Simon R. Green, . . Roc, $23.95 (472pp) ISBN 978-0-451-45907-7

Bestseller Green, author of the Deathstalker series (Deathstalker War, etc.), which concluded with Owen Deathstalker and his ragtag comrades defeating the evil Empress Lionstone, presents a swashbuckling sequel, in which Owen's descendant Lewis is dragged unwillingly into emulating his ancestor's desperate heroism. Lewis just wants to be a good Paragon (a kind of high-tech supercop/knight) and faithfully serve his best friend, King Douglas. Unfortunately, Lewis and the king's intended bride fall hopelessly in love. Even more unfortunately, as if there weren't enough monstrously subversive groups plotting against the throne from outside the court, Lewis's jealous rival, Finn, who has a perfect Paragon's surface but a brilliant sociopath's soul, succeeds in discrediting Lewis and throwing the government into disarray. And then the planet-scouring Terror erupts from another dimension. As is in a lot of space opera, the plot doesn't withstand close scrutiny, but this hardly matters as the narrative rushes from one dramatic set piece to the next. If the characterization seems just a shade above comic-book complexity, Green uses echoes of the somber King Arthur legend to lend extra weight. At the end, when Lewis sets off on his heroic quest to locate the original Deathstalker, accompanied by an outrageously diverse band of cohorts, the prospect of another long series of long novels actually sounds like fun. (Jan. 7)

FYI:The original Deathstalker series, which included five novels and a collection of short stories, was published in mass-market paperback.