Deathstalker: War: I’m giving up on DEATHSTALKER

Deathstalker: War by Simon R. Green science fiction book reviewsDeathstalker: War by Simon R. Green

Deathstalker: War by Simon R. GreenThis review may contain spoilers for the first two DEATHSTALKER books, Deathstalker and Deathstalker: Rebellion.

I’m going to have to give up on DEATHSTALKER, which I feel bad about since Tantor Audio sent me the first four books. The first one was okay but they’ve gone downhill since then and are, most egregiously, much too similar to Simon R. Green’s NIGHTSIDE series.

In Deathstalker: War (1997) the rebellion continues. Our heroes are still working to unseat the empress by fomenting rebellion on multiple planets. With all the stress, Hazel has resumed her drug habit and is trying to hide it from Owen. He has fallen in love with Hazel, so her secrecy is upsetting him. They still do not understand the powers they acquired in the maze during the first book (they keep mentioning this). There are two Jack Randoms and nobody knows which is the real one or if one of them is a spy or traitor.

Later in the book the perspective shifts to Finley Campbell and his mission to find the Red Man (he’s so dangerous!). He and his crew land on a planet of artificially intelligent toys that went rogue after being hacked. A toy war erupted. This is a clever premise and I would have liked to have seen that happen, but the story is quickly told by the narrator and we only see the aftermath. This section is intolerably silly and I started skimming it after a while.

Deathstalker: War by Simon R. Green science fiction book reviewsThe next section focuses on David Deathstalker and his best friend Kid Death. They are happy just hanging out on David’s planet, not having any responsibilities to either the rebels or the Empire. Except Kid Death really misses killing people. But when the empress decides to turn David’s planet into a big factory and get rid of all the peasants, David isn’t happy. What’s the point in being a lord if there’s nobody to lord it over? Suddenly David feels some kinship with the rebels.

Finally, rebellion breaks out across the empire and the empress is in real danger. Will her supporters stay loyal, or will they defect?

As usual for the DEATHSTALKER and NIGHTSIDE books, and I know I keep mentioning this, the characters are so over the top. Everybody is such a badass. Every character is more dangerous than the one before. They make people shiver when they walk by. Each villain is the most evil person you can imagine. It’s hard to take any of it seriously, to believe in the situation or the stakes, or to emphasize with any of the characters.

Too much of the backstory and plot is rapidly told by the narrator or another character. Every battle sounds the same as the narrator tells what each character experiences in the same voice. The language is dull and repetitive with the same descriptions and jokes (much like my reviews of these books). For example, multiple characters “look like death warmed up and allowed to congeal.” Again, every character (even the toys!) give little lectures and they all sound like the same person.

There’s some pretty sloppy plotting in this novel, especially with the timing of scenes. There are a few scenes where dramatic events are happening and the action will freeze while the narrator or a character (or even the TV in one scene) will give a long speech (or otherwise provide a large amount of information) while the characters stand there and wait.

The final climactic scene is a total mess. The rebels break into the empress’s chamber and fight her supporters. Each of the heroes gives a little speech and fights a duel with one of the bad guys while all the other characters (including the empress) freezes in place. One of the characters who dies even gets a eulogy before the action restarts and we remember that the extremely dangerous empress is sitting there. Then there’s a deus ex machina that made my eyes nearly roll out of my head (there are so many in these novels).

I didn’t enjoy Deathstalker: War. It was a chore to finish and the final scene was so bad that I have no desire to find out what happens in the next book, Deathstalker: Honor. I have the audiobook files but I’m going to delete them.

The audio edition narrated by Gildart Jackson is a fine production and he does a nice job with the narration. Thank you to Tantor Audio for sending me these. I’m sorry that I can’t read any more of them.

Published in 1997. Fate had made Owen Deathstalker a rebel hero in an empire choked by tyranny. Embracing his warrior lineage for the sake of freedom, he stoked the flames of revolution, gathering the forces that one day must strike against Imperial authority. That day has come. With his valiant compatriots Hazel d’Ark and Jack Random, Owen must now bring the uprising to a fiery conclusion. From the rebel strongholds of Mistworld and Virimonde to the Empire’s mighty heart on the planet of Golgotha, the fate of humanity now depends on a clash of arms across light-years of space. But Deathstalker’s desperate cause will need more than an army of courageous fighters to succeed-for the cunning Empress has some evil surprises to unleash….

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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One comment

  1. “…but I’m going to delete them.” The harshest words a critic can speak, Kat!

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