The Poor Man's Ray Gun (Deadly Rays), Desert Publications (El Dorado, AR), 1996.
Death's Head, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2007.
Death's Head: Maximum Offense, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2008.
David Gunn is a writer whose first book, The Poor Man's Ray Gun (Deadly Rays), is a guide to building a functioning ray gun capable of setting fire to a piece of plywood at 500 feet. Gunn's first novel, the adventure combat tale titled Death's Head, received numerous favorable reviews. Tim Bach, a contributor to the Shur'tugal Staff Book Reviews noted: "The characters are intriguing, and have ample depth to keep readers interested in their predicaments. The settings and situations throughout the book constantly build suspense and mystery until the final climax which is sure to satisfy any reader." Another reviewer writing on the Fantasy Book Critic Web site, commented: "Part science fiction, part military procedure, a sprinkle of cyberpunk and a whole lot of ass-kicking, David Gunn's Death's Head is an irresistibly fun debut novel."
The story in Death's Head takes place far into the future when the Earth is just a distant memory. The novel revolves around the antihero Sven Tveskoeg, an ex-sergeant who has been demoted for insubordination and sentenced to death. Tveskoeg is 98.2 percent human in genetic makeup with the other 1.8 percent of his genes of unknown origin. He heals almost immediately from injuries and can communicate telepathically with the Ferox, a group of fierce alien savages who cannot be subdued even by the most advanced technology. Tveskoeg was able to learn the Ferox language after his fort was overrun by the Ferox and he was captured by them.
In Tveskoeg's world, the technologically supreme United Free civilization rules over most of the known universe. Where the United Free do not rule, two other empires vie for control, one led by a tyrant, OctoV, who appears to be a teenage boy but isn't; the other is made up of the Uplifted, machinelike intelligences served by cyborgs called the Enlightened. Eventually, Tveskoeg comes to the attention of OctoV, who drafts him into his elite group of enforcers known as Death's Head. However, before Tveskoeg is allowed to join, he is sent by Death's Head General Jaxx to Paradise, a frozen planet for prisoners. Once there, Tveskoeg proves his worth by organizing a successful rebellion against the guards who oversee the planet. Joining Death's Head, Tveskoeg soon finds himself on assignments to planets throughout the universe as OctoV battles the Uplifted and the Enlightened for control.
"First time authors can often fall into the trap of trying to make their work too encompassing in order to appeal to as many people as possible, David Gunn has cleverly avoided this problem," wrote Owen Jones in a review of Death's Head on SFFWorld.com. Further, wrote Jones, "Death's Head is an unashamed, balls-to-the-wall science fiction/action book that makes no apologies for being violent, graphic and at times a little crazy." A Kirkus Reviews contributor commented: "Brutal, ugly, visceral and enthralling: the finest military science-fiction debut in years." Several reviewers also noted the novel's humor and the author's ability to poke fun at the genre. For example, a contributor to the SF Revu Web site wrote: "Readers who appreciate a fine lampooning … will want to join Sven in his comic book like adventures."
In an interview with Sandy Auden on the UKSF Book News Web site, the author commented on how much of the character of Tveskoeg reflects his own life and adventures, which include working on various espionage or military assignments around the world. Gunn, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, told Auden: "The sex, the alcohol, the violence, and the weapons…. Everyone said write about what you know so I did. There's still enough stuff left over for the next book and the one after that. Obviously, Sven's the watered-down version." Gunn has also written a sequel to Death's Head, titled Death's Head: Maximum Offense.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2007, review of Death's Head, p. 200.
Library Journal, May 15, 2007, David Wang, review of Death's Head, p. 83.
Publishers Weekly, March 12, 2007, review of Death's Head, p. 43.
Death's Head Myspace Page,http://www.myspace.com/theaux (March 13, 2008).
Fantastic Fiction,http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/ (March 13, 2008), brief biography of author.
Fantasy Book Critic,http://fantasybookcritic.blogspot.com/ (July 25, 2007), review of Death's Head.
Harriet Klausner's Book Review,http://harrietklausner.wwwi.com/review/ (March 13, 2008), Harriet Klausner, review of Death's Head.
Raith Rover and Out,http://raithrover.blogspot.com/ (August 15, 2007), review of Death's Head.
SFFWorld.com,http://www.sffworld.com/ (May 2, 2007), Owen Jones, review of Death's Head.
SF Revu,http://www.sfrevu.com/ (March 13, 2008), Harriet Klausner, review of Death's Head.
Shur'tugal Staff Book Reviews,http://www.shurtugal.com/ (March 13, 2008), Tim Bach, review of Death's Head.
Skinner,http://theskinner.blogspot.com/ (June 20, 2007), Neal Asher, review of Death's Head.
UKSF Book News,http://www.uksfbooknews.net/ (May 20, 2007), Sandy Auden, "David Gunn Talks about War, Sex and Alcohol in ‘Death's Head.’"