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Deathstalker Coda by Simon R. Green
Review by Drew Bittner
New Amer Library Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 0451460111
Date: 28 February, 2005 List Price $23.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /


Well, this is it.

The last hurrah of the Deathstalker gang, for now at least.

In Deathstalker Coda, Simon Green brings together plot threads laid down a good while back, reaching an epic crescendo in this final installment. Civil war once again grips the far-flung Empire, even as an unstoppable, planet-killing thing known only as the Terror approaches the homeworld of Logres from deep space.

The legendary Owen Deathstalker has returned from the dead, guided back by his kinsman Lewis. Everyone believes he will save the Empire one last time, but his true destiny does not lie that way; instead, he must confront the Terror, a challenge that only Deathstalker himself can face. What makes the situation unbearable is a terrible secret: Owen has learned that his lover, the peerless Hazel d?Ark, is the Terror. Twisted by loss and anguish, the superhuman qualities she received from the Madness Maze have transformed her into an inhuman thing that kills whatever it encounters?even as she unconsciously continues to search for Owen.

Owen sets out to undo the course of events that made Hazel a monster. His decision leaves Lewis Deathstalker, his lover Jesamine Flowers, and the roguish Brett Random and Rose Constantine as humanity?s only hope against the madness of Emperor Finn Durendal. To save the future, Owen must go backward, into the deep past to try and intercept Hazel before madness takes her.

Lewis and Jesamine struggle to unite the diverse elements of the Empire against Finn. Finn's advantages are many?he is allied with the most powerful espers that ever lived, who use the once-heroic Paragons as their puppets and cause havoc wherever they please?but there are trillions ready to rise against the madman.

They find their champion not in Lewis, but in King Douglas Campbell, deposed and despised through Finn?s machinations, who rises to command the misfits and outcasts of the throneworld.

Meanwhile, Lewis and his companions head to Mistworld to find allies. With some support and guidance from John Silence, last of the original Maze people, the quartet face temptations and the danger of betrayal from within as they seek the key to defeating Finn. They gain the allegiance of a renegade fleet, but the rebel ships are nearly disabled by Imperial loyalists?and despite their augmented firepower, Lewis fails to keep Finn from killing every other member of Clan Deathstalker on his homeworld of Virimonde. They find help among freakish, once-human experiments marooned on a savage world, but lose the help of the artificial intelligences of the robot world Shub, when the robot race dares to enter the Madness Maze.

When Finn and Douglas finally face off, the hideous ?ber-espers launch their bid to take over the Empire. These freakish things get a rude surprise when their fate is sealed by the Mater Mundi, who is not what she seemed in previous volumes. Super-powerful Diana Vertue has her hands full in the psychic battle of her life as Finn and Douglas duel.

The fate of the Empire hinges on Lewis, the only one who can battle the Mater Mundi on even terms. But even with his own Maze-powered abilities, can he take on a goddess?

The tale reaches a climax as the civil war is resolved in pain, blood and sacrifice. Owen?s quest comes to a close in the distant past, as he is forced to make choices that could destroy everything? or free Hazel from her own insanity.

The ending is probably as happy as a Deathstalker can imagine.

Green uses every trick in his extensive repertoire in constructing this ultimate Deathstalker adventure. The heroes are pushed to their limits, the rogues play both sides and the villains are thoroughly rotten, before their own failings bring the world down around them like a house of cards. Finn is an exquisite villain, completely horrifying but still the hero of his own story. Douglas?s redemption, from broken ex-ruler to restored King, is stirring, and Owen?s final message to the future brings the entire saga to a very appropriate end.

Hard to say where Green will go from here, but his next Nightside novel, Hex and the City, is now on sale. Whatever comes next, one can only hope it?ll be as bold, enjoyable and ambitious as this last Deathstalker novel.

Highly Recommended.

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