FIREBRATS #4 SHOCKWAVE BY BARBARA SIEGEL & SCOTT SIEGEL

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Copyright 1988.

Matt and Dani are crossing the desolate plains when a hailstorm starts to pelt them with baseball sized hail. They manage to find shelter in an abandoned truck stop. Only the truck stop isn’t abandoned but home to an old man named Sarge. They find out that Denver is just ahead. So they trade their matches for some cream corn and Dentyne. While continuing on they notice fires in the city suggesting inhabitants. Matt gets sick from food poisoning and Dani rides ahead to get help. She finds that Denver is still standing but mostly abandoned. She is captured by the survivors who think she is part of the biker slavers that have been terrorizing them.

She eventually gets help from a young man named Brian who helps her rescue Matt and they also manage to sabotage the bikes of the slavers. So the two settle in with the six hundred other residents of Denver. The city survived but most of the population moved south to farm while a few stayed behind. There is a romantic rivalry between Matt and Brian for Dani. Matt decides to continue his quest for California and rides off. Only in the mountains west of the city he makes a discovery. The war has melted the snow and it’s formed into a huge lake. A lake that threatens to burst and flood the city of Denver. So he has to ride back and warn the people of the impending doom of the city.

So the fourth book has our two teens find some civilization still existing in the world. This is the first time they have run into a working society since the war. With the people we get a rival for the affections of the young Dani. Of course Dani chooses Matt and the two continue on after the city of Denver is wiped out. Some interesting revelations are that the town of Fair Oaks that they started from was in New Jersey. So they have been making their way across the entire country. They made it to Denver and sadly that is where the series ends. We never get to find out if they made it to California and found Matt’s family. And they came so close too.

So this was an enjoyable series. An early YA post-apocalypse series before they became popular. Also a rare one which I was lucky to find for a reasonable price on E-bay. Surprised I never found it when it original came out for I jumped on any post-nuke series back in those days. This one goes back to the American version of covers with the Lou Diamond Phillip and Megan Fox lookalikes on the cover which I prefer over the British ones. The authors were a husband and wife team that lived in New York and wrote over thirty books most of them targeted to teens. Not sure if I will ever try any of their other works but this was an enjoyable series.

FIREBRATS 3 THUNDER MOUNTAIN BY BARBARA SIEGEL AND SCOTT SIEGEL

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Copyright 1987.

Matt and Dani are continuing their travel to California. Riding across the plains they are caught in a sand storm. A tall mountain seems to be the the only shelter from the storm. They find a cave and are able to take shelter. While settling in their supplies and then the horses are stolen. Someone is in the caves. They soon discover three kids that were on a field trip to the caves of Thunder Mountain when the nuclear war occurred. Soon after they discover that the valley next to the mountain has wild animals from around the world running loose. They are saved at the last minute by an attacking lion by George Fulton. Fulton and his wife are all that’s left of the small town next to the mountain. He was a vet that took care of the animals at the nearby safari park. They now care for the animals. The Fultons offer to take in the kids and Matt and Dani. It seems like a nice place to live after the holocaust. But on the horizon is a swarm of locusts that are eating everything in sight. Now they must race against time to save themselves and the animals.

The third book in the series now has our two teens finding a nice place to settle down. They have to think about continuing their travels to an uncertain California or settle into a stable place. I like this series for it portrays teens as you would think they would behave in the situations. There is also the continuing romance that is blossoming between the two in a realistic manner. This is one of the British editions instead of the American so the cover is quite different. I don’t like the British one. The teens on the cover don’t look anywhere near seventeen.

FIREBRATS #2 SURVIVORS BY BARBARA SIEGEL & SCOTT SIEGEL

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Copyright 1987.

Matt and Dani are continuing their trek to California after the nuclear holocaust. They come upon a major obstacle in a large river. So they manage to make a crude raft and barely make it over the rushing river. On the other side they come on an abandoned cabin stocked with food. They have their first good night sleep. Only in the morning the owner of the cabin comes and threatens them with a shotgun. In the struggle the man is injured. After they talk an agreement is reached. Matt and Dani will take care of the owner until his injury is healed. In exchange they will learn survival skills. The man Payne Ordway show them valuable skills in hunting, foraging and riding horses. As the time comes for them to leave they must fight off a gang of scavengers.

So the second book has our heroes Matt and Dani find this man who is a survivalist. He teaches them useful skills such as knowing its OK to eat Pussy Willows. Apparently the stalks taste like asparagus and the roots like potatoes. Only the brown hot dog like end tastes like paper but still edible. That’s kind of interesting and may come in handy some time. They also get two horses to help them on the journey. Another fun entry in this YA series that has the two teens continue to grow as characters in this post-nuclear world.

FIREBRATS #1 THE BURNING LAND BY BARBARA SIEGEL & SCOTT SIEGEL

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Copyright 1987.

Matt Chandler is a typical sixteen year old. He just asked a girl he likes out and can’t wait for tomorrow. He works at the local theater and is their preparing for a benefit. The only person with him is a girl named Dani Cortland an aspiring actress there to rehearse for a play. Suddenly the emergency broadcast signal is sounded. An announcement that the Russians have launched a nuclear strike. Matt and Dani take shelter in the basement as the nukes fall. For a month they survive on junk food and soda pop. When they leave they find their small town of Fair Oaks flattened. Also they have to fight off a pack of radiation scarred dogs.

So the two explore the town and run into a group of survivors heading toward California. They heard that the west coast so not hit too bad. Matt is excited since this parents were out their visiting his brother. So the two join them on their trek. While scavenging for food the group is attacked by a gang of scavengers. A group of murderers and rapists that escaped the nearby prison after the war. Lead by Marley they take Dani. Now Matt has to figure out a way to rescue her from the vicious gang.

So this is an early YA series from the eighties. I hear that it was rare to find and fortunately found the series on E-bay for a reasonable price. I’m surprised I never got this when it came out since I always scooped up anything that dealt with post-nuclear at the time. The book was an enjoyable read. I liked the characters and found it fairly realistic. The plot does meander a bit but I sort of like the slow pace. They didn’t need to rush things back in those days. A good start to a bit of nostalgia from the old days.

THE LAST RANGER #10 IS THIS THE END? BY CRAIG SARGENT

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Copyright 1989.

Martin Stone is heading to Armadillo Texas. That is where the Dwarf has taken his sister April. So when he gets to West Texas he finds a place just filled with nuclear blast craters. The state was hit hard in the war. He rescues a young biker chick who was being attacked by some gang. For this generous act of kindness the woman Raspberry Thorn forces him with a knife to his throat to take her back to her camp. The camp is home to a female biker gang called The Ballbusters. A real man hating group. They even have a mock giant penis set up in the middle of the camp so they can beat and stab it. Raspberry takes Stone to her room and the two of course have mad passionate love. Then Raspberry allows Stone to leave in spite of the rule that all men should be killed after they have been used. Seems Stone is the only man who ever satisfied her sexually. Something Stone is very good at. So he gets out just as the camp descends into civil war over who will lead it.

So he makes it the Armadillo and finds a boom town in oil. It’s controlled by a cabal known as the Freaks which the Dwarf is the leader. Stone stumbles on the to secret entrance to the underground base and immediately gets captured. So he is in the NAUASC (North American Underground Assured Survival Complex). A secret base that controls all the star war weaponry. Here he finds out the Dwarf plans to marry his sister. So Stone is given over to Doctor Wolfgang Kerhausen who was the personal physician to Adolf Hitler. The kooky Nazi likes to do many transplants of questionable scientific value like transplanting female parts onto a male body.(Maybe the guy was ahead of his time.) Anyway he wants to transplant parts from his dog Excalibur onto Stone and vise versa.

Before he can start this nutty experiment Raspberry Thorn and her gang invade the complex and save Stone. Raspberry is apparently the leader now. Stone manages to rescue his sister and the Dwarf is killed by a vengeful servant. Only not before he launches all the nuclear missiles in space and literally blows up the entire world into a cloud of dust.

So the question is this the end? Well if it means the end of the series then that is a definite yes. He blew up the whole world so not much doubt of this being an end. Now the author was dying of AIDS and had just months left. I’m sure he knew the end was coming. Jan Stacy died at only 41. I suppose that existential question was answered for him as it will to all of us at some date. What I loved was that he decided to take his creation with him and metaphorically speaking all of us. I can respect that. At least the guy gave some closure to the series. Stone found his sister April and was reunited with her. His arch enemy from the beginning the Dwarf also got his just desserts. I actually admire the man. He was dying but still kept on going and chunking out books. He kept on going till the end.

So the series as a whole was enjoyable. Sure there were a few cow pies in the lot. The quality was on the decline as it progressed and one can’t help but wonder how it would have turned out if he didn’t suffer from his disease. Now Stone was probably one of the most inept of the heroes in the post-apocalyptic genre. He was always being rescued by his dog or some person or mob of people. In fact the author seemed to have a template for writing these stories. Stone infiltrates the enemy. Gets captured and imprisoned in some sadistic torture chamber. Sometimes he was able to escape but many other times someone else came to his rescue. Then he kicked butt and moved on in the never ending quest for his sister April. Lazy writing? Perhaps but it did work for this series. Stone always came out on top and got the pretty girl. What more do you need.

THE LAST RANGER #9 THE DAMNED DISCIPLES BY CRAIG SARGENT

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Copyright 1988.

Martin Stone and his dog Excalibur make it back to the underground bunker from their last adventure. Stone gets some food, rest and a chance to clean up while his dog gets into the food pantry and make a pig of himself. While here he gets a transmission on the radio that his sister is being held in La Junta. So being the mechanical genius he is he puts together a new bike out of spare parts and him and his dog go on a road trip. After a brief adventure with some baseball mutants he runs into some pathetic men outside La Junta. They were rejects called Broken Ones of the mind control drug that the local cult in charge uses. So Stone starts the process of teaching them to be men again before heading to the city.

In the city he does find it controlled by Guru Yasgar and his Church of the Perfect Aura. He finds his brainwashed sister but gets captured. Then they force feed him the Golden Elixir and subject him to staying in a sewer with all sorts of creatures. This turns him into the brainwashed Pod #47. As Pod #47 he lives his live in mindless devotion to stirring the vats where the Golden Elixir is made. Between that he eats, sleeps and shits when he is told to. Oh and they also feed him meatloaf made up from the ground remains of dead people. I mean they grind up everything, bone, hair and guts. Guru Yasgar doesn’t believe in wasting anything.

Well sometime later Stone manages to come to his senses and stop taking the Golden Elixir. Then he starts his fight with the cultists. He has to fight his dog who has also been brainwashed by the elixir. Brainwashing someone’s dog is so not cool. Then when his dog also comes to his senses he bits off the trunk of the elephant that Guru Yasgar was riding. Thus the elephant falls on Guru Yasgar squashing him. When it looks as if the Guru’s followers will take their revenge, the Broken Men come to the rescue. Stone tries to save his sister April but is too late as the Dwarf has come to take her away.

So by this time the author Jan Stacy was dying of AIDS. Now I suppose he was in hospitals and subjected to regular doses of drugs. So Stone’s ordeal with constantly being given drugs. Told when to eat, sleep and shit. Being fed mystery meat. That is the hospital experience in a nutshell. Now sometimes great real life tragedy can inspire some excellent fiction.

Sadly this is not the case. This book was bad. I mean painfully bad not fun bad. This was a big piece of poop floating around in the toilet. This had to be the weirdest and incoherent story I ever read. Now I know that dying of AIDS is an excuse for poor writing but this is still just bad. I mean his pit bull may be tough and bred to fight tigers but come on. Casually biting off the trunk of an elephant. That is just too fantastic to suspend belief. This was definitely the worst book in the series. Possibly the worst book ever written.

THE LAST RANGER #8 THE CUTTHROAT CANNIBALS BY CRAIG SARGENT

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Copyright 1988.

Martin Stone and his dog Excalibur are driving along on their Harley when an avalanche occurs. It takes them to a river valley where the bike is destroyed and Stone has a broken leg. So with the help of his dog they manage to fight off some wolves but get captured by a tribe of Indians living in the valley. They don’t kill Stone as they usually kill outsiders because his dog looks like their god. So instead the two are taken to a village made of tires and Stone gets some medical treatment from a half Native American-Jewish doctor.

So the story meanders along while in the village until the chief decides to kill Stone. Stone decides to call for a trail by combat and has to face the chief’s son. So he manages to kick the son’s ass but the chief still decides to have Stone killed. Luckily the guy he defeated but didn’t kill is now his slave and helps him and Excalibur escape. They then come on a pack of wild dogs lead by three super intelligent mutant dogs. The Indian gets killed but the three dogs are defeated. Then they get captured by a group of cannibals called the Hungry. Lead by twin albino brothers named Top and Bottom because one likes to eat the top and the other the bottom. They like to spend their time arguing about philosophy. Stone finds that he has company with a young beautiful girl and her brother and father. They were captured by the Hungry and will suffer the same fate as Stone. Except the young girl will be raped by the twin brothers and she is a virgin and doesn’t want that to be her first experience. So naturally Stone has to be her first. Well Stone manages to free himself and make it to the girl’s captured jeep which has a fifty caliber on it. Stone blows away the cannibals and frees the captives.

Well this book was a mess. Not a pretty mess either. The story just meandered along without a care in the world. The main advertised villains the cannibal Hungry don’t show up until the final chapters. Oh and the author just realized at the end he has to have a sex scene so just throw one in at the last moment. A young girl who manages to undue Stone’s pants with her feet and have mad passionate sex. Sex in front of her dying brother and knocked out father. Granted they were out of it and didn’t notice but still that just seems a little bit of an uncomfortable situation to have your “Please, do it, get it in” sex. She manages this by using her feet to undue Stone’s pants. At the end Stone makes a remark that he is glad to be leaving the valley and I was too because his time there dragged on forever.

Now I know the author was dying of AIDS at this time so I guess that is an excuse for not putting your best story forward. I know that after this book I quit reading the series. Well fortunately for you the wonders of the internet delivered the final two books of this series to me. So I got to finish reading this series and you will be privileged to find out how it ends. I will tell you that this is not the worst book of the series.