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NARC #1: Death's Head - Unabridged
Jarrat and Stone are captains in the paramilitary NARC -- Narcotics and Riot Control -- assigned to combat the Death's Head drug syndicate in control of the vast spaceport city of Chell.
Under the NARC code of non-involvement, each of the two men hides his deeper desire for the other. But when Stone is captured on the urban battlefield and forced into Angel addiction, Jarrat's love for him is his only chance for survival ... but the price is that their minds will remain permanently linked in an empathic bonding...
And for NARC, the opportunity offered by this unique situation is too golden to pass up. To the team designing cutting-edge surveillance systems, the connection between Jarrat and Stone is a gift from jealous gods. But for the men themselves, the situation is an explosive cocktail of desire and dread, love and anger -- the struggle to survive, and a harsh question which both must answer. Will they let the department turn them into labrats in order to preserve their rank, their position, and keep on doing the job which, for each, is a burning vocation?
THE UNABRIDGED EDITION: from DreamCraft was first published in March '04. It's 30,000+ words longer than the original GMP issue; its new jacket was designed in consultation with MK.
Want to know the backstory of the COMPLETE & UNABRIDGED issue of this book? Why it was cut ... how it was cut ... how it's been restored and reissued? Click here to visit The NARC page.
Read the first 10% of this novel right here, in PDF format
(Caveat: material in this free sample is not suitable for juniors. Consider yourself warned!)
Length: 175,000 words
Rated: R (sex, violence, language)
Publication date: March 2004
Price: $9.99 - ebook
Want to know more about NARC? Click here for a collection of articles, interviews and features which open a window into this amazing world!
"In his second novel, Australian author Mel Keegan keeps up the action and suspense of ICE, WIND AND FIRE, displaying the same imagination and confidence in the SF field as he did in the comtemporary thriller."
--GMP Cover notes from the orginal paperback edition
"A powerful futuristic thriller" -- Capital Gay.
"Unputdownable" -- Him.
DEATH'S HEAD UNABRIDGED and EQUINOX
REVIEWED BY RANGER
I've read and re read this book now not a few times in the two weeks I've owned it, and I knew it very well to begin with. I seriously looked forward to the re release, and the book is entirely transformed. It always was GOOD, but it wasn't the fantastic that Equinox is, there always was a lack of the depth to it that made Equinox such an involving read. Mel Keegan plots are always riveting, but he has a real gift for writing characters strong enough to keep you interested all by themselves. There are some Keegan characters who I swear could just sit and chat in a park and still keep you reading. And this goes for minor characters as well as major. Kip Reardon, Harry Del and Gil Cronin are as visual and have as strong personalities emerging through the text as the marvellous Jarrat and Stone. I'd add too that I love the Mel Keegan skill of introducing you to a very minor character that flashes past- Crystal Jones for example- with a few lines that give you a real connection to who that person is and where they fit within the community of Athena. That sense of the carrier and that community is one of the things that make both these books so deeply involving.
The text returned to Death's Head puts it straight back on the level with Equinox, it's turned it into the book it always deserved to be, and for a hardened Jarrat and Stone fan it was a total joy to find those little added gems of information that adds to the characters, back story and plot. It adds a real richness and colour to the plot and to the characters. The background on Harry Del in particular, and Jarrat- for example bringing out further the skill Del has in communicating with Jarrat, there are some tantalising clues there about a man who appears very easy to like but not at all easy to get close to. I've always deeply admired the subtlety of writing in the NARC stories and Ice Wind and Fire about the realities of building and maintaining a relationship with someone who was a 'looked after' child, and in Greg's case, a survivor of abuse - working at the sharp end of that with some children in this situation, the connections to later adult character and relationships are painfully acute and perceptive, and yet so subtle, as they would be in these successful, dynamic men. And the beauty too of evolving relationships with partners able to understand and to support them is again symptomatic of how realistic and how strong the Mel Keegan written relationships always are. Both Alex and Stone have needed at times to teach skills that their partners just don't have- the gym/locker room scene in Equinox is wrenching. How do you at thirty learn to actually share those kind of emotions when you have no previous experience? Moreover how much in love do you need to be to trust someone enough to teach you how to do it? And this isn't an issue either, it's just one element of a complex character and relationship, part of that wonderful depth and strength that Mel Keegan characters have. And how good a writer do you need to be to slip this into the subtext of a complex, multifaceted novel? Pretty damn good.
It's amazing too how returning fragments of dialogue change and deepen your understanding of the central relationship- it evolves much more visibly and strongly in the updated novel, the returned section with the Apogee and shoot out with Del adds a great deal to the plot and the understanding of how Jarrat and Stone came to terms with the empathy and that it wasn't an instant transition. Jarrat actually with the returned dialogue comes over as slightly less mean, moody and magnificent - Not ENTIRELY sure yet if that's altogether a good thing ;) There is something about a man stalking around in armour with a large gun and a really good scowl...
I have enjoyed the reprint of this book and the whole new picture it creates very much indeed, this was a brilliant idea to re release it and I very much hope the sales make it worthwhile, for all the hard work put in and to encouraging keeping ON writing and publishing NARC fiction. I can't wait to read Scorpio.
I have no problem whatever with you using [this email] as a review, I hope it might help to sell you a few more copies, this book needs to be read!
Very much looking forward to the release of Scorpio, and I hope that won't be the last NARC novel either.
DEATH'S HEAD UNABRIDGED
REVIEWED BY "Combat Engineer, US Army" [anon., for obvious reasons]
For the record, Mr. Keegan does a great job with the military detail; from weapon and weapon system form, function, and application to the nature and quality of relationships among soldiers and between soldiers and the civilian leaders from whom we get our charter. Keegan's language is beautifully descriptive and his sensitivity to the angst a same-gender-loving soldier might experience in a prohibitive environment is spectacularly on point--rarely sentimental.
REVIEWED BY ARICIA GAVRIEL:
This is my fave of the two Jarrat'n'Stone books so far. If I had to give a reason for why it's my fave ... I think because it's the one where the two characters get together (I love get-together stories). Otherwise, I actually believe EQUINOX is the better story, but the guys are already fully-defined in that volume, and they have it all worked out on a personal basis. The thing I love most about these books ... I guess it's two things really! ... is, 1) being gay in the day-and-age which is home to J and S is routine. Nobody even notices, and that is a HUGE relief after the never-ending aggravation of the 20th and now the 21st Centuries. And, 2) the idea of two guys being linked empathically, I find completely fascinating. Manymanymany years ago I got hooked on ST:ToS and one of things that kept me coming back even in the third season, was the mind-meld idea. As Trek went on (and on and on and on...) they overworked a lot of ideas (holodeck etc.) but whaybackwhen it was all new and so exotic it gave you tingles. The NARC books still generate the goosebumps for me. I want to explore their universe more and more, so it was great news for me that MK is planning at least one extra NARC book. I hope it's many more than one ... and I can't wait for the special edition of DEATH'S HEAD!!!
LATER, on the UNABRIDGED EDITION:
My mind is blow. It's out there somwehere, blasted into space and wandering in a daze ... this is amazing stuff. Mel added 30,000 words back into DEATH'S HEAD, and I am simply boggled at the difference it makes. A while back I said that I thought EQUINOX was the better story, right?? Forget what I said, dudes. I said that because DEATH'S HEAD seemed to be missing a swamp of little key elements, and I should have knooooown there was a reason for this. Mel keegan is not the kind of writer to let the details get out of conrrol and escape. In patches, this edition wa slike reading a whole new book, and it was just amazing. Am off now to read it again!
READERS WHO ENJOY NARC ALSO LOVE HELLGATE:
Mel Keegan comments on DEATH'S HEAD
Of the fifty-odd novels and stories I've written, the "NARC universe" pieces are in my top-three. I love this universe, and I think the potential of the NARC concept is still 60% untapped, even after APHELION. Jarrat and Stone are "icon" characters set against a background where there's no confusion of right and wrong: it's as clear as black and white, good and evil. No need to rationalize the conflict which must be fought to rescue a generation of humanity (and the future of the colonies). On the most basic level, too, I get a big kick out of the technology. In a NARC book I get to dogfight in jetplanes, shoot it out between characters in space armor and high- tech machines ... and at the exact same time, explore the empathic bond between my heroes. Notice, it's not telepathic, but empathic, which changes the playing field utterly.
The jacket blurb states that these stories take place in the 23rd Century ... dead wrong! Many times, I tried to convince GMP of the 24th Century dating, but to no avail ... no one was listening before the jackets were printed!
The interesting thing is that the explosive conclusion to this book is due in large part to the input of the commissioning editor, the late Richard Dipple (who was the hub around which GMP revolved, and who is still missed). My original ending for the novel was a twist of irony: Jarrat chased down the chief villain who had taken Stoney's armour and Jarrat's own weapon in various previous altercations. Jarrat found himself looking down the business end of his own Colt AR-60. He knew exactly what that weapon could do to him ... and for the first time in the service lifetime of this particular firearm it jammed, giving Jarrat the advantage. I was happy with this ending and sent the novel in. Richard was happy with everything except the ending, which he said (and he was right) it didn't "go off" with big enough bang!!, and it should be redone. So I took the whole thing to pieces, and the version which was printed back in late '91 is the result.
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