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Death's Head (Death's Head Series #1)

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Overview

Set in a chillingly realistic far-future world, and featuring a gritty antihero even more frightening than the evil empire he serves as soldier and assassin, Death’s Head is sure to be one of the most talked-about novels of the year. David Gunn is loaded–and he shoots to kill.

At the top of the galactic pecking order is the United Free, a civilization of awe-inspiring technological prowess so far in advance of other space-faring powers as to seem untouchable gods. Most of the ...

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

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Overview

Set in a chillingly realistic far-future world, and featuring a gritty antihero even more frightening than the evil empire he serves as soldier and assassin, Death’s Head is sure to be one of the most talked-about novels of the year. David Gunn is loaded–and he shoots to kill.

At the top of the galactic pecking order is the United Free, a civilization of awe-inspiring technological prowess so far in advance of other space-faring powers as to seem untouchable gods. Most of the known universe has fallen under their inscrutable sway. The rest is squabbled over by two empires: one ruled with an iron fist by OctoV, a tyrant who appears to his followers as a teenage boy but is in reality something very different, the other administered by the Uplifted, bizarre machinelike intelligences, and their no-longer-quite-human servants, cyborgs known as the Enlightened.

Sven Tveskoeg, an ex-sergeant demoted for insubordination and sentenced to death, is a vicious killer with a stubborn streak of loyalty. Sven possesses a fierce if untutored intelligence and a genetic makeup that is 98.2 percent human and 1.8 percent . . . something else. Perhaps that “something else” explains how quickly he heals from even the worst injuries or how he can communicate telepathically with the ferox, fearsome alien savages whose natural fighting abilities regularly outperform the advanced technology of their human enemies. Perhaps it is these unique abilities that bring Sven to the attention of OctoV.

Drafted into the Death’s Head, the elite enforcers of OctoV’s imperial will, Sven is given a new lease on life. Armed with a SIG diabolo–an intelligent gun–and an illegal symbiont called a kyp, Sven is sent to a faraway planet, the latest battleground between the Uplifted and OctoV. There he finds himself in the midst of a military disaster, one that will take all his courage–and all his firepower–to survive.

But an even deadlier struggle is taking place, a struggle that will draw the attention of the United Free. Sven knows he is a pawn, and pawns have a bad habit of being sacrificed.

But Sven is nobody’s sacrifice. And even a pawn can checkmate a king.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Ultimate antihero Sven Tveskoeg is 98.2 percent human and 1.8 something you don't want to know about. Demoted for insubordination and then sentenced to death, this ex-sergeant gets a seemingly limited lease on life when he's drafted into the Death's Head, an elite group enforcing the imperial will. Sven's hunger for no-holds-barred combat is enhanced by his telepathic ability and uncanny capacity for healing his wounds. This far-future military sci-fi is as gripping as its matching video game.
From the Publisher
“The finest military science-fiction debut in years.”
–Kirkus Reviews

“Hardboiled, laser-blasting science fiction as it’s meant to be.”
–Charlie Huston, author of Caught Stealing and Already Dead

From the Hardcover edition.

Publishers Weekly

First-time novelist Gunn, a Brit who's served his country by undertaking mysterious military or espionage "assignments," delivers a hilarious far-future shoot-'em-up featuring a flawless antihero. As Sven Tveskoeg survives one certain death after another, he reveals himself to be a supernaturally quick healer, able to communicate telepathically with aliens, honorable and compassionate in the face of terrible consequences and equally capable of masterminding a prison planet rebellion, the invasion of a city and the assassination of cyborg generals. Fortunately for Gunn (and Sven), readers are much more likely to cackle with glee than to point and snicker. Some may accuse Gunn of autobiographical wish-fulfillment that would make a fan-fic author blush, and Sven's adventures read almost like a novelization of a movie or video game. Those looking for hard-bitten military SF will be disappointed. Those who love schlock that stops just short of parody will be delighted. (May)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
Far-future warrior makes tough choices, wondering whether honor, loyalty and survival are compatible. On a desert planet inhabited by ferox, ferocious alien savages, Sven Tveskoeg, an ex-sergeant in a sort of galactic foreign legion, has been flogged half to death for insubordination when the ferox wipe out the base. Sole survivor Sven, tied to the flogging-post, finds that when spurred by pain he can communicate telepathically with his captors, and so survives among them for months. Later, rescued by the legendary Death's Head brigade, Sven comes before General Jaxx; the general, curious about Sven's claims, can't trust a man who's technically a deserter. Sven ends up on Paradise, a frozen, hellish prison planet where hardened criminals and political prisoners eke out a ghastly existence beneath the ice inside the dead bodies of giant worms. With his military skills, smarts, ability to self-heal and bionic arm, Sven's soon running the place. Now satisfied, Jaxx drafts him into the Death's Head and sends him to yet another planet, where the Death's Head, mercenaries and conscripts battle Emperor OctoV's enemies, the Enlightened, humans transformed by a virus into omniscient cyborgs. Sven acquires a squad of his own but, after desperate fighting, realizes he's been betrayed: The entire action is a feint, the soldiers mere sacrifices in an incomprehensible power struggle. Worse, most humans in the galaxy live peacefully, ruled by the super-advanced, hive-minded U/Free. Sven's unswerving sense of honor clashes with his steadfast loyalty to OctoV: Can he and his tiny squad survive overwhelming odds, and, if so, at what cost?Brutal, ugly, visceral and enthralling: the finest militaryscience-fiction debut in years.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345503763
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/26/2008
  • Series: Death's Head Series , #1
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 997,400
  • Product dimensions: 4.16 (w) x 6.80 (h) x 0.93 (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. Gunn lives in the United Kingdom, and this is his first novel.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

The cage opens at the front, a double loop of chain hinging its door at the bottom. At the top a thicker chain and a fist-sized padlock keep the cage safely shut.

It sits against a dirt-colored wall, a position chosen so the desert sun can broil its occupant. Occasionally a trooper will give the cage a quick glance as he marches across the parade ground, but most men are careful to look away.

Bad luck is catching.

“Drag him out then.” The sergeant’s voice is raw, almost triumphant. Nodding to his corporals, he points at the cage. As if there can be any doubt about what Sergeant Fitz means.

He tosses the larger of two corporals his key.

Behind Sergeant Fitz stands a blond boy in a neat uniform. He’s our new lieutenant, fresh off a troop carrier and quite obviously terrified by what is about to happen.

As the smaller corporal jacks his rifle, the larger one fumbles catching the key. Close up, I can see that he’s sweating, his fingers trembling as he reaches for the lock on my cage.

Everyone holds their breath.

Yanking at the door, he jumps to one side as the door hits dirt, raising dust. I could make them wait, but why bother? Instead I erupt from the cage with my good hand already lunging for his throat.

The man steps back, instinct kicking in.

He’s too late.

I have his larynx between my thumb and curled first finger, and it’s the work of a moment to crush his windpipe. For good measure, I slam my forehead into his face, breaking his nose. The corporal’s already dead, he’s just too stupid to realize that fact.

“Shoot the man . . .”

That’s our new lieutenant. As expected, everyone ignores him. Does he really think Sergeant Fitz will allow me that easy an exit from life?

“Take him down,” says Sergeant Fitz.

Reversing his rifle, to use as a club, the other corporal advances  toward me. I’m naked, I’ve been in the cage for fifteen days, and Fitz severed half the wires on my prosthetic arm before locking me away. I’m so thirsty, I’d probably drink this man’s blood if I could get him close enough . . .

He thinks he can take me.

I grin.

And that’s enough to make him falter. Dropping to a squat, I kick out the corporal’s leg, roll myself up his falling body, and reach his throat as his skull hits the dirt. My elbow does for this one what my thumb and first finger did for the other. He dies gasping, and I’m back on my feet and smiling at Sergeant Fitz before the lieutenant can get his pistol from its holster.

“No, sir . . . Let me.”
The words are a hairbreadth away from being a direct order.

The lieutenant takes his hand from his side.

For a glorious second it looks as if Sergeant Fitz is going to challenge me himself. Unfortunately that’s too much of a dream to be true, and he signals to a couple of recent recruits instead, then a couple more.

Can I take all four?

It’s barely worth asking the question. They’re children in uniform, cropped hair doing little to hide the softness of their faces and the fear in their eyes. Is the sergeant that clever? I ask myself as I watch the recruits ready themselves for an attack. One of them has wet his pants, the stain a dark shame on his sand-colored trousers.

“Get on with it,” the sergeant growls.

The boys glance at one another.

As they advance, I let the anger drain from my body. It’s one thing to kill NCOs, and I know enough about those two corporals to see them hanged. It’s quite another thing to kill children and I don’t intend to start now.

A bullhide whip tears skin on its first blow, rips muscle within five, and opens a victim’s back to the bone before reaching double figures. Men begin to die when the number rises above fifteen, and no man has lived beyond fifty.

This is a fact.

In the legion fifty lashes is a sentence of death, and any decent officer will give permission for the victim to kill himself before whipping begins. But Sergeant Fitz is not a decent officer. Mind you, he’s not an officer at all. He is an NCO and they’re the worst. I should know, I used to be one.

“Three-minute break.”

Being broiled in the cage is a bad way to die. I’m fifteen lashes into a far worse one, tied naked to a whipping post, with the flesh on my back peeling away like torn paper, and the man who put me here has just given his whip master a water break.

"Want some?” asks Fitz, holding the flask in front of my face.

Of course I do. Not that I’m going to tell him that.

“Too bad.”

I’m a big man, built with physical exertion and kept lean by the demands of frontier life. Like all the soldiers in the forts south of Karbonne, I’ve burned away my body hair with quick swipes of a firebrand. We are not ferox. We will not share even secondary characteristics with them.

Above me, on top of the whipping post, is a trophy; it’s probably going to be the last thing I ever see. It has fangs and narrow eye sockets, because ferox need to shield their eyes from the harsh light of the desert, and few stretches of desert come harsher or brighter than the dunes around Fort Libidad.

The skull is taken from an adult male.

If the heavy jaw does not tell you this, the bony ridge running like a helmet crest from its forehead to the back of its neck undoubtedly will.

A dozen stories revolve around this skull. Apparently I killed its owner in hand-to-hand combat and dragged his head back to Fort Libidad as proof. This is bullshit; what’s more, it is dangerous bullshit. No one goes hand-to-hand with a ferox and lives. I found the skull eighteen miles away. This was how far I tracked a deserter on the old lieutenant’s orders.

“Track him for a day,” he told me. “After that, return.”

We both knew what went unspoken. If a man is not found inside a day, then he is dead anyway, killed by the temperature drop that hits this planet in the hours before dawn . . .

Out of my sight, the whip master picks up his whip. I know this from the crack it makes as dried blood is flicked from the lash. “And again,” says Sergeant Fitz, and I tense myself against the next fifteen blows.

Sixteen. Seventeen. Eighteen.

I’m not sure how much more of this I can take. And then the skull grins. Bone twists like flesh, rotten teeth bare, and the slitted eyes narrow further, in obvious amusement.

I’m going to die . . .

My thought comes as a shock.

Aren’t I?

The ferox grins some more. Jaws curve upward in a way that defies physics and all logic. Not yet, it says. And not here.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 39 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(17)

4 Star

(13)

3 Star

(5)

2 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 39 Customer Reviews
  • 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/

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2014

    Vwrvgtydrwwtvrevfdyfv

    Erer travrt trestgstret teyrtecb

    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/

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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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    Posted February 7, 2011

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    Posted January 28, 2010

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    Posted January 1, 2010

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    Posted May 8, 2009

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    Posted May 8, 2009

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