Wednesday, 30 May 2007

‘Death’s Head’ – David Gunn

The last thing you want to do is mess with ex-sergeant Sven Tveskoeg of the Legion Etrangere. He’s taken down a bull Ferox with his bare hands and has the prosthetic arm to prove it. He’s survived a flogging under a cruel desert sun and murdered his way up the criminal hierarchy of a penal ice planet. Now he is fighting for the Death’s Head, the emperor’s elite fighting force, where Sven and his auxiliaries take on the jobs where being expendable is the only requirement. The team comes together on a backwater planet where a war of attrition serves only to draw forces away from strategic targets elsewhere. A larger game is being played out but no one counted on Sven changing the rules…
I picked this book up in an airport departure lounge a couple of days ago and by the time I touched down at my destination I had almost finished it. ‘Death’s Head’ is space opera at it’s most bloody and outrageous, a mixture of Richard Morgan’s uber-violence with an ability not to take itself too seriously at the same time (a la’ Simon Green). There are no highbrow concepts, just many different ways in which a person can die, the closest that the reader gets to ‘hard science’ is a talking gun (possibly the most sarcastic weapon ever to grace the page). Gunn has clearly put a lot of thought into his fictional universe, while he doesn’t spring any suprises with its inhabitants and factions they were all interesting enough to keep me reading and wanting to find out more.
‘Death’s Head’ makes no apologies for what it is, a frantic hell raiser of an adventure with loads of gadgets and explosions, like James Bond on steroids. However, this almost proves its downfall as it can come across just the same battle repeated again and again. For me though, the plot helped the book to rise above this potential problem. This is the first book in a new series and my only concern is that Sven is already too powerful (in himself) to maintain reader interest over several books. I’m hoping that he will meet his match, on more than one occasion, just so that we can see he is still only human. I’ll be picking up the next book so we will see how things progress…
‘Death’s Head’ will not be the sci-fi book of the year but I reckon it will be the one that you enjoy reading the most!

Eight and a Half out of Ten

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