Sunday, August 15, 2010

Deaths Head by David Gunn reviews

Death’s Head 

Few survive the cage. Fewer still live to face the whipping post. But insubordinate son-of-a-bitch Sven Tveskoeg does. As this ex-sergeant in the Legion Etrangere feels the first lash fall, he sees the desert tribes attack - and watches them slaughter his comrades before his comrades can kill him…

Rescued from certain death, Sven joins the tribes. However his ruthless skills have come to the attention of an elite special ops force, the infamous Death’s Head.

They want Sven to help them out with a little ‘local difficulty’. He knows he’s a pawn in a dangerous game - and pawns have a habit of being sacrificed. But Sven’s nobody’s sacrifice. And even a pawn can checkmate a king…

Death’s Head Maximum Offence 

Lieutenant Sven Tveskoeg’s genetic makeup is only 98.2 percent human.

The remainder is non-specific and could explain his enhanced healing abilities, superior strength and sociopath ic tendencies. A badass soldier with a hair-trigger temper and a moon-sized chip on his shoulder, these qualities would condemn a man in any decent society.

Luckily, Sven doesn’t live in a decent society. He lives in the empire of the tyrant OctoV: part machine, part boy, part god and all evil. Sven’s unique qualities have brought him to OctoV’s attention and earned him a commission in the Death’s Head, the elite corps dedicated to killing and dying for the greater glory of - you guessed it - OctoV.

Now Sven and his Aux squad are heading for the artificial world of Hekati. A citizen of the U/Free (an empire not only vaster than OctoV’s but also technologically superior) has gone missing and Sven and the team must find the poor, lost soul. But on Hekati, nothing and no one can be trusted. Somebody wants Sven dead, too.

Death’s Head Day of the Damned 

Lieutenant Sven Tveskoeg is a killing machine whose DNA marks him out as less - or perhaps more - than human.

He’s survived everything a hostile universe can throw at him, but it’s not luck that’s kept him alive for so long. A lucky man wouldn’t be picked out of obscurity to serve in the army of his Emperor, the machine-human hybrid OctoV.

Now Sven and his squad of misfit auxiliaries are in the empire’s capital for a bit of R and R. But the emperor is missing and what begins as civil unrest soon becomes civil war as riots turn to slaughter. And behind the scheming that threatens to topple OctoV is, of course, the U/Free, a galaxy-spanning empire with the technology of gods and the morals of school children.

As anarchy takes over, Sven could just stay low and do nothing. But when has he ever done anything that sensible?

The Death’s head books are a cross between Rambo, Terminator and Commando! With a little Starship Troopers thrown in. There’s three different warring factions. The Uplifted, who are humans infected with a mechanical virus which turns them into half human/half machines. The Octovian Empire is run by a fourteen year old part machine part boy and self proclaimed Emporer with a God complex, called OctoV. Then there’s the U/Free, who are the most technologically advanced and supposed mediators of the other two barbaric nations. They make sure if you’re fighting a war, then you’re fighting according to the rules. The lead Sven Tveskoeg is seven feet tall and has a metal forearm and hand. Plus, he not quite human. We meet Sven being released from a cage only to be whipped to death. He punched two higher ranking officers, which carries a death penalty. Obviously, he doesn’t die. A marauding tribe of ferox (furred, humanoid beasts with claws and armor plating) slaughter his whole battalion and then take him with them. It seems it’s going to take a grenade strapped to his back to kill him. Might not even then. He’s rescued from the desert planet and inducted into the Death’s Head, a special forces unit in the Octovian Empire. OctoV has an ulterior motive, but you’re never sure (and neither is Sven) why he has been chosen. Sven is given orders and he follows them. Sven has a dry wit and violent tendencies, but is a man who keeps his promises. He uses whatever he can to his advantage, even if that means fellow soldiers. He rescues a girl he was sent to kill, after meeting her parents in a prison, and her mother asks Sven to keep her safe. He gathers his own team of soldiers he calls the Aux, after they’ve all been conscripted into a war they don’t want to fight. He pretty much tells them if they follow him, he’ll keep them alive. Which he does. They become pretty loyal to him. He sometimes wonders if it was worth it. He is proud of them though. Sven doesn’t take crap from anyone, makes few friends, but is utterly faithful to those he does. I like the way he looks out for the Aux and other people he comes across. The Aux are interesting side characters, who all have a skill Sven utilizes as much as possible. I love the addition of his SIG-37 with full AI, who has some of the best lines in the books. The banter between man and gun can be quite funny. Sven often threatens the gun when it tells him something he doesn’t like. Sven learns things about himself that he finds quite surprising, but I never found them not fitting with his personality. He doesn’t let you know everything about him, and even his Aux can get quite shocked when they learn something new. It’s not until the third book that you find out why OctoV has taken such an interest in Sven. OctoV has seen something in him that will change the course of history as they know it. So many things he’s done have paved the way for this new era that’s still quite ambiguous. I was pretty annoyed at the ending of book 3. The next chapter in Sven’s life is going to be huge and I can’t wait to find out what happens next. As yet I have been unable to find out anything about the fourth book and it’s driving me a little crazy. 

The Deaths Head books are violent, graphic, chock-full of action and sometimes a little outrageous. One of my favorite quotes from a review on the back cover is ‘So damn exciting you’ll need oxygen afterwards’ FantasyBookCritic. I think they sum up the series really well. Definitely 5 out of 5.

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