Spoilers for the plot of Stackpole's novels below.
Now, on the surface Stackpole appears to be writing techno-fetishistic military sci-fi with Mary Sue characters and comic book dialog, but what if we've misjudged the man? What if there's something more going on between the lines?
Stackpole's thesis I believe is this: One's personal identity, one's sense of self, is an artificial construction with no grounding in reality. Happiness is therefore found not by realizing one's "true" self (because no such thing exists), but by assuming an identity pleasing to those around you.
Let's look at the evidence.
There is an obsession in these works with doubles. Hanse Davion has one, Melissa Steiner has one, Tormano Liao kills one, Joshua Marik is replaced by one, Thomas Marik is one.
The concept of the double expresses the fear that one's identity can be stolen, that your very life can be stolen, by someone who looks like you.
Implicit in this fear is the realization that who you are is literally only skin deep.
Almost everyone who isn't a double is pretending to be something they aren't. Justin Xiang pretends to be a Capellan loyalist. Frederick Steiner pretends to be Focht. Sharilar Mori pretends to be a ComStar operative. Jaime Wolf pretends to be a mercenary. Phelan Kell pretends to be a clanner.
Thing is, nobody ever breaks these disguises.
Each one of the above people perfectly, perfectly play their role. Stackpole is showing us how easy is it to assume a new identity, which will be totally indistinguishable from our "real" identity. How is this possible, unless our real identity is also an act, a sham, a play we put on for others?
Paper thin loyalties
Time and again, we see how easily supposedly fanatical loyalty is broken. The Capellan Confederation is betrayed a record three times in the space of two years: Pavel Ridzik and the Tikonov Republic, the Northwind Highlanders, Candace Liao and the St. Ives Compact.
Loyalty to hone, family, friends and colleagues is often seen as one of the cornerstones of our identity, yet we are shown how weak such loyalties really are, driving us to wonder, what else about our identity is also paper thin?
Happy endings are few and far between and usually only temporary, but let's see who qualifies.
Justin Xiang, an assassin who lied about his identity and aided his homeland to slaughter millions of supposed countrymen, is rewarded with a beautiful bride and glory.
Phelan Kell, who betrays both his natural homeland and his adopted one, is given refuge by the former and the most exalted leadership position by the latter.
Who dies in these stories?
People unable to shift their identities. Yorinaga Kurita attempts to stay true to his ideals, and gets to commit suicide for his pains. Tsen Shang is wed to a psychopathic murderess.
Clearly, happy endings are only earned if you are willing to change who you are to suit those around you.
In short, we have underestimated the much maligned Mr Stackpole. Or not. Could be he's just a bit of a hack.