THE HELLBOUND TRAIN BY WILL SUNDOWN

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Copyright 1991.

It is ten years after Hovik’s attack on Camp 351 released the government’s virus. Now the world has been reduced to small isolated communities eking out a living. Ross MacKenzie is a former Marine aviator and astronaut. After some roving gang kills his wife he decides to wander the countryside. He gets captured by the troops of General James M. Decker. Decker a former major in the Arizona National Guard has now given himself a promotion and formed the Army of America. In a huge train he travels to the Sierra Nevada mountains for a government secret complex. There he will find arms, ammunition and nuclear weapons to equip his army for the conquest of the country. MacKenzie escapes with the help of a young Indian woman and the two make it to Hovik’s settlement. There they have to find a way to stop the mad general and his train or else Decker’s mad dream of conquest will become a reality.

So the second and final book in the series by Will Sundown is basically a more standard end of the world type book. Civilization has collapsed and the main threat is this deranged general. Decker is your typical right-wing stereotype caricature. He fancies himself a George Patton type and loves all the great military figures like Alexander and MacArthur. He thinks everyone not with him is a commie and laments the moral decline of America. He even thinks that slavery was a good thing only America should have never used the genetically inferior blacks. Instead they should have bought Poles from the Russians.

While not as good as his first book it still is an enjoyable read. Hovik has really grown as a character. He is now a father and leader of the community. A man who now has responsibility and no longer the aimless criminal looking out for only himself. He actually wants to stop Decker as a sort of payback for being responsible for releasing the virus that destroyed civilization. Naturally with a train as the main enemy it ends on a spectacular crash over a cliff. Something very obvious to the reader but still quite satisfying.

Will Sundown is a pen name for William Sanders. He has written a number of Science Fiction mostly alternate history books. One he won an award for I remember thinking about getting long ago so I might check out more of his stuff in the future. This series never when on after his two books which is fine. I don’t really see this world as having the potential for a long term series and these two book are good stand alone reads.

POCKETS OF RESISTANCE BY WILL SUNDOWN

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Copyright 1990.

It is the future and America is an authoritarian police state. Hovik is a former Marine who got caught selling guns to the resistance and is now at a prison camp in Nevada. Hovik isn’t himself a very political man but he is caught up in the bureaucracy so now is assigned to this camp for political prisoners. One day there is an escape and the commandant decides to send all those that were in the work detail that didn’t escape to Camp 351. The prisoners sent to this camp are rumored to be part of medical experiments and no one ever returns. So while being transported, Hovik escapes. With him is a young timid computer hacker. The two evade the security forces and make it to San Francisco. He hooks up with the local resistance and agrees to lead an assault on Camp 351. So with a bunch of “amateurs, losers and psychos” he must assault a guarded camp and shove the government’s germ warfare project down their throats.

What strikes me the most about this book is how not dated it seems even though its thirty years old. There are endless wars in the Middle East. Everyone uses credit cards because cash is discouraged so the government has more control over the people. The whole government is not really an Orwellian one but a half-assed authoritarian one. Described as a car that just slowly falls apart over time. Something that comes about over time because of neglect and apathy. One where the real power is faceless bureaucrats that operate behind the scenes. In one scene one of these bureaucrats shows a political prisoner one of his books. He states that they aren’t illegal to own although not on the approved list for schools or libraries. That with over half the population functionally illiterate and only one in ten even being able to understand what the book is about. So they don’t even care if they exist.

Hovik the hero is an anti-hero in the vein of Snake Plissken. A tough old guy who got kicked out of the Marines and spend most of his life in petty criminal ventures. The resistance is as much an enemy as the government. They knew about the camp but want it intact for propaganda purposes. They seem more interested in their own power and conducting purges. The author clearly has a distrust of those on the left and right as being the same power hungry individuals. So Hovik and this group find out that the camp was developing a virus to cleanse the world of undesirables. Something that they inadvertently release causing a global pandemic.

The author has a dedication at the beginning that acknowledges all those in DC and elsewhere that are working tirelessly to make books like this believable. Sadly that seems more true then thirty years ago.

WINTERWORLD THE MECHANIC’S SONG BY CHUCK DIXON

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Copyright 2015.

Scully tells his story to Wynn. It starts out at a frozen city where a young Scully grows up with his family. The father is very abusive and one day is injured. Now the young Scully is responsible for scavenging for food. His first day out he comes on some men in a machine. These men had brutally killed some people so Scully manages to take out the men. He rescues their captive a guy named Fingers. Finger’s drops him off at this family’s place but he soon finds that wasters have killed them. So he follows Finger’s across the wastes where some cannibals have ambushed and killed him. A women on a snowmobile rescues him and takes him to the Boss. The Boss is an old crippled man who is building a giant snow CAT to take him to Mechanicsburg. A place were men are working to rebuild civilization.

Scully learns how to be a mechanic and helps with rebuilding the CAT. Scully with the Boss and a woman named Cilla live off the remains of an old Sam’s Club. On a trip to scavenge materials Cilla is left behind. Eventually they get the CAT running and make the trip to Mechanicsburg.

Back in the ’80s the now defunct Eclipse Comics put out a three issue series by Dixon of a futuristic ice age. This was an awesome series and it wasn’t until twenty years later that IDW revived it. This was just a really well done series. Dixon is a well known writer of comics but can also write prose books as well. This book tells the origin of Scully. His early life and how he learned his mechanical skills. Even gives us how he got his name Scully. Dixon portrays this brutal and grim ice age. A world filled with cold and humanity reduced to small bands scavenging for food and warmth. A very enjoyable book that I hope he continues future installments of this series in both book form and comics.

THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR BY BILL S. BALLINGER

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Copyright 1975.

It is 2012 and civilization has collapsed. A combination of plague, famine, pollution and war has reduced humanity to small enclaves. One enclave in New York called the Barony is ruled by the Baron. The Baron manages to recruit a new champion in Carson. The Barony has successful farming thanks to a genius who has developed seeds resistant to disease. Yet the Barony is slowly dying and the Baron has plans for Carson to take his granddaughter who is pregnant out of the city to a safe island off the coast of North Carolina. An attack by a vicious warlord named Carrot forces the Baron’s plan to be moved up. So now Carson with the seeds to guarantee the future must guide a pregnant woman about to give birth through the subway tunnels. Hot on his heels is Carrot and his murderous gang.

This is a novelization of the Yul Brynner movie. I first saw this movie as a kid late at Saturday night. It was a creepy movie that did a good job of depicting a bleak and hopeless future. The book was a good adaptation to the movie. It really excelled in the fight scenes which were a bit flat in the movie. The writer and director of the movie Robert Clause is known for mostly kung-fu movies most notably Enter the Dragon. Now Yul Brynner looked real badass shirtless but lets face it, her was no Bruce Lee. One difference from the movie is at the end Carson and Melinda meet up with a group of friendly survivors recruiting for a new commune in New Jersey. This must have been in the original screenplay and dropped. It was a good idea to drop this. It felt contrived and awkward. Better to have the two continue on to the island as the movie did.

Here is the trailer for the movie.

DAMNATION ALLEY BY ROGER ZELAZNY

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Copyright 1969.

Hell Tanner is a convicted criminal in the Nation of California in this post-apocalypse future. A former Hell’s Angel he is offered a pardon. To earn it he must agree to deliver needed plague serum to Boston the only other pocket of civilization on the continent. In a high tech armored car armed with missiles, machine guns and flame throwers with two other cars he sets out to cross the desolate wasteland. A land filled with mutant giant snakes, gila monsters, bats, tornados and radioactive storms. He runs into various survivors. Some crazy and others biker gangs. Will he make it in time to save Boston.

I was familiar with this from the movie with George Peppard and Jan-Michael Vincent. It was based on this book and I have to say that it was loosely based but surprisingly similar in tone to the movie. Most of it was a leisurely travel log of a badass armored vehicle as it cruises across the post-nuke country. The main protagonist Hell Tanner was an anti-hero in the vein of Snake Plissken. Described in the beginning as a murder and rapist. Someone who gouged the eyes out of someone just for the fun of it. Yet in the book he is clearly anti-social but demonstrates noble attributes. When he finds his brother has joined this expedition for money so he can get married, he tells him of a hidden stash of money. Then proceeds to break his ribs so he can’t go on the expedition. In fact half way through the guy who wanted to take off at the first chance he got decides to finish this trip. He actually has to fight with his partner who wants to turn around. Then he runs into the biker gangs around New York and rescues a woman who he quickly falls in love with. She dies and it was a sad little moment.

Naturally he makes it in time just as the sky turns back to normal just like in the film. Only at the end in true anti-social behavior he vandalizes the statue erected in tribute to him, steals a car and heads out into the wastelands. The movie seemed like something that just sort of ran out of money half way through. The beginning had giant scorpions, tornados and hordes of cockroaches. Then the second half devolved into endless montages of the vehicle driving and George Peppard shaving. The book actually seemed to pick up the action at the end. Still for all it’s faults I like both the film and book.

So here is the trailer for the movie.

EARTHBLOOD 3 AURORA QUEST BY JAMES AXLER

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Copyright 1994.

The survivors of the USSV Aquila continue north on their quest for the mysterious Aurora. Their General Zelig leads a government group that could rebuild the Earth after the devastation of the Earthblood blight. The various groups have their run ins with the dangers of this lawless world. They eventually link together and continue on. Only the Hunters of the Sun lead by the sadistic Margaret Trabor are still hot on their trail. She mounds an expedition after them as Zelig mounts one to intercept them. A traitor in the group exposes their location and it ends with a big battle in Oregon.

The final book in the trilogy comes to an end. After the Soviet Union collapses there was a scramble to come up with new ways the world could end. Lawrence James crafted a unique and enjoyable scenario. As I said before the books aren’t dated at all and you can still believe this world of 2040 thirty years later. It had a diverse range of characters that were believable. A great villain that gets her comeuppance at the end. Some people die and some live but it ends on a hopeful note.

EARTHBLOOD 2 DEEP TREK BY JAMES AXLER

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Copyright 1994.

Some of the surviving crew members of the USSV Aquila have made it to Calico on November 15. A Chinook helicopter arrives and tells the group they are going to go to the secret base Aurora. Before they can land though the helicopter is shot down by men with a symbol of a silver arrow through the sun. The helicopter only told them that the base was located north. Speculating the base is located somewhere in the Pacific Northwest the group splits up into three and heads off to search for it. Along the way they find out the mysterious group that shot down the helicopter are called The Hunters of the Sun. A secret cabal of powerful individuals that formed the group to take over the world. Lead by Margaret Tabor a psychopath that enjoys killing they hunt the members of the Aquila. Henderson McGill a member who found his extended family safe in Connecticut has have to fight off the various raiders. They decide to also head out to California. Soon all groups have various adventures with the various inhabitants and Hunters of the Sun.

The second book establishes what the survivors goals are in this new world. Namely their old general is in charge of a secret government project to rebuild the world. They also have the main opposition. The Hunters of the Sun lead by a completely evil villain. A woman who in collage killed some of the men who made fun of her middle name Dildow. This is what brought her to the attention of the head man. She eventually became his lover than killed him with poison to take over the organization. Some other main characters that stand out are Nanci Simms the sixty year old CIA agent that joined up with the crew. Jim Hilton the commander with his surviving twin daughter. Henderson McGill who finds his family and takes them on the journey. It has a diverse cast of characters that seem believable with their own strengths and weaknesses. Also can’t believe how this book still doesn’t feel dated after all these years. Could have been written yesterday.

EARTHBLOOD BY JAMES AXLER

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Copyright 1993.

The year is 2040 and the USSV Aquila is returning from a two year mission in deep space. The crew of twelve is in suspended animation. As they approach Earth the computer revives them. Only their is no response from the Earth. One of the crew has died in suspended animation and they wonder why mission control didn’t do anything. The Earth also has a red color to it. So they are forced to land by themselves at the base in Nevada.

The ship crashes and kills half the crew. The survivors find the base in ruins. Soon they discover that while out in space a plant cancer used as a weapon in the Middle East has devastated all plant life on Earth. Known as Earthblood it kills all plant life and turns it a reddish color. With the collapse of the food chain civilization has totally collapsed. They find a cryptic message from their commander General John Kennedy Zelig that they should rendezvous at the small California town of Calico on November 15. The crew decides to split up into groups and find out what happened to their families. So the crew have various adventures in this post-apocalyptic world. They find some of their family. Some die. The survivors gather at the town of Calico to await what happens next.

This was a trilogy by Lawrence James who wrote in many genres. He is best well known for the Deathlands series that he developed and wrote the first thirty some books. Using the same house name James Axler he crafts an enjoyable and believable new apocalyptic world. There is probably nothing more scary than starvation. He has a very scary world in this series. Also one that isn’t dated. Considering its still twenty years in the future it has no stuff that would date it as written in the nineties. Making it a story still believable and relevant after almost thirty years. The first book sets up this world and the characters are established. A good start to this trilogy.

C.A.D.S. #12 TECH ASSASSINS BY JOHN SIEVERT

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Copyright 1991.

The C.A.D.S. under Colonel Dean Sturgis have successfully rescued President Williamson from The Lenin. What they didn’t know is he has already been brainwashed while a prisoner. Programmed to find the nuclear reactor at Hardbase Alpha and then wait for the miniature nuclear bomb implanted in him to go off. So Sturgis and his men must fight other guards at the base who were ordered by the President to stop them. After a whole bunch of fights that take up the first third of the book they manage to stop the President. They get the bomb taken out of him and have him deprogrammed. This incident has given the President the idea that a new Continental Congress should be convened to declare a second Declaration of Independence.

Needless to say evil Supreme Marshal Veloshnikov goes nuts over this idea. Aboard his new super sub The Leonid Breshnev he begins an all out attack on the free communities scattered across a devastated post-nuke America. Such units as Supreme Soviet Death Division, Black Raskolnikov Brigade and my favorite- Sergeivitch Ivanovsky Bolkenskvo Spetnaz Brigade for the Utter Destruction of American Freedom and National Sovereignty. Yow what a mouthful. So the C.A.D.S. have to come to the rescue. They meet the Soviets in a big endless battle that takes up the second half of the book. After endless fighting the C.A.D.S. come out victorious. At the end the congress meets and broadcasts via a giant holographic image up in the sky. Veloshnikov sits in front of the TV glowering and thinking up his next brilliant plan to destroy America.

We never do find out his brilliant plan for this was the last in the series. It’s a bit ironic that the books ends with him saying “Death to America. Long live the Soviet Union.” This book came out December of 1991 the year that the Soviet Union was officially dissolved. So that event pretty much sounded the death knell for books like this. In this case it was probably a mercy that the series was finally put out of it’s misery. Although it may have been heading there anyway. I gave up on this series with the last book. Only recently did I find this book at Half Price to complete my collection. I didn’t miss anything all those years.

This was a really bad book. I mean it is filled with a constant stream of such cringe worthy dialogue as “Attack these putrid Yankee scum suckers, brave comrades,” or “Your doltish American taunts fall on deaf ears, craven imperialist lackeys.” Now this series started out pretty good. A solid if absurd little post-nuke action adventure. Now like most of these series they tend to go off in some very weird tangents. Which it was doing under it’s original creator Ryder Syvertson. It took the replacement with David Alexander to bring the series to a whole new level of crap. Still his crappy writing was good for a few laughs. Although it was probably good that the series ended before my brain turned to complete mush from reading too much of this.

C.A.D.S. #11 DEATH ZONE ATTACK BY JOHN SIEVERT

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Copyright 1991.

The C.A.D.S. under Colonel Dean Sturgis are on the offensive. They attack Fortress Kerensky which lies on the ruins of St. Louis. After defeating the invaders by creating an artificial tornado they take the fortress intact. Seems the Soviets are not doing well. So Marshal Veloshnikov the evil leader decides to hold a bogus peace conference. President Williamson goes to meet the puppet Soviet premier at Colonial Williamsburg. Williamsburg has been converted to the first Communist theme park called Stalinland. Sounds like something the Antifa crowd would enjoy. Anyway it turns out to be a set up. The puppet premier had a small nuclear bomb implanted in him. The President escapes but is captured and taken to the giant saucer sub Lenin. Also the Soviets launch a two prong attack from Siberia into Alaska and Mexico into the Southwest. C.A.D.S. manage to stop both. Then they go to the Lenin and rescue the President.

OK so this book was just nuts. It had the typical endless scenes of fighting with high tech helicopters, jet fighters and hovertanks with lasers and missiles against the super C.A.D.S. Also a special appearance by the Greysuits who are clearly inferior. There is very little wasted on plot and character development. The President’s capture is casually devoted one whole sentence. Don’t want to get too wordy about stuff not involving high tech fights. He does have a moment where Veloshnikov stops on an island in Nova Scotia with the President to have a talk. Its whole purpose seemed to show how truly evil Veloshnikov is. He takes the time to bash a baby seal to death with a rock. Then takes an assault rifle and slaughters all the others just for fun. Yes this guy kills baby seals for the fun of it. How evil can you get? Also the giant sub Lenin has all of a sudden lost it’s traditional sub shape and become a giant saucer. The C.A.D.S. easily manage to destroy it and free the President. Of course evil Veloshnikov escapes in his mach 20 escape craft and plots how to destroy the evil Amerikanski.

Now surprisingly the editor must have woken up for the glaring grammatical errors weren’t present in this book like the past two. In fact this had some of the most glorious passages to date. For instance the description of the deaths from the artificial tornado.

First their eyeballs squirted from the sockets of their skulls. Then their teeth flew out of their gaping mouths. Finally all the blood in their veins emptied out through their noses, eyes, dicks and assholes.

Wow what a visual. There’s more.

Clapping his hands on full servo power, Sturgis send a miniature sonic boom thundering in their direction. The supersonic clap shattered the Russians’ eardrums and made blood squeezed from their rupturing brains spurt from their nostrils with such fantastic pressure that it blew their noses clean off their faces in a shower of sticky red glop.

But wait. There’s still more.

A second supersonic clap and the eyeballs of the hapless Russians squirted from their socket, hanging uselessly down their faces on twisted white nerve threads. A third and final thunderclap from Sturgis and their hearts exploded in their chests, causing their bodies to explode.

Well nothing like being thorough. The book had writing like this throughout. It was glorious to read such incredible descriptive writing. Oh and one final little quote I enjoyed. A Greysuit has one final curse before he buys it.

The colonel muttered a Ukrainian peasants oath that damned the American to a thousand lifetimes in hell picking dirt from between the devil’s toes and sucking the eternally shitting assholes of the damned.

Now there is a curse that is creative. Go ahead and use it instead the more pedestrian “Go to Hell” or “Fuck you”.