Tuesday, 22 April 2008
‘Death’s Head: Maximum Offense’ – David Gunn (Del Rey Books)
Last year saw me pick up ‘Death’s Head’ (David Gunn’s debut) as something to read on a flight home. By the time the plane touched down I had almost finished it and was left trying frantically to finish the book before I had to leave the plane! My review is over Here. It was a nice surprise then to see the sequel come through the letter box a couple of weeks ago. I’d had a couple of issues with ‘Death’s Head’ but, on the whole, this was a series that I was looking forward to seeing more of…
Some well deserved time off comes to a swift end when Sven Tveskoeg and the Aux (his crew of militia) are called upon to rescue a United Free observer from a deserted habitat deep in Uplift (think the Borg) space. At least that’s what Sven has been told, upon arrival at the Hekati habitat, the mission takes a very different turn to what little briefing Sven received. Sven has no idea what’s going on and that’s enough to put him in a very bad mood indeed. When Sven’s in this kind of mood no-one is safe, not even his own side…
I can’t remember where I read this, may have been on Amazon, but someone said that David Gunn is actually a pseudonym for Richard Morgan for when he wants to write something uber-violent but not as cerebral as his regular stuff. While I don’t think for a minute that this is the case, you can certainly see why people might think so. No expense is spared in bringing the reader the most visceral hand to hand combat, that I’ve seen, along with lots of heavy machinery exploding in a variety of ways. There’s elements of ‘MacGyver’ here as Sven seems able to make use of pretty much anything to get himself out of a tight spot and bring down the enemy. While I had to admire the author’s ingenuity, the relentless violence got a bit tedious after a while and felt like it had nothing behind it to back it up. To be fair, this cartoon like approach does work but only if the reader knows exactly what they are getting into. This isn’t a ‘hard concept’ sci-fi novel that will make you think, it’s space opera at it’s most visual. Entertaining on the surface but not a lot underneath.
When I reviewed ‘Death’s Head’, I mentioned that I wondered if Gunn would be able to maintain reader interest in Sven as the character seemed able to beat anything he’s up against. Gunn works his way round this issue by varying the threats that Sven must face but there’s not a lot of suspense as the reader will quickly guess the outcome. Again, it’s good entertainment that won’t work if you’re expecting more.
The plot itself is pretty good as the ‘thriller element’ kept me guessing and trying to work out what was going on, certainly enough to make me keep reading past all the explosions and gunfire! Sven’s talking gun makes for some essential reading as well, I don’t think I’ve met a more sarcastic character in sci-fi! However, due to the fact that Sven doesn’t know what is going on (and has nothing to base anything on) so of the plot twists can seem a little unlikely. To be fair to Gunn, everything seems to tie together in the end.
‘Maximum Offense’ makes no apologies for what it is, a hefty slice of violent space opera that will entertain. It doesn’t do a lot more than that though so make sure you’re in the right mood to enjoy it before you pick it up (unless you’re a fan already in which case you’ll love it).
Six and Three Quarters out of Ten