Although the setting of this Death’s Head adventure is an alien world, the bulk of it could occur in the wilder regions of our own planet. There are jaded soldiers, rugged mercenaries, uncaring aristocrats and spoiled rich girls aplenty. The conflicts in the book arise from political rivalries and religious differences. It’s just like your typical night in SoHo, except that the hero of this tale is Sven Tveskoeg, a one man cyborg slaughterhouse with a talking gun, a mechanical arm and a stubborn attitude.
Sven is an animalistic son of a gun, a soldier who will deck a superior when he’s out of line but lay down his life for him if necessary. He narrates the story of his furlough on Farlight, keeping his skills sharp by tackling Furies – wild, powerful creatures with sagging bellies and skeletal arms and legs.
Sven is a lieutenant in The Aux, an ex-Legionnaire in the army of Emperor OctoV. War-hardened and gloriously grim, Sven is backed up by his likeable friend Sir Anton Tezuka, retaining his patrician dignity despite imprisonment and exile. He’s a good foil for the grumpy Sven, who sticks his neck out to find the missing Vijay Jaxx, a member of the powerful Jaxx clan.
Sven and Anton are accompanied by the feisty Sergeant Leona, who takes orders from Sven and matches him for combat savagery. They face a seemingly endless stream of opponents, including General Luc and his Wolf Brigade, an assortment of militiamen and soldiers-for-hire, and Paper Osamu, ambassador of the United Free – an empire that threatens to topple OctoV’s.
After a while the action in Day Of The Damned becomes repetitive and the U/Free situation is never very engaging. It just isn’t explained fully enough to make us care who rules the galaxy. There’s a sense that the author is developing a rich, fully developed universe with its own belief system and political developments. The little glimpses we get here suggest that we’ll have to wait a few more books before all is revealed. In the meantime, readers will have to be content with tidbits.
Sven’s wry humor is the main reason to keep reading; like Kevin Costner in a sports movie, he continually refuses to conform even when his choice leads to disaster. But Sven’s battlefield of dreams is soaked in blood, with rape, pillage and a dead baby thrown in to shock and awe the reader. Short words, short chapters and a hurtling pace make this an easy read, if not always a satisfying one.
Death’s Head: Day Of The Damned is out now.