Friday, 5 June 2009

‘Death’s Head: Day of the Damned’ – David Gunn (Transworld/Del Rey)


One of the good things about running this blog, for me, is looking at series that started up at roughly the same time as the blog itself and seeing how they’ve developed. I’m not great at keeping up with these series (apologies to Tom Lloyd here...) but I find it interesting to write my thoughts down and then go back and see what I thought of the preceding books.
It wasn’t that long after I started the blog that I picked up David Gunn’s debut ‘Death’s Head’ for a flight home from Scotland. I absolutely loved it and was very much looking forward to reading the sequel ‘Maximum Offence’. I wasn’t too keen on that though; I mentioned that if you were a fan you would probably love it but cartoonish violence might not be to everyone’s taste...
So... one good book, one not so good book. The latest instalment, ‘Day of the Damned’, arrived a few days ago and it was this book that could sway the balance either way of what I thought of the series overall...

‘Not quite one hundred percent human but hard as nails nonetheless’ Sven Tveskoeg and his band of auxiliary militia are taking some well earned R&R on Farlight (capital of the Octovian Empire) that is about to end very abruptly. Civil war has come to Farlight and OctoV is in danger of losing the throne that he has held for thousands of years. Behind all the scheming and betrayals are the United Free, a galaxy spanning empire with designs on OctoV’s territory but all that is incidental to Sven. The only things that matter to him are a promise made to old friends and killing whatever is in front of him in the meantime...

‘Day of the Damned’ is where you get the answers to all the questions (except one, maybe that will come out in another book?) that you’ve been asking since ‘Death’s Head’. The only problem is that the plot flies by so quickly you may not notice that you’re being given the answers until it’s too late. Either way you’re onto a winner as you will either have it all laid out for you or you will be enjoying the full on riotous action that drives the plot onwards. There’s plenty of that in the midst of a world that is tearing itself apart in an orgy of carnage...



This is a book that gets right in your face and bombards you with all the horrors of a world at war. Gunn doesn’t hold back in showing us what it all means, the civilian cost as well as the stubborn last stands and last ditch heroism. It’s an exciting rollercoaster of a read but also surprisingly bleak at the same time. Gunn uses Sven to great effect as ‘the grunt on the front line’, philosophical about life but with no other option than to follow orders and not get himself killed in the process. Sven also has as much idea of what’s going on as we do and it’s all the more fun finding things out at the same time as he does.

The overabundance of violence can get repetitive with very few options for the characters to reflect on what is going on around them; everything is done on the fly. The way I saw it was that people aren’t necessarily going to be able to take a quick break, from the fighting, and sort themselves out; this is a war people! Readers who like a bit more introspection in their book, however, should bear in mind that ‘Day of the Damned’ is rather light in that respect...
All credit to Gunn though in that he seems to be more aware of the importance of not having Sven as the invulnerable character he could easily become. There’s more of a level playing field this time as Sven’s AI gun doesn’t feature as much and Sven also spends a lot of the time with only one arm. This raises the stakes for Sven, along with his allies, and this kept me reading.

The ending offers scope either for the series to branch out in new directions or for more of the same. After the slightly disappointing ‘Maximum Offence’, ‘Day of the Damned’ has got me interested again and I want to see what happens next... US readers are going to have to wait another month to get their hands on this book, people in the UK should be able to grab a copy in the next couple of weeks.

Eight and a Quarter out of Ten

11 comments:

TheManFromLeblon said...

Do you know who is the cover artist for the UK version of Death's Head? Or the version you have posted? They are awesome.

bloggeratf said...

Read both and thought they were light and enjoyable. I'm pretty excited about the new installment, as I wonder where the series will end up! I though the last one left a couple openings that were just not exploited I guess, but I will have to wait and see!

David Gunn said...

Thanks for the review... Sven's a ball to write but bits of this book really got under my skin. You're right about the bleakness in one section, but it seemed wrong to be dishonest about this. And I still reckon there are some laughs (in a sick kind of way)! Again, thanks.

David

bloggeratf said...

Sweet, author post.

Are there other authors lurking in the webwork?

Jess said...

I'm a HUGE fan of the Death's Head series and can't wait to see where this goes! Bring on more Sven & the Aux!

Alexander Wade said...

any one know when the next book will come out? There has to be at least one more coming, I think.

Anonymous said...

sven rocks

Daniel Pattison said...

It took until recently for Australia to receive DotD and I have to say, I was taken back to the first book, with the horrors of war and to the victors go the the women and children (i.e spoils).
I do admit that I was just as confused as Sven when it came to "the long game", with a lot of the final pieces falling into place the same time Sven caught wind of it all (with some help from wikipedia on the concepts of Hexatopes and Singularity) and I did walk away from the ending more than a little confused, but now, barely a day later, I see the pieces starting to fit.

There is definitely room for another book (if only for the blood, sex and closure) and definitely a fan base waiting.

I haven't enjoyed (or looked forward to) a series this much since I discovered the first Necroscope novel.

Terry said...

I too found this in an airport book shop on my way to Greece, book shop browsing in airports is a hobby :D Any way saw deathshead and thought "German?" read the back and thought ok this looks fairly good. By the time I had finished reading it I was like wow, good book.
Quickly got the next maximun offence and liked that one too.

Just ordered the 3rd from waterstones and hoping it will be another good holiday read for me.
Good strong character, good back up characters in the Aux, Jaxx and the emperor. Thansk David gunn for a good anti-hero who never lets doing the wrong thing or right thing bother him too much....

Jeremy R said...

Hey guys, does anyone have a guess on when the next book will be published. I cant seem to locate David Gunn's official website to find out....

Anonymous said...

from my understanding it's not scheduled to be released in the USA at this time - I bought a copy from Thebookdepository.com - they have all 3 UK versions for a great price