The apocalypse. When I was growing up it usually meant a nuclear war between the Soviets and the US. While still conceivable it has grown to include plagues, asteroid strikes, economic collapse and zombies.
I have always found a fascination with the end of the world. I think it has to due with the idea of starting all over. Building up a new society. Not having to put up with the BS that seems plague us in our current lives.
Reports are coming of strange things going on. The dead are returning, and people are committing mass suicides. There are also reports that the Russians have rebuilt themselves and are prowling around with nuclear submarines. Traveler gets a visit from an old friend that he has to go back to the pueblo. So, he burns his home and the Meat Wagon and heads to the southwest. Along the way he stops at New Washington and finds out that a fundamentalist Christian who is defense secretary wants to start a nuclear war with Russia so the rapture will occur. Traveler finds that baby Alexander who he saved in Mexico has now grown into a teen. Alexander has great wisdom and is putting people through some quantum portal to escape the coming nuclear war. Traveler isn’t interested in starting life over in an alternate dimension so opts to go back in time. He will kill President Frayling and stop the first nuclear war. Only he ends up in the Veteran’s hospital just before Christmas Eve 1989. He has to get to Washington but naturally everyone thinks he is nuts and drug and put him in a strait jacket. A psychologist finally believes him, but it is too late. WWIII starts and Traveler finds himself back at the beginning.
The final book in the series was a fairly big nothing. Not much happens. People see visions and kill themselves. A fanatic takes over the government and starts WWIV. Endless conversations on quantum physics. Must have recently read Stephen Hawkings. Traveler travels back and ends up at the place he started from in the first book. The book ends with literally the first chapter of the first book. It ends with ” Traveler had a problem with time. He would always have a problem with time”
I read a review that stated this was both a daring move and stupid at the same time. Possibly but I liked this ending. It has Traveler stuck in some never-ending time loop. Doomed to forever go through the events of the series. Somehow that appealed to me when I first read it and still does. Ed Naha wrote a very pessimistic book. I suppose for a radical leftist the eighties were a very pessimistic time.
My final thoughts on this series. I loved it. This has to be the best of the road warrior type books to come out. It was pure pulpy cheezy fun. Of the two writers I would have to say that John Shirley was the better. He wrote the first half and delivered a coherent storyline with a beginning, middle and end. Ed Naha is a good writer but uneven. He started out strong with the first book. After he took over, some were brilliant, and some weren’t. He tried new stuff which was hit or miss. Part of his problem is taking the series into something else it wasn’t meant to be. He also has a tendency to go into left wing rants. Still, I have fond memories of this series and reread it a number of times. After all these years it still remains a fun read.
Traveler gets news that he has a brain tumor and little time to live. He gets a call from his old pal Orwell who now heads up the rebuilt CIA that he has a job for Traveler. Going to New Washington which is just outside Las Vegas, he gets recruited for a mission. Young couples are being kidnapped from an oil rig turned into a gambling casino out in the Gulf of Mexico. Going under cover with a female agent and posing as a couple they head down. They do get kidnapped, and Traveler finds himself part of some mad scientist’s experiment. He has genetically created an ultimate predator that he will take over the world with. He puts Traveler in an island wilderness to survive for 24 hours to save his wife and his life. Thus begins a deadly game of cat and mouse with a fearsome creature.
This entry in the series is somewhat of a dud. Obviously, it is an adaptation of The Most Dangerous Game which I always considered a mediocre story. This was a fairly mediocre story also. The kooky scientist is the son of the guy who developed the neurotoxin that Traveler was dosed with before the war. He finds out that he doesn’t have a brain tumor but is evolving to a higher stage of evolution.
The story is competently written and keeps your interest. What I didn’t care for was that it just gets rid of the post-nuclear world. Everything is now back to normal. This could have been a story in a Mack Bolan or Destroyer book. Set in contemporary times or any point in the past or future. The cool post-nuke world filled with roadrats and mutants is gone. When you take that away you basically take the reason for this series to exist. Which with the next book we will see brings an end to Traveler’s travels.
The country is starting to get back on its feet. Traveler finds out that people now want nothing to do with mercenaries. After being run out of a town he decides to head over to the California coast and spend some time at the beach. In the small community of Bay City, Traveler gets involved with some teen kids that discovered the police chief is up to something. Traveler manages to infiltrate the corrupt police chief’s organization and save the mayor. Along the way he has to deal with some bratty kids, a shrew of a mother and a ruthless mercenary. He finds out that the evil President Frayling is behind the takeover of Bay City. He has gathered an army with neurotoxin and nuclear bombs to take out the fledgling new government and install himself as ruler. Thanks to the kids with Traveler, they are able to destroy his base and Traveler contemplates going after Frayling who said he was going to China.
This book was the beginning of the end for this series. Kind of like a Mad Max meets the Goonies. While technically not a bad book. It was interesting and well written, it just seemed to be losing its road warrior vibe. The country is getting back to normal. There is electricity, telephones and canned beer. Teen kids now have time to solve mysteries like the Scooby gang. There is a lot of left-wing rants about how bad America is. It was hinted that Traveler might start traveling to China. Sort of take this series to other parts of the world and explore that. I cool idea but nothing came of it.
Traveler is living at an Indian Pueblo as the storyteller. He tells stories to the mutant outcast children. He had a bit of a nervous breakdown after seeing a roadrat massacre and tried to kill himself. Only the village shaman saved him and took him back to the pueblo. One day his old friend Link is found wandering in the desert. He tells of being a prisoner in literally a hell of Earth. Before disintegrating he tells Traveler that his old girlfriend Jan is also a prisoner. Traveler quits being storyteller and goes back to being Traveler to rescue his girl.
He meets up with an old man in a trailer who claims to be the Archangel Michael. He tells Traveler that Satan is building his Hell on Earth. Traveler thinks the guy is some government scientist gone nuts and his archenemy Frayling is behind this Hell. He joins forces with St. Michael, and they do find a Hell being built on Earth. It is patterned after Dante’s Inferno with all the various levels. All being reached by escalators. They make their way to the final level and confront the evil that is responsible for this Hell on Earth.
Naha decided to take the classic story of Dante’s and make it into a Traveler story. I loved this book. It is probably my favorite of the series. A real modern updating of this story with the first level for the virtuous pagans being some sort of fifties version of Leave it to Beaver. Throughout this story the reader is left to wonder if this is really Hell or just some demented creation of the evil Frayling. I know that Niven/Pournelle did a modern update and that is the only one of their books I so far never got around to reading. I did buy it last year and hope to rectify this oversight.
I won’t give away the ending, but it was a very satisfying conclusion. Sadly, this was the pinnacle for this series. After this book it started to go downhill.
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.
Traveler has come to northern California in search of two men he has to kill. One is the mutant Black Rider that has sworn to kill Traveler. The other is Colonel Vallone his former C.O. from his army days. There are rumors of a secret military base in the area with both these guys conducting experiments to create an army of genetic mutants to conquer what’s left of America. Traveler gets into a fight with some former escaped experiments called Cen Cars. A biological fusion of men into a living car with wheels. After killing the leader with his Meat Wagon, Traveler becomes the herds leader which will come in handy later. He then hooks up with a religious community let by a mysterious prophet Brother John. He helps them fight off attacks from the local Glory Boys and their various mutant creatures. An expedition to their secret underground base leads to a final confrontation with Traveler’s enemies and the destruction of their plans.
This is one fun book in the series. Traveler travels to California and battles some kooky genetic mutants. We get a visit from his old pal Shumi the Buddhist monk that rides a giant Siamese cat. There was a lot of humor in this book. Especially the way he took out Vallone. Involves a jar of Vaseline and a stick of dynamite. The Black Rider ends up a victim of his bizarre living land he created. Ends with Traveler getting a companion by the name of Link a former Green Beret. John Shirley the writer of this book was really getting the hang of this series.