(Gollancz, £18.99, 390 pages, hardback, also available as trade
paperback priced £10.99, published 20 May 2004, received 22 April
At the start of the second volume in Simon R. Green's new Deathstalker
series, things are looking decidedly sticky for the forces of
The Empire of Humanity is in a serious tailspin. Finn Durandal, ex-Paragon
turned "Delusional Sociopath," is tightening his grip on power, aided
by a massive conspiracy of Fascist 'Pure Humanity,' 'Neumen,' 'Uber-Espers,'
and the 'Church Militant.'
The King, Douglas Campbell is suffering through a self-imposed retreat,
prey to a broken heart; Parliament, lacking his guidance, is crumbling
into a coterie of factions and sycophants; Espers and Aliens are being
systematically scapegoated, the Media are licking the boots of the new
A few hardy souls fight against the rising tide of Tyranny and fanaticism.
Paragon Emma Steel and her ditzy side-kick, Demon Girl Reporter Nina
Malapert (who believes in flamboyant hairstyles and very big guns),
get in a few good licks; King Douglas, even when boxed into a corner,
is not to be taken lightly, and the Esper collective, the Oversoul,
has some interesting cards to play.
Nonetheless, at the end of the day real resistance lies where it always
has, in the hands of a Deathstalker.
Lewis Deathstalker, latest in a long line of doughty warriors, is bustling
around the Empire trying to find allies and answers in the quest to
a) Get rid of Finn, b) Beat back the ever-encroaching Planet-munching
Terror, and c) Bring back from the dead his ancestor, Owen Deathstalker,
Hero of the Old Empire, last seen alive some 200 years ago.
With Lewis go his lover, Jessamine Flowers, Galaxy famous Diva; Brett
Random, career coward and expert conman; Rose Constantine, professional
gladiator and homicidal psychopath, and Saturday, a hermaphroditic mini-tyrannosaur.
As revolutionaries go they're not exactly in the Lenin league. Basically
they hop from planet to planet, digging up relics and occasional people
left-over from Owen's time. Oh yes, and they kill a lot of things to.
In fact, they kill an enormous number of things! It seems they can hardly
set foot on a planet without either: a) Finn sending a large army of
storm-troopers and war-machines which they have to deal with or, b)
The environment trying to eat them alive.
Seldom, if ever, has so much blood, gore, body organs and vegetable
mulch been righteously scattered to the four winds by sword weilding
heroes! Disrupter beams, mind-bombs, grenades (plus the occasional sneaky
assassination on the sidelines) add to the mayhem, and it's a good thing
nobody's taking a body count of the victims because if they were the
numbers would be astonomical.
Little by little, inescapably (I'm giving nothing away here) Lewis
and company circle closer and closer to the ultimate enigma, the planet
of Haden, wherein lies the great mystery, the Madness Maze. Once, Owen
walked into this surreal labyrinth, emerging a Superman; will Lewis
go the same way? Or will the Maze turn him into a raving lunatic or
gibbering monster, as it has ten thousand brave souls before?
Well, read the book and find out, is my recommendation. What you get
is a guaranteed blood-and-thunder romp, shot-through with broad swathes
of fashion parody, a sustained piss-take on 'lives of the Rich and Famous'
and the occasional lance of satire. This last is refreshing stuff. It's
mostly aimed at Dictatorship, Fascism, Established Religion, the Toadying
Media and so forth--and it's nice to find an author who knows that laughter
is the most destructive weapon to aim at a repressive establishment.
In short, very violent, very funny, very good.
Elsewhere in infinity plus: