Review | Death's Head by David Gunn (Bantam)

Sven Tveskoeg is a legionnaire on a backwater planet, a self-healer and a tough son of a bitch with an artificial arm. When his base is attacked by the ruthless animal-like Ferox he is taken their prisoner and lives with them, a strained relationship at best. Sven is able to understand the Ferox, something that nobody thought was possible. When he is eventually rescued, interest in him is raised and a high ranking officer in Death's Head (a high level special forces outfit) has plans for him. Sven is not one to pussy-foot around and answers bluntly to anyone that questions him, the sort of attitude that other Death's Head officers despise and he makes no friends because of this - the only reason he is tolerated is because it is General Jaxx that essentially head-hunted him.

Sven's journey is a rough ride and one that eventually leads him to an enlightened planet where the war between Octovian's and the Enlightened continues with its invasion. Sven recruits his own auxiliaries and leads a head on attack in the initial battle, building his reputation even more than a normal Death's Head officer would expect. It is on this planet that Sven and his Aux fight and live while the events of the war dictate his actions.

Firstly let me say this: Death's Head is a rush. Told in the first person through the eyes of Sven, from page one you know what you can expect through the book and it doesn't let up at all. The character of Sven gives the perfect viewpoint for the story - his intelligence only rivaled by his skills in battle. His tactics are not that refined, but deadly all the same. The book is simply an entertaining balls-to-the-wall action adventure with enough violence, sex and action to please. A personal favourite of mine is Sven's weapon, an sentient gun with a wicked attitude that brings the story up a notch once it appears.

Although immensely enjoyable, there are some points that stop this book being an essential read. First of those is the fact that the book is basically repeating the same formula in different settings. This doesn't detract from the enjoyment, but if the book was any longer it would get very frustrating. The other thing, and possibly a personal gripe, is the fact that there is next to no explanation of the back story, events or setting at all - something that I would like to know. This is also a strength of the book, the pace moves along realistically and without the need for explanation. Some further exploration of the universe and explanation to the readers wouldn't have hurt, but it's something that could ruin the book if it isn't done right.

I'm looking forward very much to any sequels that David Gunn produces, although I'm hoping that more back story is revealed. Taking into account the nature of the novel, this is about as much fun you can have with an action sf story without it taking itself too seriously.

Alex Cull  – (4 March 2008 at 12:48)  

Very good review - and this book sounds interesting. Haven't read any David Gunn yet, but will probably add this to my TBR pile.

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