STORMRIDER 3 LORD OF THE PLAINS BY ROBERT BARON

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Copyright 1993.

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.

STORMRIDER 2 RIVER OF FIRE BY ROBERT BARON

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Copyright 1993.

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.

STORMRIDER BY ROBERT BARON

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Copyright 1992.

It is hundreds of years after the comet Sagan crashed into the Earth. It has caused geological instability of much of the Earth. In the central plains of the former United States human civilization consists of independent city-states. There are also motorcycle gangs that base their culture on the gangs of the old twentieth century. One gang the Hardriders are wiped out by the forces of the city-state of Homeland. The sole survivor is the eleven year old son of Wyatt Hardrider the leader. Tristan is taken to the city and raised in the foster care system. Eventually he is adopted by a kind couple and eventually joins the local military. He becomes a Striker which is the elite special forces with the call sign Outlaw One.

Only a military coup by the Purists forces him to flee the city to wage a one-man war again this new regime. He gets captured during the winter by a small motorcycle gang called the Jokers. They plan to sell Tristan at the local yearly rendezvous that the gangs have in Taos. Only they are attacked by the rival gang of Catheads. The Catheads are the rivals of Tristan’s old gang and he manages to lead the Jokers to victory against overwhelming odds. A vision he has of a burning skull has Tristan take the name Burningskull.

The first in a post-apocalypse series by Victor Milan. Robert Baron was a house name created for this series. Milan who has probably written under more pseudonyms than his real name wrote my favorite series from the eighties The Guardians. So when I found that he wrote this trilogy I had to check it out. First it advertises itself as a post-nuke series. The cause of the apocalypse was a comet strike not a nuclear war. So this is a bit of false advertising. Milan crafts a world that has both coasts of the continent in constant geological turmoil with volcanos and earthquakes caused by Comet Sagan. The middle part of the continent seems to be geologically stable.

The story focuses on young Tristan who was part of this biker gang that liked to ride around tornados for fun. Hence the name Stormriders. The first part of the book has him growing up in this stifling society where an elite group of administrators rule over what they derisively call clients which are everyone else. The clients have to go each week to these Mao like self criticism sessions. He manages to make friends with a blind librarian who shows him the history of the world. After a brief period of freedom when the government collapses from a military defeat, he is forced to flee when that repressive system comes back with a vengeance. Then the last part of the book is him rediscovering his biker heritage. A fun and enjoyable start to a cool trilogy.

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.