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Death's Head Maximum Offense    by David Gunn order for
Death's Head Maximum Offense
by David Gunn
Order:  USA  Can
Del Rey, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Do you enjoy military SF that moves faster than the speed of light? Then David Gunn writes just for you - you'll dive into Death's Head Maximum Offense and only emerge after the last page is turned. The explosive prequel, Death's Head (which I unfortunately missed) introduced readers to antihero Sven Tveskoeg and his smartass AI SIG-37 handgun buddy (whose attitude is even worse than his own). Sven is not totally human, his genetic makeup incorporating superhuman qualities of healing, strength, and agility - and he also carries a kyp (a lethal alien parasite) in his throat.

Now Sven runs a brothel in his spare time and is a reluctant lieutenant in evil, omnipotent emperor OctoV's elite corps, the Death's Head, whose general is Indigo Jaxx. As Death's Head Maximum Offense opens, Sven and his handpicked Aux (auxiliaries) are dispatched to the artificial world of Hekati, where a citizen of the advanced U/Free (United Free) civilization has apparently gone missing. Their mission begins with a deadly U/Free test that kills one of Sven's team and leaves him lethally annoyed. He's even more so after meeting the eighteen-year-old leader of their need to know mission, Colonel Vijay, 'an elegant young man with blond hair and high cheekbones. Little more than a boy, really.'

They head out to the Hekati ring world after a small assassination favor and a shootout with Enlightened. In the desert habitat, there are run-ins with local gangs, prospectors, and Val mercenaries. Sven dies and revives, signs on new recruits, begins to whip his young colonel into shape, and takes the fight into space in a ship his SIG aptly calls 'Suicide ... with added rust.' He wins, with help from a dying world, and chooses a reward from OctoV that makes him a powerful enemy. As this episode ends, Sven smells 'What I can always smell before things get really nasty. Trouble', setting the scene nicely for more thrills in this addictive series.

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