, legend has said that the Deathstalker would return when his people desperately needed him. It seemed pretty unlikely to those of us who witnessed his death, but return he has -- just in time to get the shock of his life (upon learning just who and what the Terror really is).

There is no shortage of heroes and fiends in the world of the Deathstalker, and virtually every single character is larger than life. This is space opera pushed to its extremes, which makes for a wild and bloody ride all the way to the very end. I must admit, however, that there's sort of a dual nature to this story. On the one hand, you have Lewis Deathstalker and his allies fighting to overthrow self-proclaimed emperor Finn Durandal, while on the other hand you have Owen Deathstalker setting out alone to stop the threat of the Terror. These two narrative streams don't truly flow together until the very end, which makes this novel a little less enjoyable than Green's earlier efforts, but the conclusion really does tie everything together nicely. Those who have read the first five novels know that the end of that original series lacked a sense of closure, with the fates of two beloved characters ringing a little less than true. With Deathstalker Coda, that sense of closure is finally achieved, making for a conclusion that does not disappoint the devoted Deathstalker fan.

Green's ability to keep so many characters and so much history straight across such an extensive, action-packed series is an achievement in and of itself, as is his remarkable ability to keep the story moving at a brisk pace with nary a moment to rest along the way. Owen's story in its totality requires quite a commitment from the reader, but all the thousands of pages making up the complete saga seem far too few for those of us who would love to see the Deathstalker story go on indefinitely. It's been an extended adrenaline rush, as I can honestly say I've never enjoyed a series as much as I have flat-out enjoyed every single minute of the Deathstalker saga. Owen, you will be missed -- but you will certainly never be forgotten.

by Daniel Jolley
29 July 2006

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