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Death's Head, by David Gunn Book Review | SFReader.com
Death's Head, by David Gunn Genre: Military Science Fiction Publisher: Del Rey Published: 2008 Review Posted: 11/2/2008 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 8 out of 10
Death's Head, by David Gunn
Book Review by Kevin Lumley
Have you read this book?
Military based sci-fi action adventure with Sven Tveskoeg, a soldier in the far future.
Written very much tongue in cheek Death's Head is an enjoyable enough novel, taken for what it is.
It is not a hard core sci-fi novel by any means...in fact it comes perilously close to being outright science fantasy in one or two places.
Sven is very much the 'super soldier'. He has the unique ability to regenerate his wounded body in a very short period of time. (much like the Wolverine of X-Man fame) This allows him to survive violent encounters on a regular basis. And the violent encounters are regular. In fact they're the entire reason for the novel. There's no great depth or twisty plot turns in this story. Sven is a hardcore and cynical soldier who strides indomitably from one action setting to another, overrunning and subduing various alien and human enemies along the way. Halfway through the story he picks up a smart gun...no really...it's got an inbuilt computer and talks. A wisecracking and sarcastic sidearm isn't something I've come across in a military based sci-fi novel before, and I must admit the inclusion of the chatty weapon was cause for amusement in several places.
I thoroughly enjoyed the story up until the last third...unfortunately by then the reader knows that nothing, but nothing, is going to be a match for Sven. With his regenerative powers, his bionic left arm, his smart-alec gun and his newly derived powers to transport himself from one side of the room to the other, (just by thinking about it) he's all but unstoppable. Even a Jedi Knight would struggle to defeat Sven, one feels.
And that's where I felt let down by the story. Sven is a great character. He's cynical and relies on rat cunning and street/lower echelon military smarts to figure out his violent path in life...but with all his internal and external abilities and techno magic to aid him, he fast becomes a caricature of a superhero. Like Wolverine mixed with the Six Million Dollar Man.
If the author had stuck with Sven as a normal, cynical but skilled fighter of the future, and avoided the superhero-like abilities and attributes I think the story could have developed along more serious lines.
The novel garnished some great reviews. Like this one:"The finest military science-fiction debut in years." --Kirkus Reviews.
I'm guessing that the Kirkus folks don't read a lot of military based sci-fi?
The military aspect of the story isn't really that important. Sven could just as easily have been a futuristic bounty hunter or space pirate.
All Sven required for this story was to be placed in various situations that would allow him to overcome and conquer...something he does throughout the entire novel.
The military aspect just allows him to be placed in such situations without going to the trouble of inventing other, harder to imagine scenarios.
I was actually enjoying the novel right up until the last few chapters. Once Sven developed the ability to jaunt himself for short distances...I realized we'd gone from an almost unstoppable warrior to a superhero...and we all know superheros are going to win all their battles before the battle even takes place.
Note: Death's Head is written in first person present tense.
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It was a fast, fun read, but didn't have much depth. I agree that by the end, the main character was pretty much invincible, which took away the sense of jeopardy. So I was reading to see how he got through the various predicaments, even those I wasn't much concerned about him getting killed.