It is the near future and hardliners in the Soviet Union have taken over. They have reasserted themselves in Eastern Europe and tensions are about to break out in open war. Sgt. Max Tag is testing out a new prototype of tank. The XM-F3 No Slack is on maneuvers near the Czech border when the war starts. They find themselves trapped behind enemy lines. Luckily they hook up with some Jagd Commandos a specialized unit of West Germans in light attack vehicles that are to harass the Soviets rear lines. They also pick up some American rear echelon supply company also trapped behind the lines. This motley group has to fight its way through the Warsaw Pact forces to the NATO lines.
This series just came out one month before the Berlin Wall came down so the idea soon became a bit dated. Yet this is a pretty solid little military action series based on what seemed like a very credible scenario. It had a decent run in the early nineties. You have this super-dooper advanced tank with anti-air missiles, monopolar carbide armor, advanced computers, laser targeting and radar. Not the mention it can go 80mph. The crew is your typical stereotypes that you get in these type of series. Fruits Tutti the loader who is an Italian from the Bronx that’s also a genius with computers. Wheels Latta a hillbilly that was a moonshine runner in his civilian life is the driver. Naturally he uses his driving perfected from evading revenuers to evade the Soviets. Then there is Ham Jefferson the gunner who is your token black guy.
You also like many men’s adventure series the romantic hot girl for the main protagonist. This this case a Lt. in the Jagd Kommandos who is the sister of his best friend. Naturally they have the obligatory very graphic detail sex scene during one of the lulls in fighting. We find out that Max Tag’s manhood is so big she has to use both hands to lift it. Yes it is that big. The story gives everything from the groups perspective and we don’t get a big perspective on the war in general which I think was a good idea. Gives a more intimate feel to the story. We do get some flashbacks to show Tag’s past. Like his time growing up in Montana and a fight with the local biker gang that leads to him finding out about his father’s service in Vietnam. His past experiences in fighting off an Yemeni-Iranian invasion of Oman and another in Honduras fighting a Communist coalition. Naturally they make it back to fight WWIII another day.
Roger Two Hawks an Iroquois is a bomber pilot during WWII. During a raid on the oil fields in Romania his bomber is shot down. When he bails out he finds himself not in Romania but some strange foreign land. Yet it is a world that is also fighting a world war. He soon finds himself in an alternate Earth. One where the Americas never existed. The Asian tribes that migrated their instead turned westward and settled in Eastern Europe. So these tribes now have established nations for themselves. The Perkunishans are the Germans of this world and have launched a genocidal war against their neighbors. Blodland is the England of this world and the main opponent to them. Two Hawks soon finds that both factions are out to get him for his knowledge of technological advances from his world. He has many adventures that sees him fall into both factions hands.
This was a really interesting book. Farmer did a lot of research into the various peoples to give us a fascinating look at a world without the Americas. That Eastern Europe is populated by descendants of the tribes that migrated to America seems plausible. There are also no negroid peoples because India is an island and that race never developed. Instead Africa was settled by an Arabic people. There are no horses or camels because these originally developed in the Americas. Only they later became extinct in out world but thrived in Eurasia. There is no rubber so there are no rubber tires for vehicles. It is a world where slavery is still common and ruled by absolute monarchs.
This book was originally written back in 1966 and published under the title The Gate of Time. Farmer states in a foreword he never liked this title because the gateway never dealt with time. That an editor in his words “bowdlerize’ a scene by rewriting it. His original was restored and he wrote an extra 10,000 words for an ending. This ending has Two Hawks after the war finding a portal that brought him to a prehistoric America that had pre-Columbian natives and Two Hawks settling down with dreams of turning them into a modern society.
I loved how this book starts with him giving his story to a writer and you think it is our world. But it turns out to be this world at the end. Also another German also came through and at the end we find out Two Hawks is not from our Earth. When he asks who Hitler is we find out that in his world the Kaiser still rules Germany. Otherwise his world and ours have very similar histories. So if you want a unique alternate history book I would highly recommend this one.
Tristan Burningskull is now the leader of the High Free Folk of the plains. He is the Lord of the Plains. Now he has to deal with a threat to his people. The city-state of Homeland has joined forces with the Nation of Dallas to take over the plains and destroy the various biker clans. He has to lead his forces and destroy two armies all the while dealing with assassination attempts from the defeated Catheads and their Fusion cult allies. He also has dissidents within his own followers that want him dead. So he manages to first defeat the Dallas army. Then he gets his revenge on the Purity forces of Homeland.
The final book in the Stormrider trilogy comes to an exciting conclusion. Tristan manages to defeat his enemies and capture his old adopted home of Homeland. Along the way he deals with various intrigues against his rule. The cover tells that this would be the last in the series and everything ties up nicely. Like most series in the early nineties it only lasted a few books. The market was changing and publishers were throwing out all sorts of stuff that just didn’t last. I suppose this series might have had more traction back in the eighties at the height of the adventure series.
The series had a very strong structure for its three book run. The first introduced the character from his childhood to early adulthood. The second dealt with his rise to power among the biker clans. The final is his conquest of Homeland. The world Victor Milan created was interesting and had future possibilities. The Catheads and Fusion cult were still active. There was still the Nation of Dallas and mention of an expansionist Quebec that could have played into future storylines. The ending was a bit weird in that it had Tristan hook up with his old fiancee at the end. She didn’t seem to have any real relevance to the character. He seemed to have a stronger relationship to Jovanna or his old childhood friend Jaime. It just didn’t really resonate at the end and felt awkward. Otherwise this was a fun and enjoyable post-apocalypse action series.
Tristan Burningskull has now established himself among the High Free Folk of the plains. He has plans of uniting them. The Cathead nation has allied themselves with the Fusion cult from the east. The stated goal of this alliance is to crush the independence of the High Free Folk. So the various motorcycle gangs unite under the leadership of John Hammerhand a respected Stormrider. Only problem is Hammerhand is as dumb as a tree stump. His leadership sees a crushing defeat of the biker alliance. Now Tristan has to travel to the shaking lands to get his grandfather’s legendary motorcycle WildFyre. There in the underground kingdom of the Kobolds he must fight a T-Rex to get the bike. With it and help from the Kobolds he manages to defeat the Cathead/Fusion army and become Lord of the Plains.
So the second book in the trilogy deals with Tristan’s rise to leadership among the biker gangs that roam the plains of this post-Starfall world. We get a good solid glimpse into this biker culture that sprang up descended from twentieth century biker gangs. Hints of the outside world with the various city-states that exist. I did think that the T-Rex encounter was a bit silly. Apparently some old scientists were able to successfully resurrect DNA of a T-Rex. The book doesn’t really go into any detail how this happened and this was the only really goofy thing in an otherwise straight action thriller. An enjoyable story filled with action, biker culture and a bit of goofy fun.