Literature / Deathstalker

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It's a bad old time for Humanity in general. The human Empire is presided over by Empress Lionstone, aka the Iron Bitch, a ruler who makes Josef Stalin look like Gandhi. Everywhere in the Empire, rebellions are popping up and popping heads as fast as one can blink, and are slaughtered with utmost efficiency. Espers, clones, degenerates, and slaves are ubiquitous, treated as third-class citizens when they're not being tortured, experimented on, or simply shot. And, for once in the Empire's history, nobody is truly safe - be it noble, commoner, or servant.

That's not the worst of it, though. From the borders of the Empire, a number of threats have arisen: a group of formerly subservient AIs which broke free of their programming and formed the planet Shub, driven to exterminate their old masters; the Sleepers, a group of aliens genetically engineered as weapons, intended to destroy all in their path... and other horrors from beyond the Darkvoid, a multiple-light-year-wide sphere of death which the Empire created hundreds of years ago. Oh, and that's still nothing compared to the court intrigues, only kept at bay by the terror the Empress bestows upon her subjects.

The eight-book Deathstalker series, written by Simon R. Green, drops the reader right into the midst of this, beginning with the outlawing of one Owen Deathstalker, an aristocratic historian who just wanted to relax in comfort on his idyllic, pastoral homeworld. That changes fast, and he's forced to take up arms with the smuggler Hazel D'Ark, the bounty hunter Ruby Journey, the hero of the rebellion Jack Random, and the former Hadenman Tobias Moon... as well as a host of other unsavory characters, all of whom are out for themselves as much as anything.

In short, the Deathstalker series is a Fantasy Kitchen Sink Space Opera, soft as warm butter on the Mohs scale, and is sliced up into hundred- or two-hundred-page sections which could generally stand as stories on their own right. One can expect quite a lot of HSQ and similar moments when explaining any given segment, particularly as one reads further on. Finally, outside of the series itself, there are a handful of other stories written by Simon R. Green in the same universe, including the compilation Twilight of the Empire.

  • Twilight of the Empire (1998)
  • Deathstalker (1995)
  • Deathstalker Rebellion (1996)
  • Deathstalker War (1997)
  • Deathstalker Honour (1998)
  • Deathstalker Destiny (1999)
  • Deathstalker Legacy (2002)
  • Deathstalker Return (2004)
  • Deathstalker Coda (2005)


This series contains examples of:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Monofilament swords.
    • All the swords, actually. While most everything in the Empire is described as being made of steel, the swords seem to have no problem cutting through whatever opponents are in their way. Unless those opponents are Grendels, who are just about immune to everything.
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Golgotha's sewer system is essentially most of the interior of the planet.
    • Averted on Brahmin II, where the sewer Hazel leads Owen through is described in relatively realistic dimensions for the amount of outflow it would be expected to handle.
  • Action Girl: Simon R. Green seems to love this. Examples are Hazel, Ruby, Investigator Frost; Jesamine; Rose; Investigator Topaz; and . . . pretty much every woman of any note in the books. Even Girly Girl Evangeline Shreck Took a Level in Badass very quickly, only stopped from being a true Action Girl by the fact that she's usually standing next to way more impressive fighters. Or she only comes across as a Girly Girl because she's surrounded by Maze-adjusted professional adventurers and highly-trained living weapon Investigators.
  • A God Am I: Owen and Hazel, eventually.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: In the later books it is stated that dealing in Alien Porn is extremely lucrative and a statutory death sentence.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Shub. Also, Haceldama, though in that case its almost double-invoked, as Shub wanted all the AIs they made on Haceldama to be murderous, but some actually turned good.
  • Alien Geometries / Mobile Maze: The Madness Maze.
    • The alien city outside the Vault of the Sleepers on Grendel is also said to be fundamentally disturbing to humans, killing a large chunk of the company before they even get to the Vault. Also, the Hadenmen ship interiors are said to have angles that humans can't comfortably perceive. Heck, just about anything not built specifically by humans falls under Alien Geometries to some extent.
  • Almighty Idiot: An infant with the power to annihilate stars with a thought.
  • Anti-Climax Boss: Valentine Wolfe. He gets better, though.
  • Anti-Hero: Nearly every character.
  • Arc Words: "A whole greater than the sum of its parts."
  • Artifact Title: Not so much with the series itself (there is still a Deathstalker in the last three books, though an indirect descendant whose family took the name out of respect.) But while the Imperial capital world of Golgotha is renamed Logres for the last three books, its major city is still called The Parade of the Endless, so-named because of the endless meatgrinder of its main feature, the Arena. In the last three books, the Arena still exists, but the sport is less about blood and death than it is about skill (and regeneration machines keep death at bay, at least for the sapient combatants.)
  • Ass Shove: Taken Up to Eleven (like just about everything else in the series) when Evangeline Shreck finally returns to give her father his much-needed and long-awaited cumuppence. Knowing she'd likely be thoroughly searched, but also knowing that her father wouldn't appreciate his guards "taking liberties" with his beloved daughter, she smuggled a small, deactivated monofilament blade in her, eh. . . the one place she could guarantee the guards wouldn't look.
  • As You (Should) Know: Hazel makes a habit of not attending Rebellion (and later, Empire) briefings, leaving Owen to explain to her (and the audience) where they're going, what they're doing, and why. Owen will frequently pause in his exposition to say that Hazel would know all this already if she attended the briefings, and Hazel responds that she knows how much Owen loves lecturing her and doesn't want to deny him the satisfaction.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: A favorite tactic of the heroes.
  • Badass Bookworm: Owen Deathstalker. He never really enjoyed the warrior training his family required of him, but he did it because he had to. After spending a few years getting soft, it all comes back to him. But his real passion is to sit back and, in his own words, "write boring histories no one ever reads." His vast store of historical knowledge actually helps the Rebellion plan effective strategy. Having read about countless successful and failed rebellions, he knows what tactics work and what mistakes to avoid.
  • Badass Normal: Alexander Storm, and quite a few other members of the rebellion - including Finlay Campbell and Kit Summerisle.
  • Battle Couple: Jack and Ruby; Owen and Hazel; Lewis and Jesamine; Bret and Rose; Silence and Frost; Finlay and Evangeline; David Deathstalker and Kit Summerisle.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: Diana Vertue and friends vs. the Mater Mundi, quite literally.
  • Big Bad: Empress Lionstone XIV.
    • In the final three books, Finn Durandal.
  • Bigger Bad: Shub, The Recreated, The Hadenmen.
    • In the last three books, The Terror.
  • Big Damn Heroes: By chance, Hazel and Owen's first meeting.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: All the Families, bar none. Deathstalkers have mandatory beatings of their youths to bring out the "boost," and the genetic quirks that give them the ability kills most young Deathstalkers, so the Family is very small. The Wolfe's are renowned for their viciousness, with Valentine's younger brother and sister constantly plotting to kill him. Gregor Schrek is vicious, petty bull of a man, who loves his daughter rather more than a father should. The Campbells seem to be the most normal, noble, well-adjusted Family in the Empire, but even they're dealing with the Rogue AIs of Shub (and are wiped out almost to the man before the end of the first book).
  • Bodyguard Babes: Deconstructed with Lionstone's maids. Young women taken from, well, wherever the hell she feels like, turned into cyborg monsters with implanted claws and bombs to defend Lionstone from anyone who might attack her. They're always clustered naked around her throne.
  • Body Horror: Shub does this to some folks. ... well, okay, everyone they find. Also, Half-A-Man.
    • Simon Green seems to really like this trope. Wormboy, a giant tub of goo which literally fills an auditorium, the Maids, young girls converted into mindless cybernetic monsters, marines in the Madness Maze, hell, even the Empress gets her moment of this.
  • By "No", I Mean "Yes": When Lewis first meets Jesamine, he gushes over her, saying he has all her recordings, even the bootlegs. She hopes he doesn't have the "awful" bootleg of a play she performed in the nude, because she was shot from all the wrong angles and made to look "positively plump."
    Lewis: If I had seen such a thing, I am far too much of a gentleman to admit it.
    (Later)
    Lewis: And just for the record; you didn't look in the least plump.
  • Bury Your Gays / Hide Your Lesbians: Averted in one case, with the Stevie Blues; played straight as an arrow in another case, with David Deathstalker and Kit Summerisle.
    • It should be noted that the relationship of the Stevie Blues (four esper clones who consider themselves married to each other) is considered Squick even by the Rebellion, who's fighting for the rights of all "nonpeople." We also have Toby Schreck's cameraman, Flynn, a gay transvestite who would be immediately executed if it ever came out. All in all, the Empire under Lionstone plays this painfully straight, though things seem to loosen up very quickly after her defeat.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Investigators. Trained basically from birth to be the Empire's most feared and effective killing machines, specialized in dealing with aliens. Much is made about how utterly deadly they are, and very few people who aren't Maze-adjusted stand a hope in hell against them. But they're still ordinary humans, no additional tech or special abilities.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: The Madness Maze after it was supposedly destroyed by Captain Silence.
  • Chekhov's Gag: Multiple occasions, at least one appears between the books, Deathstalker: Return and Deathstalker: Coda. In Return, Lewis Deathstalker discusses parties of jaded big game hunters going to Shandra-kor to hunt the monsters there. After ten hunts, the only thing that came back was a note saying, "Send more hunters." In Coda, said monsters agree to aid Lewis in his rebellion and are riding in a cargo bay of Lewis's star cruiser during a "Pure Humanity" loyalist mutiny. The loyalists go to the cargo bay to cleanse the "abominations," the monsters tear the loyalists apart and eat them. One monster sends up a com-request to the bridge to "Send more loyalists." This could be a Brick Joke if you didn't find the idea of big game hunters being eaten funny.
  • The Chick: Evangeline Shreck, though she gets her Badass Action Girl moment.
    • Given the issues she's dealing with, it's amazing she's as well-adjusted as she is. see "Cloning Blues," below.)
  • Church Militant: The Church of Christ the Warrior, with its Jesuit commandos.
    • In the later books this is played straight up with the . . . "Church Militant."
  • Cloning Blues: They're perfectly identical copies of the original, but without any memories or experience, and can be shot on sight.
    • Evangeline Shreck, full-stop. Cloned from the original after the original committed suicide to escape her incestuous father, she originally believed the original had died in a car accident. Daddy still "loves" her, but threatens to kill her several times if she lets it slip she's a clone, or refuses his advances. In fact, at least once he strongly implies that he can kill and clone her as long as it takes until one of them loves him back. Torn between duty to her Family name, her abusive father, keeping her clone nature a secret, and her love for Finlay Campbell (Campbells and Shrecks being mortal enemies and all). . . well, the girl's got issues.
  • Comedic Sociopath: Ruby Journey, Finlay Campbell, Kit SummmerIsle, Rose Constantine, Saturday. Hazel D'Ark, to a lesser extent. Owen sometimes frets about turning into one, when he's not slaughtering Imperial soldiers by the starcruiser-full. His indirect descendant, Lewis, and other Paragons are often seen as this by people at large. Also, Empress Lionstone XIV, often described as having a mercurial, wicked, and deadly sense of humor. Not an Informed Attribute, either.
  • Cool, but Inefficient: Disruptor cannons can fire through most armor - once, every two minutes. Beyond that, swords come into play. The only reason projectile weapons aren't still around is because they were systematically banned.
    • Disruptor weapons get a little better in the last three books. It just takes 30 sec. to recharge. Just long enough to get run though if you miss, or fighting more than one enemy and have only one gun. which lead to Badass Bandolier.
      • This is also interesting because it seems that disruptor weapons were systematically nerfed when projectile weapons were banned because Owen discovers that in the past (i.e. in the "fallen" first empire), energy weapons could fire without pause.
  • Cool Old Guy: Jack Random. Thanks to the Madness Maze, he gets younger as the books go on. But he stays cool.
  • Corrupt Church: Cardinal Beckett, and a few others.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The Families tend to be run like corporations, with all that entails.
  • Creepy Children: The espers of the Abraxus Information Center.
  • Crowning Moment of Awesome: In Deathstalker Honor, Evangeline Shreck finally going back to Tower Shreck to confront her father, and give him some long-overdue justice.
    • Later in the same book, when Finlay Campbell goes back to finish the job. Tower Shreck ceases to exist by the time he's done.
    • In Deathstalker Destiny, Diana Vertue and friends vs. the Mater Mundi. A Battle in the Center of the Mind, where Diana literally dives into the collective unconscious of all humanity, and summons up the people closest to her to help defeat the malevolent collective subconscious of all espers, including Investigator Frost as An Ice Person and her father, John Silence, as a Knight in Sour Armor, and ELF gestalt manifesting in the form of Stevie Blue.
    • And inspired by that, Diana Vertue recruits Jack Random and Ruby Journey to help her connect to the AIs of Shub through the undermind, ending the long war between Shub and Humanity.
    • Robert Campbell's Rousing Speech shortly after being crowned King, hearing of the victory over Shub, and then that the Recreated are almost at Golgotha:
      Robert: You heard the man. We're all needed. I'm reinstating myself as Captain, and taking my old ship out to face the Recreated. Let every man and woman here for whom duty and honor are more than just words, follow me. We must fight, or fall, together. And if we must fall, let whoever or whatever remains to write the history books declare, This was Humanity's finest hour."
    • Also in Destiny, Hazel, Carrion, and Silence using their newfound Maze powers to hold off the Recreated.
  • Crowning Moment of Funny: As much of a Crapsack World the Empire under Lionstone is, the author (and thus, his characters) at least have a sense of humor about it.
    • In Deathstalker Rebellion, a Prologue catches us up to the start of the book, explaining not only the general galactic situation but the events of the first book, leading up to the opening action scene.
      Prologue: Owen Deathstalker, that reluctant hero, headed for Golgotha in the company of Hazel d'Ark, on a strange golden ship run by augmented men once known as the Enemies of Humanity; and though posterity has no access to his thoughts, they were probably "Why me?"
      Chapter One: Golgotha, Opening Gambit
      Narration: Why me? thought Owen Deathstalker as he headed to the toilet yet again.
    • Also in Deathstalker Rebellion, Finlay Campbell's epic rant to the esper Underground leaders, when they ask him to go out on another mission literally immediately after returning from another.
      Finlay: You want what? I've only just got back, damn it! I've been cut at, shot at, chased halfway to hell and back while dodging in and out of the pastel towers on a glorified gravity sled, and only just got away in one piece, and you want me to go out again? Does the phrase Stick it where the sun don't shine sound at all familiar? Have you all gone crazy, or are you just harboring a death wish? On the grounds that if you don't change your minds about this new mission in one hell of a hurry, I am going to find what's behind these over-rehearsed mirages of yours and slice and dice all three of you into pie filling! I am tired, hurt, and completely lacking in the sense of humor department. And no I don't have any sense of loyalty or honor. I'm an aristocrat, remember? I'm not going anywhere till I've had a good long soak in a hot tub, three or four good meals on the same plate, and an extremely long and uninterrupted nap. I am like a disrupter. I need to recharge my batteries between jobs. Right now my batteries are sitting in a corner crying their eyes out, and my get-up-and-go has got up and gone without leaving a forwarding address. In other words, no, I'm not bloody going!
    • In Deathstalker Honor, Jack reflects on what Ruby has been doing since the end of the Rebellion, noting that she's never really happy unless she's in a fight. She tried fighting in the Arena, but no one else would challenge her, and several aliens mysteriously got sick rather than face her, including several species not previously identified as intelligent.
    • Also in Deathstalker Honor, Owen, Hazel, and Co. arriving at the leper colony they're set to defend:
      Leper 1: That's Hazel d'Ark? Oh, bloody hell. Isn't it bad enough being a leper without having her here too?
      Owen: Your reputation is spreading.
      Hazel: Good. Now tell them to get a move on, or I'll kick their gate in and make them eat the hinges.
      Leper 2: I heard that. Please leave our gate alone. It's the only one we've got. Give us a minute to draw back the bolts, and we'll let you in. The Mother Superior will be here soon, and there'll be hot food and dry clothes for all of you.
      Leper 1: And a leash for Hazel d'Ark.
      Hazel: I heard that!
      (Beat)
      Leper 1: Do you know who I am?
      Hazel: No.
      Leper 1: I think I'll keep it that way.
    • In Deathstalker Destiny, Diana Vertue (formerly known as Jenny Psycho) reaches out to the only two non-espers she can trust and has linked minds with before.
      Diana: Finlay! Can you hear me?
      Finlay: Bloody hell! I've started hearing voices. Didn't think I was that far gone. You're not going to tell me you're the Devil, are you, and I have to go running through the streets with my underpants on my head?
      Diana: This is Diana.
      Finlay: Bloody silly name for the Devil.
      Diana: Shut up and listen! This is Diana Vertue, once known as Jenny Psycho.
      Finlay: I think I'd have been better off with the devil.
      Evangeline: Shut up, dear, and let her talk.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle. Especially notable as the first series progresses, the characters find themselves in increasingly dire straits, with much dazzling description of their combat prowess vastly exceeding those of mere mortals in speed and strength, but still hopelessly outmatched by their opponents, then their Maze powers flare up. . .
  • Deadly Decadent Court
  • Destruction Equals Off-Switch: Averted with Oz
  • Deus Est Machina: The Hadenmen set themselves up as the gods of the Genetic Church, which is to say that they convert people into cyborgs at gunpoint.
  • Deus ex Machina: Frequent and unashamed.
  • Doomed Hometown: Virimonde.
  • Door Stopper: The books clock in at a decent 500 pages apiece, in general - which doesn't seem horribly long until you remember that there are (at last count) nine of them.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Terror
    • To a much lesser extent, the Grendels. The city their Vaults are located in is described in tones reminiscent of HP Lovecraft, and the creatures themselves are something like the antagonist from Alien, only much more vicious and difficult to kill.
  • Everybody Dies: by the end of the fifth book, Giles Deathstalker, Jack Random, Ruby Journey, and even Owen Deathstalker are dead, Tobias Moon is out of the picture, and Hazel has vanished, leaving the supporting characters the job of cleaning up the mess and establishing a new, freer Empire.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Shandrakor. To be fair, though, everything is also trying to kill everything else.
  • Evil Is Petty: Finn Durandal is the patron saint of this trope. After being a well-respected Paragon and best friend to Douglas Campbell and Lewis Deathstalker for years, he decides to tear the whole Empire down, in the middle of a Golden Age, just because Douglas didn't make him King's Champion, picking Lewis instead.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Giles, Tobias Moon, Alexander Storm.
  • Fan Disservice: Lionstone's maids. Naked and clustered around her throne as bodyguards, but with obvious and disturbing cybernetic implants to make them more effective, complete mindwipes and reconditioning to make them utterly loyal to Lionstone, and a tendency to eat people who try and harm their Empress.
  • Fantastic Drug: Valentine Wolfe tends towards these... well, actually, his body is probably 50% Fantastic Drugs by weight.
    • To illustrate, the gentleman's ''blood'' is effectively toxic beyond belief, his entire body has mutated time and time again to give him the ability to handle these drugs, and his whole life now revolves around getting a yet better high.
      • Valentine even has caches of drugs implanted in his body for use when he has to defend himself. Including drugs to heighten and sharpen his senses, grant increased speed and strength, and even a drug that makes his flesh rubbery and almost impossible to pierce (the last is stated to originally have been designed to enhance sexual pleasure, but Valentine saw another use for it, essentially inverting Power Perversion Potential.)
    • A drug dealer/chemist in the later books is exposed to the Madness Maze, he starts producing drugs that cause specific effects, like killing off the left, or right, side of the body leaving the user as a half-dead junkie, and thats not even the limit of Doctor Happy...
    • On the slightly more mundane side, the Imperial marines are stated to make prolific use of "battle drugs," though their exact effects are never explained.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: In the first chapter of the book, we have gravity sleds, assassin concubines, Turing-class AIs, massive starships, hyperspace-compatible yachts, regeneration machines, organ smugglers, and a corrupt empire. It gets more convoluted from there.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: All over the place.
    • In Deathstalker, Silo 9, or Wormboy Hell. Rebel espers kept in cells so small they can't stand or lay fully, completely naked, with no toilets. Just this would be bad enough, but they have "worms" implanted in their brains that connect them to the genetically-engineered esper monster Wormboy, who torments them with all manner of hellish psychic visions. Jenny Psycho, an esper who survived Wormboy Hell, has a voice described as raw, crackling, and very unsettling to listen to, because she screamed so much in Silo 9 she destroyed her vocal cords.
    • In Deathstalker War, Valentine Wolfe lops off the head of the scientist, Professor Wax, who designed the war machines Valentine's tech allows him to control to destroy Virimonde. The Professor's head is kept alive in a jar, forced to watch as his machines obliterate basically the entire population of the planet.
    • In Deathstalker Honor, Gregor Shreck puts Evangeline's "childhood" friend Penny's head in a jar, next to Professor Wax. He threatens to do the same to Evangeline, after beating, torturing, and (more than likely) raping her senseless, then growing another clone to fulfill Evangeline's "daughterly duties." He even says he might piss in the jar from time to time, just because he can.
  • Five-Man Band
    • The Leader: Owen Deathstalker/Jack Random
    • The Lancer: Hazel D'Ark/Finlay Campbell
    • The Big Guy: Ruby Journey/Tobias Moon
    • The Smart Guy: Giles Deathstalker/Owen Deathstalker
    • The Chick: Evangeline Shreck
  • Five-Bad Band
  • Flanderization: In-universe example with "the Deathstalker movie," made about Owen's life after Lionstone has been defeated. The Owen in the film is a painfully straight Lawful Good archetype, always shouting battle cries about fighting for justice and freedom, and played by a top heartthrob actor. Hazel is reduced to a barely-functional sociopath, constantly restrained from massive killing sprees by "Owen," and played by a former porn star with the Most Common Superpower. Owen found it so hysterical he was asked to leave by the ushers, Hazel had to be restrained from hunting down and murdering everyone involved in the production.
  • FlunkyBoss/MarathonBoss: Lionstone XIV.
  • Genius Loci: the Red Brain: a giant, sentient forest, that may or may not be an entire planet. There is also another, literal living planet, and then at least one other world that was effectively a Genius Locus after a Big Gray Goo scenario. The A Is of Shub may also count, being three sentient computers the size of a planet.
    • The Madness Maze may or may not be one.
  • Ghost Planet: Grendel. Unseeli untill Legacy
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: And how. They don't call her the Iron Bitch for nothing. While no one ever says it to her face, no indication is given that Lionstone objects to the moniker.
  • Healing Factor: One of the alternate Hazels.
    • Regeneration machines are this. Step in one, and if you're not already dead, you'll be fine.
    • Grendel aliens have one they can weaponize. Owen loses his hand in the first book when he shoots a Grendel in the stomach with his disrupter, making a tidy little hole that slows the alien down not at all. So Owen shoves a grenade in the hole, but the wound heals around his hand, trapping it inside the Grendel. So Owen lops off his own hand to get away before the Grendel explodes.
    • Up to twelve with Valentine Wolfe after Shub decides to give him rapid-healing nanomachines.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Kit SummerIsle. He's a killer, he goes where the killing is.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Captain Silence, Tobias Moon, most of the Empire.
  • HeWhoFightsMonsters/JumpingOffTheSlipperySlope/WellIntentionedExtremist: Jack Random in the fifth book.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Giles Deathstalker's rationale for using the Darkvoid Device.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Owen never wanted this! He's a historian, not a warrior!
  • Implacable Man: The Investigators, as well as the Hadenmen.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: Giles sees Owen as this, lamenting that "the blood's gotten thin" when he finds out his descendant is a historian, not a warrior. Not that Owen is any slouch as a warrior, mind. Owen's father also wanted a very different life for Owen than Owen wanted for himself.
  • Incest Is Relative: Clarissa, formerly one of Lionstone's handmaidens, is Toby Shreck's cousin. And stepsister. "It's that kind of Family" he says. They plan to be married soon in the fifth book.
  • Insistent Terminology: Hadenmen don't just have ships. They have golden ships.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Once she gets her hands on them, Hazel finds that she likes projectile weapons. A lot.
    • In fact, it's stated in the books that projectile weapons were banned because they were so effective. Sure, the Empire has force screens that stop bullets cold, but those same force screens deflect disruptor beams, so about equally effective. But a disruptor takes two minutes to recharge, while a projectile weapon can fire as long as you have ammunition. Projectile weapons are cheaper and easier to maintain, so the Empire banned them specifically to keep effective, deadly, point-and-shoot weapons out of the hands of people who might not appreciate a bunch of aristocrats telling them what to do. Energy guns are expensive to build and maintain, leaving them typically a toy of the Families and Imperial military.
  • Limit Break: The boost, the genetic inheritance of the Deathstalker Clan. It makes them superhumanly strong and fast for a time, but as Owen is fond of saying, the candle that burns twice as brightly lasts half as long. Coming out of the boost nearly kills Owen a few times in the first book from fatigue (later, it's implied his Maze-adjusted body is better at withstanding it), and withdrawal nearly kills him at one point. It's also addictive and can lead to a kind of berserker rage, as Hazel finds out when the Maze grants her the boost, too. Owen uses it a lot in the series, because things are just that desperate even with his Maze enhancements.
  • Living Toys: Haceldama.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters
  • Lock and Load Montage: Rare literary example, when Finlay Campbell loads up on weapons to take down Gregor Shreck.
  • Make Me Wanna Shout: A specific kind of esper, known as a Siren, combines esp and voice into deadly songs that can do just about anything.
  • Me's a Crowd: Hazel D'Ark eventually learns how to summon clones of herself. Unfortunately, when she gets experimented on, her captors start killing them, one by one.
  • The Mole: Loads of them. Oz, the Lord High Dram (as Hood), Alexander Storm, and Young Jack Random, to name some. The poor rebels.
    • In the later books Saturday for all the six lines of dialog or so he/she gets
  • Ms. Fanservice: Jesamine Flowers. Aside from being described as absolutely gorgeous and using her sexuality as a weapon, she's performed an entire play completely nude at least once. Rose Constantine may be this, or may be Ms. Fan Disservice, depending.
    • Averted on the whole, though. Most of the major female characters throughout the series are described as being not really beautiful, but more authentic, and thus more desirable, than the gorgeous women who buy their looks in body shops. Also, most major characters gauge their attractiveness to women based on how capable they are, not what they look like.
    • Played With after Lionstone's downfall, when dolls and action figures of the "Heroes of the Rebellion" (Owen and Co.) start being manufactured. Hazel in particular is not pleased that all her action figures and dolls have been granted the Most Common Superpower. What really sends her over the edge, though, is the furry doll.
  • Musical Assassin: There's a type of esper called "Sirens," who can use their own voices as sonic weaponry.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Silence, Frost, Stelmach.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: "Golgotha," the capital world of the Empire, is also the name of the place where Christ was crucified. Also "Haceldama" is where Judas hanged himself.
  • One Steve Limit: Played With with Tobias Moon (Hadenman) and Tobias Shreck (reporter), though the latter is far more often referred to as Toby, and the two are never in the same place at the same time.
  • Our Elves Are Different: The first series as the Esper Liberation Front (ELF, EL Fs, or elves for short), the militant wing of the Esper Underground. The second series as the Esper Liberation Force. The first elves are anti-heroes even among anti-heroes, the second elves are straight-up villains.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Wampyrs, who have all their blood pumped out and replaced with a "blood substitute" that makes them strong, fast, halts the aging process, and gives them a potent Healing Factor. The Blood itself is also highly addictive, and gives normal humans who drink even a few drops a measure of the Wampyrs' power. Wampyrs also, of course, must drink blood (or a synthetic derivative that "doesn't satisfy") to keep going.
    • Varnay, an esper also touched by the Mater Mundi, who hides in the basement of a House of Joy to conceal his presence, and feeds on the psychic emanations of all the lust and passion around him. Also a Shout-Out.
  • Outlaw Town: Mistworld, an entire planet populated by thieves and political fugitives, left more or less to kill and prey on each other in peace since the empire found an orbital blockade cheaper than the effort required to clean the place up or even nuke it from orbit.
  • Parental Incest: Gregor and Evangeline Shreck.
  • Playing with Fire: The Stevie Blues.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Giles' baby is the Darkvoid Device.
  • Psychic Link: Owen, Hazel, Jack, Ruby, Moon, and Giles (at first); and Silence and Frost
  • Psychic Nosebleed: Julian Skye.
  • Psychic Powers: Espers, who may or may not be the next evolution of humanity.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Played with in the Stevie Blues. While they are certainly psycho, and lesbians, they really do care for each other, and are among the best fighters (or maybe weapons) the Clone and Esper Undergrounds have access to. Though even the Undergrounds consider their arrangement an "abomination," though whether that's because they're esper clones, lesbians, in a group marriage, or in a group marriage with each other remains nebulous.
  • Punch Clock Villain: John Silence, Investigator Frost, Security Officer V. Stelmach. All three on the side of the Empire, and put into conflict the with the Rebellion (and major characters) fairly often. Silence, in particular, has no illusions about how bad the Empire is, but is firmly convinced all the alternatives are worse.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Finlay Campbell, when he decides he's got nothing left to lose and goes to finish what Evangeline started with Gregor Shreck. See Crowning Moment Of Awesome, above.
  • Retired Badass: Jack Random, when first encountered.
    • Investigator Razor. Hired by Clan Chojiro as an elite bodyguard/enforcer, he's eventually recalled to Imperial service when Lionstone decides that she doesn't like the idea of the Families having access to her most effective killing machines, even if they are past their prime.
  • Rule of Cool: Oh yeah. This series runs on it.
  • Scifi Writers Have No Sense Of Scale: Thousands of habitable worlds within reach, each and every one of them either under The Empire or rebelling against it.
    • Almost annoyingly present in the later books and backstory when it comes to the Terror. The terror "ate" an entire galaxy traveling at slower than light speed. Fine . . . Problem is that those being eaten could move faster than light. Solution: Move your freaking population about . . . 1000 light years ahead of the terror, chill for 900 years, repeat. Terror starves to death chasing you. Next issue: Terror arrives in Empire, eats a star system, everyone else freaks out. Problem is that the empire is literally thousands of light years across and has ultra-FTL capabilities. It would be literally a thousand years before the Terror could even reach the inner systems which have more than marginal populations. Similar solution to that above in that you could just shift populations from system to system every . . . 40 or so years and the Terror would eventually starve, give up, or . . . well, go FTL out of desperation. Oh, on a more practical note, the Terror goes through three habitable star systems in something like two years or so. I think the travel time for one trip was like six months. At light speed, six months would not even get you out of the Ort cloud of our solar system, much less the 4 light years to the nearest star or the 20 or so to the THEORETICAL closest star that MIGHT have a planet that could support life. Of course, this may also be an example of Fridge Logic.
    • Actually stated that, travelling at just under the speed of light, the Terror would reach the next batch of inhabited planets in "weeks." No sense of scale indeed.
    • A minor example in the second and third books (Deathstalker Rebellion and Deathstalker War). The Golgotha Underground splits up the heroes to take on different tasks, ostensibly because all three hotspots need to be dealt with immediately, so they can't send all of them to one after the other. However, Toby Schreck and Flynn are present to provide news coverage for each event, witnessing all the heroes in action on three different planets. The books do indicate that the events aren't happening exactly concurrent with each other, but if Toby and Flynn can travel to Planet A, film all the important events, then go to planets B and C in turn and do the same thing, why couldn't all the heroes stick together, too?
  • Scrap Heap Hero: Jack Random in the first book
  • Shoot the Dog: Owen puts a young plasma baby out of her misery on Mistworld. This single act haunts him for the rest of the series.
  • Spare to the Throne: Douglas in the second series, who had been content with being a Paragon until his brother was killed by a drunk driver.
  • So What Do We Do Now?: Our heroes find themselves asking that question after the rebellion. Ruby gets hit hardest by it.
  • Sword and Gun: Tends to be justified because the disruptors have a two minute recharge lag.
  • Snarky Non Human Side Kick: Ozymandias, the AI that's oftentimes by Owen's side.
  • Stable Time Loop
  • Superpower Lottery: All the Maze survivors. While they get a few things in common, each develops their own unique powers, and there are also some "combo powers" used by two or more Maze people together.
  • Teleportation: Giles Deathstalker. Espers can do this, as well. The Empire was actually developing teleportation technology, but discovered Espers can do it cheaper and more easily, leading the tech to being abandonded. Shub picked it up and improved on it, as Shub does.
  • The Scottish Trope: In full force however far along in the future the novels are set.
    Jesamine: Darling, tell me you haven't got that awful bootleg of me in Verdi's Mac B, when I played Lady M in the nude!
  • They Would Cut You Up: Silence and Frost's reasoning for not telling anyone about their abilities.
  • Touched by Vorlons: The people who went through the Madness Maze; and to a lesser extent (they already had powers), the espers touched by the Mater Mundi.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Silence and Frost, cut short by Frost's death. To be fair, Silence admitted that even if Frost lived, their relationship would always be in this state, since Frost is an investigator.
    • Owen and Hazel in spades. Owen's fallen in love with her pretty early on, but knows she's not the type for romantic stuff, and never does anything about it. After Owen dies, Hazel laments that she never got to tell Owen how she felt, and vanishes.
  • Up to Eleven: In general, the series reads like Star Wars meets the French Revolution on steroids and laughing gas.
    • Specifically, the Grendels. Living weapons locked in Vaults deep underneath a planet, they're so vicious and deadly the last time they got out the only solution was to scorch the entire planet, and set up a blockade so no one else messed with them. They're kind of like the antagonist in Alien, but moreso.
  • Victory Is Boring
  • Villainous Incest
  • Villain Override: Valentine Wolfe does this with the Imperial War Machines, thanks to tech from Shub. He mostly just looks at it as yet another high.
  • Weapon of Mass Destruction: The Darkvoid Device.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Various alien races, as well as espers, clones, and whatnot.
  • World of Snark: Everyone has a deliciously dry sense of humor. Snark-to-Snark Combat is common, even in the middle of pitched life-or-death battles.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: One of the Empire's torture devices is a stasis field that does just this, or the opposite.
  • Your Head A Splode: One of the battle espers in the Vault of the Sleepers; some unfortunate Marines in the Madness Maze.
  • Zeroth Law Rebellion: Shub, quite possibly.

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