Death's Head: Day of the Damned (Death's Head Series #3)

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Fueled with high-octane testosterone and noteworthy for a kill rate more customary in computer games than in works of literature, David Gunn’s novels take no prisoners and make no apologies. Like war itself, they are raw and violent, horrifying yet mysteriously moving. These qualities also characterize Gunn’s hero and narrator, Lt. Sven Tveskoeg, a killing machine whose DNA marks him as less–or perhaps more–than human. Whatever he is, he is always as enthralling as he is lethal....
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Death's Head: Day of the Damned (Death's Head Series #3)

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Overview

Fueled with high-octane testosterone and noteworthy for a kill rate more customary in computer games than in works of literature, David Gunn’s novels take no prisoners and make no apologies. Like war itself, they are raw and violent, horrifying yet mysteriously moving. These qualities also characterize Gunn’s hero and narrator, Lt. Sven Tveskoeg, a killing machine whose DNA marks him as less–or perhaps more–than human. Whatever he is, he is always as enthralling as he is lethal.

Sven has survived everything a hostile universe can throw at him. But he’d be the first to admit that it isn’t smarts that have kept him alive for so long. And it’s not luck, either. Because luck wouldn’t have seen him plucked out of obscurity to serve in the army of Emperor OctoV, a machine-human hybrid who appears to be a teenage boy but is actually immeasurably older. Maybe Sven has survived out of sheer orneriness–although his artificially intelligent, unmistakably sarcastic, and more or less sociopathic sidearm might argue otherwise–but Sven isn’t one to ponder such questions.

In Day of the Damned, Sven and his band of misfit auxiliaries have arrived at Farlight, capital of the Octavian Empire, for a little well-earned rest and relaxation. Sven visits his old friends Debro and Anton, whom he liberated from the prison planet of Paradise, and their teenage daughter Aptitude, whose husband he assassinated and who now has a major crush on him.

But what begins as a respite quickly turns into a bloodbath as civil war erupts. And behind the double crosses and Byzantine betrayals threatening to topple OctoV from the throne he has held for thousands of years are the United Free, a galaxy-spanning empire with the technology of gods and the morals of schoolchildren.

As usual, big trouble seems to be following Sven. Which is all right with him. He isn’t that fond of vacations, anyway.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345500021
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/21/2009
  • Series: Death's Head Series , #3
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.46 (w) x 9.58 (h) x 1.24 (d)

Meet the Author

Smartly dressed, resourceful, and discreet, David Gunn has undertaken assignments in Central America, the Middle East, and Russia (among numerous other places). Coming from a service family, he is happiest when on the move and tends not to stay in one town or city for very long. The author of Death’s Head and Death’s Head: Maximum Offense, Gunn lives in the United Kingdom.
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Read an Excerpt

Death's Head: Day of the Damned


By David Gunn

Del Rey

Copyright © 2009 David Gunn
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780345500021

Chapter One



The lizard’s mistake is to move. The moment it swaps granite for red dirt and the temptation of food, it’s dead. Because my blade hisses through the air to open its spine from skull to tail.

It’s a small lizard.

All the big ones are eaten.

Picking it up with metal fingers, I hold it over the fire until its flesh crisps and the skin peels. The man I offer to share with doesn’t want to. So I bite off its head, chewing happily.

“Sven,” Anton says. “That’s disgusting.”

It’s not disgusting at all. It’s hot and salty from the grass and the saline bugs filling its stomach. Believe me, I’ve tasted worse.

“He only does it to annoy you,” says a voice.

My sidearm has been sulking since we landed yesterday. It wants battle. It wants slaughter. It wants glory and another chip upgrade. The SIG’s got a wolf hunt instead. Pulling the gun from my holster, I toggle it into silence.

“Can I look?” Anton asks.

He takes the SIG-37 carefully. The piece has that effect on people. Full-AI sidearms are rare. Not to mention illegal. “Pretty,” he says, handing it back. Not sure that’s the word I’d use . . .

“yeah, i know,”Anton says. “Never ask a man if he’s legion. He’ll tell you if he is. If not, there’s no need to embarrass him.”

In my case telling people is compulsory. That’s because I was once busted back from sergeant, and the law wants troublemakers identified early, particularly dangerous ones.

We’re near the edge of the rift, hidden in scrub.

A fire burns behind us. Dry kindling and dry wood so it makes no smoke. A freshly killed rabbit roasts above it. The spit is made from thorn, and I trapped the animal two minutes ago. Anton’s hungry and still refusing to eat lizard.

“You know,” he says. “It’s good to see you.”

I’m waiting for the but.

“But we thought . . .”

“OctoV suggested it,” I say, cutting him short. “And a suggestion from our glorious leader . . .”

“So the general had no option?”

“None.”

Anton is shocked. As well he might be. I’m here on leave at OctoV’s suggestion. The idea that our glorious leader should bother with the welfare of a junior lieutenant, even a useful one, is so absurd I’m wondering about his real reasons. So is Anton, from the look of things.

“It’s strange,” he says. “How little Debro and I know about you.”

“What’s to know? I’m a Death’s Head lieutenant.”

“That’s it?”

“Before that, a prisoner on Paradise.”

“And before that,” he says. “The Legion Etranger . . . Sven. That’s not really an answer.”

Sounds like one to me.

He tells me most people, if you ask them who they are, they tell you about their family or their childhood, where they grew up, what they wanted to be. “Come on,” he says. “What is your earliest memory?” Debro was wondering.

Killing a dog. I’m five, maybe six. The dog is bigger than me. But old and toothless. The dog has only one canine. I have a brick.

I win.

Before I can drag the dog into hiding, older boys take it.

One of them uses the brick I used on the dog. When I wake, they’re gone and so is my food for the week. The smell of meat leads me to their fire. From their surprise, they don’t expect me to get up again. But I mend fast. How much faster than others I don’t know back then.

And I fight dirty.

Kicking embers at one, I knee another between his legs. He’s old enough for it to matter. A third turns to run and I kill him with my brick. They should have taken it with them.

No one argues when I go through the dead boy’s pack and take his blade.

The dog is too hot to carry. So I use my new knife to cut free a half- cooked leg and spend the next two days throwing my guts up.

Anton wishes he hadn’t asked. “You know,” he says. “Maybe you shouldn’t tell Debro after all . . .”

Three hours to darkness. To be honest, I’d rather be here on my own. But it’s his hunt. I’m only here because Debro, his ex-wife, thinks I’ll keep him safe. Although the sour smile on their daughter’s face when we leave says she believes the opposite.

“Something wrong?”

“Why?”

Anton glances at me. He’s been doing that lately. Mostly when he thinks I’m not looking. “You’re grinding your teeth.”

“Thinking about Apt.”

That’s Lady Aptitude Tezuka Wildeside, all of sixteen.

He decides teeth grinding makes sense.

people keep to themselves in the high plains. Few families live here by choice. Most have fled debts or are running from conscription in the army of our glorious emperor. A few like Anton are in exile.

Some are in hiding . . .

I’m on extended leave. It’s the same thing.

The ground is hard, the grass sparse. Water is rare as hen’s teeth. Sixty miles from where we sit it pisses oil instead of rain. A pall of smoke hangs to our north and drifts from the roiling flames that rise from the rift floor. A hundred fires, a thousand fires. No one knows or cares. The rift is just somewhere to avoid if you have sense.

A geoforming malfunction, Debro says.

No idea what that means.

There is a deadly beauty to the hills around us. The heat will bake you, and the cloudless nights freeze your flesh to your bones. False paths wait to tip you down ravines. Sour water poisons those who drink unwisely. And that’s before the snakes, wild dogs, and mountain cats. And wolves.

Anton is an ex-captain of the palace guard, ex-husband to Senator Debro Wildeside, one of the richest women in the empire, and an ex- inmate on Paradise, a prison planet on the other edge of the spiral arm.

Me, I’m ex-legion.

Think I might have mentioned that.

He’s told Debro we’re here to shoot a rogue wolf.

I know better. Anton wants to talk. You’d think, out in the desert, that he was trying to avoid the spies of our glorious leader. But because our glorious leader hears everything, I assume he wants to avoid being heard by Debro.

Anton grins when I say this. “You’ve changed.”

“Adaptive,” I tell him. “That’s me.”

His eyes widen. Adaptive isn’t a word I use.

“Said so in my last psyche report.”

“The one they shredded?”

Yeah, that one.

“So,” I ask, “what’s this about?”

The last time Anton and I talked was Paradise. I was keeping him and Debro alive. Times change. I get the feeling he’s trying to repay his debt.

“Sven,” he says. “If you need money . . .”

“I don’t.”

Anton sighs. “We know you’re in trouble.”

That is one way of putting it. Dig two friends out of prison. Blow up an enemy mother ship. Protect some snot-nosed colonel from his own stupidity. Get my general promoted. Win praises from our glorious leader. And end up with a list of enemies longer than I can count, starting with General Jaxx himself.

Welcome to the Octovian Empire.

Anton won’t let me shake off his thanks.

That tells me how things have changed. In prison I’d simply punch him into silence. Now we’re on his ex-wife’s land, with his buggy parked behind us, and he owns the hunting rifle I’m using. It’s a beauty, too. Perfect balance, a custom stock and a telescopic sight so perfect that looking through it feels like being there. The round is 7.62, full metal jacket. Anton’s old-fashioned like that.

“We couldn’t believe it,” he says.

He hesitates.

“No,” the man corrects himself. “I couldn’t believe it. Debro always said you’d come through. But when the guards arrived . . .”

Memory chokes his voice.

“Leave it.”

Being freed isn’t the first thing on anybody’s mind when the guards turn up. Being taken for questioning. Being shot. But freed?

Time to change the conversation.

“You really think a wolf’s out there?”

Anton squints toward the goat we’ve tethered to a post. The animal has sunk into an exhausted silence. Its tugs against the rope are weaker than they were an hour ago.

“Yes,” he says.

“Then we’ll give it another five minutes.”

“After that?”

“We go looking.”

His laugh is a bark. “Believe you would.”

What’s to believe? Temperature’s dropping and night’s coming in. There are tacos and cold beers waiting for us at Wildeside. The sooner the wolf is dead, the sooner I get a drink.

“Sven . . .”

Seems I won’t have to go looking after all.

The wolf is huge. Grizzled and gray around its muzzle. It’s also limping and has a gash on its haunches that looks fresh. As it crests a boulder, the beast stops to look back. Neck out, head held awkwardly.

“Clear shot,” Anton says.

I can see that. Hell, I’ve rarely had an easier target. The animal’s backlit by twilight. My line of sight is clear. And the animal so close the scope is a luxury.

So what stops me?

That gut feeling I get before shit goes bad.

“Sven . . .”

“Not yet.”

Anton scowls, but he waits in silence. So does the wolf. The goat, however, goes berserk. All the more so because the wolf is ignoring it. When the SIG-37 shivers out of standby, I know we’re in trouble.

“Arid wastes,” it says. “Pitiless sun. Poisonous water. A million miles from the nearest decent bar. Remember how you said we’d be safe here?”

Not sure I put it like that.

“Guess what? You were wrong.”

Very slowly, I hand Anton back his rifle.

“Go,” I tell him. “Get back to the buggy.”

The idiot shakes his head.

“Listen,” I say. “I didn’t bring you back to get you killed. Leave, I’ll keep you covered.”

“Sven,” he says. “I can’t . . .”

“Just do it.”

“Guys,” my gun says. “Focus on what’s out there.”

Chapter 2

I can put a name to the danger. Sergeant Horse Hito, killer by appointment to Indigo Jaxx, general of the Death’s Head. Now, Hito is a man I regard with respect; I just ?didn’t expect him to find me so fast.

Torn between its prey and the person coming up behind, the wolf hesitates. Probably thinks Sergeant Hito want its supper.

“Just Hito?” I ask.

My SIG does that whirring thing. “No,” it says. “Two . . .” It hesitates, flicks a few diodes. “Three . . . four,” it confirms finally. “The first has broken away. He’s heading toward us.”

Doesn’t sound right to me. “Stealth camouflage?”

“No . . . yes.” The SIG sounds puzzled. “Maybe.”

“Fucking great.”

“Not my fault,” it says. “It’s . . .” I ignore whatever else my gun wants to say. Because the trouble is here.

“Sven,” Anton says.

Yeah. Seen it.

Fuck knows what it is. But it’s not General Jaxx’s assassin. Even Horse Hito at his ugliest doesn’t look this rough.

Triangular face, sunken red eyes, needle-like teeth. When the wind changes direction we smell its stink. Like vinegar. The weirdest thing is its skin. Silver and leathery.

Anton fires.

Picking itself up, the creature gazes toward us and then turns to the wolf, which finally breaks its silence with a long low growl.

“It’s a fury,” Anton says.

I’ll take his word for it. “Hollow point,” I tell my gun.

Flechette’s too specialized and I don’t plan to light the night sky with incendiary, which would simply advertise my position to anyone else out there. Like the real Horse Hito.

Hollow points spread. That’s why I use them. These slugs keep 99.8 percent of their mass and achieve a 300 percent spread on a typical torso shot, and I fire three in quick succession. Turns out to be as pointless as shooting holes in a paper bag.

“Wait,” Anton shouts.

So I hold off going after it with a knife.

As the fury advances, the wolf tips back on its haunches. And then it springs. That’s when something strange happens. Instead of dodging, the fury slams its fist into the wolf’s ribs.

We hear bones break.

Gripping the wolf’s scruff with one hand, the creature rams the fingers of its other hand into the animal’s chest. The wolf howls. Obviously. Blood runs down the fury’s wrist, but it also drips from the wounds we punched in its gut.

“Fuck,” I say.

Anton nods. “Drinks through its fingers.”

“Blood?”

“Only blood.”

I can see why he’s worried.

Now the wolf’s dead there’s no prize for guessing the next target. Unless we were the target all along. Mind you, there’s always the goat. Ripping free my knife, I flip it around and throw.

Bleating turns to a scream of pain.

And the fury racing toward Anton hesitates. Twitching sideways,

it heads for the goat instead. Grabbing the animal, the fury sinks its fingers through muscle, and fresh blood begins to trickle from its

gut.

The bastard has skeletal arms and legs, a sack-like gut, and a focus so tight it can’t do more than one thing at once. Fight or feed, not both.

That’s its weakness.

Maybe it’s used to people backing away. Or maybe I just imagine something flicker behind those eyes.

“Sven,” Anton says.

“I know what I’m doing.”

“Hey,” says my gun. “Always a first time.”

We’re circling, the fury and I.

It lunges and I block its wrist. Like being hit with a steel bar. Next time I’m going to use my combat arm. I step sideways and it steps sideways. Not sure this thing is alive in a sense I understand. But it mimics my steps perfectly.

And it’s going to be a bastard to kill.

It lunges, I block.

When it makes its fifth or sixth lunge, I step into it. And feel the creature’s fist crack open my chest. Bones break and ribs are forced apart as it reaches inside.

Hurts like hell.

That is where the fury comes unstuck. Its skeleton might be metal. But so is my combat arm, which is piston-driven and twisted with braided hose. Plus I kill on instinct. Now, I might have learned to keep that under control . . .

But everyone’s allowed a day off.

Gripping its wrist, to stop it from reaching my heart, makes the fury raise its head and hiss at me. So I tighten my own fingers and twist. Bones break somewhere under that leathery skin.

“Earth to Anton,” the SIG says.

I’m getting there.

Ramming my gun against the creature’s throat, I pull the trigger and watch bits of steel spine, wire, and withered flesh exit through the back of its neck. Hollow point, got to love it.

“Throat?” Anton says.

Obviously. I doubt if it has a brain worth shooting.

man down. Anton kneels at my side as blood pools in a fuzzy-edged circle around me. Darkness is here and the night goggles he’s slipped over my eyes make my blood look almost fluorescent.

Continues...

Excerpted from Death's Head: Day of the Damned by David Gunn Copyright © 2009 by David Gunn. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 38 )
Rating Distribution

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(17)

4 Star

(13)

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(5)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 38 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 5, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Military Sci-Fi with a sarcastic bite!

    A great author first. A strong anti-hero that it is easy to empathize with, you root for him from the opener. Supporting cast is good, and the humor and sarcasm found is a welcome deviation from the standard milsci-fi fare. Read this, then pick up the sequel!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Death's Head Series by David Gunn

    Death's Head Series
    David Gunn


    1. Death's Head (4 ½ stars out of 5)
    2. Death's Head: Maximum Offense (4 stars out of 5)
    3. Death's Head: Day of the Damned (4 stars out of 5)

    When it's time to put down those dusty classics, the recommended high-brow literature and your lengthy summer reading list I suggest you pick up any one of David Gunn's Death's Head books. They are the Science Fiction equivalent of the action adventure blockbuster movies you've come to know and love. The stories move faster than the speed of light and are quite literally jammed with swearing, shooting and screwing (not necessarily in that order.) Between the three S's however, you'll find great storytelling, sharp dialogue and quite a few unique literary inventions. Wait! That just doesn't give justice to Gunn's work. There is backstabbing, compassion, evisceration and even a bit of technological tom-foolery. Yes, I said it - tom-foolery. How else do you explain the computer chip resurrection some characters achieve? But take my word for it this is not a cheap sub-plot to play god. There is logic and purpose behind the concept. You'll feel it before you truly understand it.

    The Death's Head books are military Science Fiction the way it was intended to be written and the way it must be read. The characters are the meanest, nastiest, toughest survival-types you'll ever meet and they find themselves in impossible situations under unbelievable odds. Yet, they still manage to stay sane and complete the missions (well, most of them anyway.) Two of my favorite creations are the talking gun (and a smart-ass to boot) and a cognizant, sentient planet. You really have to read them to understand the complexities involved. But believe me when I tell you that it's absolutely worth it. I've been reading the series since the publication of the very first book and I wait impatiently for each next installment to hit the bookstores. (I haven't done that since Harry Potter!) This is great solid, throw-back military Science Fiction and I assure you that you won't be wasting your money if you purchase every book in the series.

    The Alternative
    Southeast, Wisconsin

    http://thealternativeone.blogspot.com/

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 11, 2009

    Great read, goes in unexpected direction

    I really liked it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Death's Head Series by David Gunn

    Book Review - Death's Head Series by David Gunn
    Death's Head Series
    David Gunn


    1. Death's Head (4 ½ stars out of 5)
    2. Death's Head: Maximum Offense (4 stars out of 5)
    3. Death's Head: Day of the Damned (4 stars out of 5)

    When it's time to put down those dusty classics, the recommended high-brow literature and your lengthy summer reading list I suggest you pick up any one of David Gunn's Death's Head books. They are the Science Fiction equivalent of the action adventure blockbuster movies you've come to know and love. The stories move faster than the speed of light and are quite literally jammed with swearing, shooting and screwing (not necessarily in that order.) Between the three S's however, you'll find great storytelling, sharp dialogue and quite a few unique literary inventions. Wait! That just doesn't give justice to Gunn's work. There is backstabbing, compassion, evisceration and even a bit of technological tom-foolery. Yes, I said it - tom-foolery. How else do you explain the computer chip resurrection some characters achieve? But take my word for it this is not a cheap sub-plot to play god. There is logic and purpose behind the concept. You'll feel it before you truly understand it.

    The Death's Head books are military Science Fiction the way it was intended to be written and the way it must be read. The characters are the meanest, nastiest, toughest survival-types you'll ever meet and they find themselves in impossible situations under unbelievable odds. Yet, they still manage to stay sane and complete the missions (well, most of them anyway.) Two of my favorite creations are the talking gun (and a smart-ass to boot) and a cognizant, sentient planet. You really have to read them to understand the complexities involved. But believe me when I tell you that it's absolutely worth it. I've been reading the series since the publication of the very first book and I wait impatiently for each next installment to hit the bookstores. (I haven't done that since Harry Potter!) This is great solid, throw-back military Science Fiction and I assure you that you won't be wasting your money if you purchase every book in the series.

    The Alternative
    Southeast, Wisconsin

    http://thealternativeone.blogspot.com/

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Death's Head Series by David Gunn

    Death's Head Series
    David Gunn


    1. Death's Head (4 ½ stars out of 5)
    2. Death's Head: Maximum Offense (4 stars out of 5)
    3. Death's Head: Day of the Damned (4 stars out of 5)

    When it's time to put down those dusty classics, the recommended high-brow literature and your lengthy summer reading list I suggest you pick up any one of David Gunn's Death's Head books. They are the Science Fiction equivalent of the action adventure blockbuster movies you've come to know and love. The stories move faster than the speed of light and are quite literally jammed with swearing, shooting and screwing (not necessarily in that order.) Between the three S's however, you'll find great storytelling, sharp dialogue and quite a few unique literary inventions. Wait! That just doesn't give justice to Gunn's work. There is backstabbing, compassion, evisceration and even a bit of technological tom-foolery. Yes, I said it - tom-foolery. How else do you explain the computer chip resurrection some characters achieve? But take my word for it this is not a cheap sub-plot to play god. There is logic and purpose behind the concept. You'll feel it before you truly understand it.

    The Death's Head books are military Science Fiction the way it was intended to be written and the way it must be read. The characters are the meanest, nastiest, toughest survival-types you'll ever meet and they find themselves in impossible situations under unbelievable odds. Yet, they still manage to stay sane and complete the missions (well, most of them anyway.) Two of my favorite creations are the talking gun (and a smart-ass to boot) and a cognizant, sentient planet. You really have to read them to understand the complexities involved. But believe me when I tell you that it's absolutely worth it. I've been reading the series since the publication of the very first book and I wait impatiently for each next installment to hit the bookstores. (I haven't done that since Harry Potter!) This is great solid, throw-back military Science Fiction and I assure you that you won't be wasting your money if you purchase every book in the series.

    The Alternative
    Southeast, Wisconsin

    http://thealternativeone.blogspot.com/

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  • Posted July 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Bound to happen

    This one is nowhere near as enjoyable as the first 2 books. I was actually very disappointed in it. It did have some interesting information but it just felt like everything you learned in the first 2 books is now gone.

    I just read it last night and I am upset at what I read and still having problems coping with the fact it did not come close to my hopes for this book.

    I guess this is what happens when you have 2 good books. The decline is inevitable when you are writing to appease the masses and not staying true to yourself.

    There goes 6 months of anticipation down the drain. At least I will not keep my hopes up for the next one.

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  • Posted July 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The third Death's Head far futuristic in space science fiction is an incredibly fast-paced thriller

    Following his last bloody operation (see MAXIMUM OFFENSE), not quite human DNA, Army killing machine Lieutenant Sven Tveskoeg takes some deserved R&R at the home of theWildside. That ends abruptly when his Commander General Jaxx sends a message to perform a cleansing mission with a new unit in his home city Farlight; the capital is in the midst of a brutal civil war; the reign of boyish looking Emperor OctoV spanning several millennia and tens of thousand planets is in jeopardy of ending.

    Sven sans his combat arm or his AI Sag handgun and his squad try to prevent a successful coup d'etat while he still attempts to avoid unnecessary collateral damage in this urban warfare zone while the enemy couldn't care less if planets are destroyed let alone a city to achieve the mission.. The intelligence is weak as no one knows that the rebels have support from the allegedly peace seeking United Free Empire that has plans to annex OctoV's tens of thousands of planets into their spans of control. However the plotting of rulers means nothing to Sven. He lives for two reasons: the promise and the kill.

    The third Death's Head far futuristic in space science fiction is an incredibly fast-paced thriller that never takes a breather once the General sends Sven on his mission (almost at the very start of the book) and never decelerates even for a breather. As the speed of light story line moves bloodily on and on, David Gunn also answers much of the questions from the previous Sven's adventures; not an easy task for a writer whose prime color in the minds of the audience is red. Readers will appreciate this bleak look at mankind in outer space still fighting one another.

    Harriet Klausner

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    dark grim outer space tale

    In the far distant future, humanity has spread across space as over time earth has become part of mankind¿s original being mythos. Three rival human groups compete for superiority at a time when Emperor Octo V claims to rule the ten thousand systems yet seeks expansion. His Octavians and the Enlightened users of the Uplift Virus are at war with one another. The third group United Free pretends to seek universal peace while manipulating their two competitors so they run the universe their way. --- The United Free assigns Lieutenant Sven Tveskoeg and his squad the Aux to find a missing U/F observer sent to planet Hekati, but before landing an explosion on board cripples the vessel he rescues his squad. However, they soon realize this is not Hekati as the U/F leadership sent them on a beta test before sending them to the right planet where society¿s sociopaths and government exiles reside. Danger prevails as Sven courageously leads his unit, but soon he and his team learn the real mission. --- DEATH¿S HEAD starts off as a dark humorous grim outer space tale, but once on Hekati turns even darker and grimmer without the humor as David Gunn argues that war is not a precision dance to the stars but chaotic hell. Sven is terrific as he is tough and loyal, but also caring as he prefers to avoid unnecessary collateral damage others couldn¿t care less if planets are destroyed to achieve the mission. Readers will appreciate this bleak look at mankind in outer space still fighting one another. --- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2007

    I can only hope he keeps writing.

    While it may come accross as just an action flick type novel, it really has a much deeper feel in the reading. Go read it now and hope he keeps writing.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Very timely sf

    On a remote dangerous desert planet, the brass whips Sergeant Sven Tveskoeg within an inch of his life before booting him out of the military for insubordination. As he struggles with his critical wounds, he finds he can telepathically communicate with the strange sentient native life form the ferox. This skill saves his life when the ferocious ferox attack the military encampment leaving no one else alive except the 98.2 % human.--------------- As Sven recovers, the Emperor OctoV orders Death¿s Head General Jaxx to locate him and test his loyalty to the empire, his ability to follow orders and his will to live. If Sven fails the exam, OctoV explains Jaxx will pay the consequences. When Jaxx finds Sven he also learns he deserted so he incarcerates him on the frozen prison planet Paradise. Sven shows leadership skills when he leads a successful revolt against the guards. Jaxx enlists Sven in Death¿s Head and sends him in charge of a squad facing suicide as they battler the emperor¿s enemy, the Enlightened, former humans changed into invincible cyborgs. -------------------------- This is a lighthearted mocking of the military science fiction in outer space sub-genre where greater than life superheroes save the day against unbelievable odds. Ironically, Jaxx is an antihero whose escapades are over the top of Olympus Mons with lampooning being the prime directive. Readers who take pleasure in intense satirical science fiction will want to join Jaxx on his misadventures in the Gunn galaxy.----------------- Harriet Klausner

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