Author: David Gunn
Publisher: Bantam Press • 320 pages • £10.99
The title of this book has a double role. Not only does it indicate the actions of the militaristic main characters but it also describes the reaction that many readers (especially female ones) may have to its contents.
This second book in the Death’s Head series has a number of points to recommend it. It’s a non-stop outrageous adventure that starts when Lieutenant Sven Tveskoeg’s crack squad, the Aux, are sent on a mission to the ringworld Hekati to rescue an agent in the U/free army. Their landing is sabotaged, Sven loses one of his team and he’s been lumbered with an upstart colonel who’s supposedly in charge. And that’s just the first set of problems.
Gunn’s locations are grittily real and the fight scenes are dynamic and vicious. It’s a stock example of military SF, with its values of discipline and courage against a backdrop of interstellar war – although this larger conflict is sadly kept vague and sketchy. Black humour also permeates these pages, and Sven’s talking gun delivers some great one-liners.
Unfortunately, the events are filtered through Sven’s personality. In volume one he was a more sympathetic character, but now he’s been pared back to three basic traits: his desire to kill; his lust for women; and his loyalty to his team. He’ll kill anyone on an order, and judges all women between the ages of 15 and 50 by the size of their breasts (except his female troopers, where breast size and killing efficiency counts). If you can ignore his opinions, you’ll lock and load into the story and have a great time. For anyone else, it’s an uneasy journey, peppered with irritation.