While this second entry in the life and times of Owen Deathstalker retains all of the action and fun of the first novel, an element of camp seems to have set in to make the series less fulfilling. Greene, every so often, seems to set the story aside momentarily in an effort to be funny, and the introduction of characters such as Half a Man indicates to me that Greene has decided to embrace some of the campiness of space opera and just run with it. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Deathstalker Rebellion is the fact that Owen Deathstalker, the main character by default, is the least interesting person in this entire drama. Outlawed by Lionstone XIV, this historian and aristocrat turned reluctant hero has set the rebellion against the Empire in motion, but - at least at this early stage of the game - he has become all but irrelevant. His close comrades - legendary rebel Jack Random, pirate and clonelegger Helen D'Ark, and bounty hunter Ruby Journey - are much more prominent and intriguing than he is.
The first real blow Deathstalker delivers to the Empire is an assault on the Income Tax and Tithe Headquarters on Golgotha, seat of the imperial government. He succeeds in throwing the Empire's finances into disarray, but the resulting blow to the planet's defenses allows an unknown alien ship to pop in and lay waste to the starport and other prominent facilities. This poses a problem, as the underground of rebels (including a number of fascinating aristocrats alongside hackers, clones, and individuals with esp abilities) already plotting their own rebellion on Golgotha itself aren't exactly happy about staging a rebellion that promises to just open up the way for their own annihilation by aliens. In the aftermath, however, all the rebel groups throughout the Empire come together for the first time in order to make plans to work together. Lionstone XIV, meanwhile, has to lay plans for a threat from within as well as without. Captain Silence and Investigator Frost (my favorite characters) somehow manage to avoid execution for their failures once again and end up out on the Rim shoring up planetary support. While there, they encounter a lost ship from two centuries earlier which turns out to be full of Ghost Warriors; these are animated, computer-enhanced corpses controlled by the dastardly AI from the planet Shub, known enemies who now bear watching - along with the Hadenmen, or Enemies of Humanity, who have joined up with Owen's forces after the Deathstalker freed them from their Tomb on the lost planet Haden.
The main action in this novel, though, focuses on the inhospitable planet Technos III, where the Wolfe Family is in charge of producing new stardrives for the imperial navy. Family clans are very complicated in this imperial universe, with each Family conspiring for greater power while individual Family members constantly plot against one another. Thus it is that several groups, not just the rebels, do not want to see the Wolfes produce a single new stardrive. Random and Ruby travel to the harsh environment to lead the rebel forces fighting for their planet, but the biggest surprises are laid by folks ostensibly loyal to the empire - it all comes together to make the ultimate climax quite interesting, to say the least.
Deathstalker Rebellion seems much longer than its 500+ pages. There are some redundancies built in to the story, characters have a knack for somehow managing to engage in pages of private dialogue in the midst of frantic activity going on all around them, and there are some real "oh, come on" moments in the story. You've got one character who returned 200 years ago from alien capture with only one side of his body - his other half is some sort of alien energy field. You've got heroes capable of doing all kinds of miracles thanks to an earlier trip through a mysterious maze of unknown alien origins, and that sometimes provides an easy out for Greene when characters find themselves in real trouble (sort of an alien ex machina). You have a civilization that has manufactured a weapon capable of wiping out a galaxy of worlds instantaneously, yet no one can invent a blaster that doesn't require two minutes to recharge between shots. Perhaps the biggest problem is the fact that events and characters are spread quite thin across the novel - you can go 100 pages without encountering the protagonist, for example. As the rebel efforts begin to coalesce in the future, though, I would expect this problem to diminish.
Despite the negatives, Deathstalker Rebellion is a fun, action-packed, sometimes slightly wacky, read; it's pure space opera and seemingly proud of it. The encounter with the Ghost Warriors is an especially intriguing, momentarily creepy, episode. I wouldn't recommend starting this series with this or any other sequel, though; there is just far too much going on in too many different places. If you enjoy space opera, you should enjoy the Deathstalker series; if you can take it or leave it when it comes to space opera, you may find yourself frustrated by the seemingly slow progression of events in these pages.