Traveler decides to go on an exploration expedition on behalf of President Jefferson. He takes the Meat Wagon across the Mississippi to see what’s left of the eastern half of the country. He comes on a community that was a large underground shopping mall. They protect themselves by hiring out bounty hunters to take care of the riffraff. Traveler kills one of the best bounty hunters in a dispute and gets recruited to take his place. He has to stop Dragon a former pimp who is named from a mutant dragon he killed and mounted the head on his hood. He teams up with a mysterious bounty hunter named Angel Eyes. A guy who wears a metal helmet covering his head. Angel Eyes has a personal score to settle with Dragon. Traveler infiltrates Dragon’s gang and with the help of Angel Eyes manages to put an end to Dragon.
Ed Naha wrote this and would write all the subsequent books in the series. He starts with a premise of having Traveler explore what’s left of the eastern part of the country. This is a logic development in the series and has much potential. The story is a fairly typical one of Traveler fighting some evil gang. Only as a surprise twist, Angel Eyes is revealed to be an alien. Trapped on Earth during the nuclear war, he survives by becoming a bounty hunter. He also was the father of the dragon that the main villain killed to get his name. So, he has a revenge motive. Naha did a good job of portraying this alien character as someone you can sympathize with. A strange thing is that they still use old paper money. That doesn’t really make sense as with the federal government gone that money would be worthless.
Sadly, Naha decided not to continue to explore this whole big part of the country. Why is a mystery but as we will see, he went in a totally different direction.
Traveler and his buddy Hill are traveling around west Texas. They have a run in with some roadrats and decide to take a job delivering plague serum from Monticello Utah to a settlement in New Mexico. A fairly simple job in post-nuke America yet knowing Traveler stuff happens. They have a run in with a Warmech. A renegade military robot that was used to guard bases but now it on a rampage. They hook up with two girls that save them in ultralights. These girls are from a secret Mormon underground base in the ruins of Salt Lake City. This community had a civil war, and the losing side took all the technical stuff to keep this place going.
Traveler and Hill decide to help them since they saved them from the Warmech. Also, they are hot. Yet they have to face a deadly assassin out for them. Hastur a guy who had an NBA star as a father and Cheyenne mother has been hired to kill Traveler. Vice President Veronica Barlowe wants Traveler dead for all the trouble he has causes her and Frayling. It all comes to a thrilling confrontation.
This is John Shirley’s swan song for the series. He wrote a decent if not a super memorable book in the series. The plot is decent, and it has a good antagonist for Traveler. We find out that the VP is a woman. This character had a lot of potential as a continuing villain. Unfortunately, this was a creation of Shirley’s and he never return. That was too bad since I think of the two writers on this series, he was clearly the superior. His original story arc was what really made this series the success it was. Why he was replaced is an unknown. While Naha had his highs and lows, we will see that he eventually took this series to its downfall.
Traveler finds himself alone in the Mexican desert. The yacht he was on was bombed by an unknown assailant. He meets a strange burn victim riding a white buffalo named Rat Du Bois. He tells Traveler where he is and gives a cryptic warning of a big fight ahead. Soon after he meets his friends Hill and Orwell in the Meat Wagon. They sensed that Traveler was in trouble and came to the rescue. They also run into a pregnant woman on the run. A mercenary in South America has established himself as pope of the Right to a Good Life Church. He is after this woman because a prophecy says that the child will defeat him. They also find out that the Glory Boys are active in Mexico and lead by none other than the crazy President Frayling. Frayling survived the nuking of his base in Las Vegas but had half his body burned. Now he goes by the name of Scar and plans to invade the United States.
The three rescue the pregnant woman who gives birth to a son before she dies. Now the group has to fight off both the Glory Boys and this wacky cult to make it to the border and warn President Jefferson of the impending invasion.
They brought back Ed Naha the creator of this series to write the next book. A fairly logical start to have Traveler’s yacht trip brought to an end. He also brings back Frayling. Now John Shirley established him as a drooling senile buffoon. He appeared only twice, and it was assumed killed in the last book. Naha decided to bring this character back. He was obviously a stand in for Ronald Reagan. A B-Movie actor from California that went into politics. Naha had a very different take on this character and wasn’t about to just let him go. He needed to work out his hatred of the President and does it quite well. Frayling is a cartoon evil genius that brags about killing his best friend in a horse-riding accident and other evil things he does.
Now I can buy the guy surviving the nuclear explosion. But that this explosion just snapped this guy mentally back to normal is a bit too hard to buy. I mean this drooling idiot is now sharp as a tack. Granted nobody ever tried the method of flash burning a senile guy with a nuclear explosion to say that it wouldn’t work. I think it is a safe bet that it has no medical basis in reality.
Naha wrote a decent story. It had some fun adventure with the Glory Boys and this kooky cult. He has more mystical elements to his story. The baby named Alexander develops all these powers at the end. He starts to talk and walk which is an amazing accomplishment for a newborn. He brings back our heroes to life and destroys their attackers with lightning before riding off with Rat Du Bois on his buffalo. The guys wake up in a hospital in Arizona wondering if it was all a dream. Which we will find out was not.
Traveler with his friends Link, Hill and Rosalita have come to Pyramid Lake. There he wants to settle down with Jan the woman he loves and her tribe. Only he finds the tribe imprisoned by soldiers. These soldiers are from the Central American country of El Hiagura and have come at the invitation of President Frayling to restore order. Soon Traveler finds himself leading the rebellion against this invasion. He gathers the various Indian tribes. He allies with a roadrat named Grizzly and has to defeat the Gila Master in combat to lead the various tribes. Soon with his large army he attacks the invaders at Kansas City. Captures a nuke and destroys Frayling’s base north of Las Vegas. Then captures the El Hiaguran dictator and turns him over to the country’s resistance. Grizzly decides to clean himself up and help rebuild the government. Traveler with Jan, Link and Rosalita take the dictators yacht to sail off into the sunset.
This book in the series really did a good job of tying up the story. Traveler grows from a loner to someone with a love interest and friends. He has to fight these invaders from the Central American country of El Hiagura which we know was where him and his friends were dosed by a neurotoxin before the war. We finally find out that El Hiagura is Guatemala which decided to change its name after the Communist revolution for some reason. The evil and senile Frayling gets defeated, and the country is on the road to recovery. Traveler gets the girl and sails off into the sunset.
John Shirley did a real good job of writing the story arc for this series. He took what Ed Naha started in the first book and remained consistent with that. Traveler grew from a bitter loner to the guy who saves the country. I really enjoyed his run on the series. Now when I read this, I thought that they were ending the series. It had a feel that it was over. The hero gets to go sailing around the world while the country starts to rebuild. As we will find out, Dell was not quite done with this series.
Traveler and his new friend Link have defeated Vallone and the Black Rider. Now he wants to join his new girlfriend Jan with her tribe at Pyramid Lake. First, they stop off at Drift for some rest and relaxation. While in the bar the crazy old man known as a prospector comes in. He claims he is dying but has found a secret vault of gold bullion. He thinks it might have belonged to Howard Hughes. The old man is filled with hate and decides to hand out seven gold plates with the map to the location on it. He wants everybody to kill each other in getting the gold. Traveler gets one of these plates and with Link decides to try for the treasure. What follows is a road quest with everyone trying to get the gold. A roadrat named Spike, the Glory boys and some mysterious guys in a hotrod. Along the way they battle each other and various mutants, cannibals, and some cult that believes in blood sacrifice.
This was where this series hit its high mark. I love this book. It has the feel of what it is supposed to be, a Road Warrior rip off. Traveler gets to take his Meat Wagon and just have a fun exciting adventure. The various opponents are what you would expect in this post-nuke world. At the end the treasure is shown to be radioactive, and Spike gets trapped in the cavern to die. Traveler also reunites with his other two pals from El Hiagura, Hill and Margolin. Margolin sadly dies but there is a sense of completion to Traveler’s quest. John Shirley took the elements established in the first book. That is find his three friends and kill Vallone. He gave a very good conclusion to this and now you can ask, What next? Well, there is only one baddy left which we will see taken care of in the next book.