The first Death’s Head novel was a very pleasant surprise back in early 2008 (review) and I had always meant to get around to reading this sequel once it was out. Of course, many things stopped me from reading it at the time, but now with the mass market I finally got my teeth into it – and what a bite it was! Everything I expected from the first novel was present and, just like the title suggests, to the maximum.
If you read my review of Death’s Head you’ll see that I had some gripes with the set pieces and back-story, but still enjoyed it. When I came to Maximum Offense I knew what sort of book I was picking up and wondered if any of those gripes would be refined this time around. To be honest, it’s a little difficult to say that these have been resolved, but it didn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that the world-building is on the thin side again because what you get when you pick up Maximum Offense is a smile from ear to ear and a book full of action. That’s not to say that there isn’t any history or back story given, but it’s subtle in the way that it’s been built up over the two books.
The build up is definitely one of the aspects of Maximum Offense that makes it stand out above the first book, at least in the sense that after reading them both it feels like a more complete universe outside of Sven’s view. The political aspects are also slowly coming into effect with Sven and his Aux being used for a mission that has implications higher up the political ladder. If the improvement between Death’s Head and this is anything to go by then the third in the series, Day of the Damned, will be a great continuation of the story.
As for the characters, well, the improvement is clear and the supporting characters are coming into their own. As Maximum Offense is once again told through the eyes of Sven we have a great first person view of the action. This also means that we see all the characters as Sven does, which sometimes gives a slightly twisted view of them, but then that’s the attraction of the novel. Sven is a bad ass, plain and simple, and that really helps a military sci-fi novel like this stand out. There are no apologies for his character or the way that Maximum Offense is written – it’s to the point and full of action and big set pieces.
Bottom line: Death’s Head Maximum Offense raises the bar set by its predecessor and delivers a kick ass, balls-to-the-wall military sci-fi novel with solid characters and a great story. Pick it up, if you can handle it…