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.

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VORTEX BY LARRY BOND

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Copyright 1991.

A commando raid by South African forces on an ANC safehouse in Zimbabwe uncover a plot to assassinate the top leadership of the government. Karl Vorster the minister of law and order is a hardline Afrikaner and opposed to the political reforms the current administration is pursuing. So he suppresses this information and actually helps it along by preventing the ANC from stopping the plot. The plot succeeds and kills the President and all his cabinet except Vorster. Vorster immediately forms a hardline government and returns to a policy of full Apartheid. He also launches an invasion of Namibia with the intent of reconquering it. Only the Cubans in Angola have not fully withdrawn and enter the conflict resulting in a stalemate.

As the war goes on Vorster’s repressive policies cause rebellions all over the country. The Cubans see an opportunity and launch a bold invasion from Zimbabwe and Mozambique with the goal of overthrowing the regime. Vorster uses a nuclear bomb to stop one of the invasion columns and the Cubans retaliate with chemical weapons. With world markets in turmoil over the growing chaos the US and Britain land troops to restore order and replace the Vorster regime. Now they have to seize the nuclear arsenal and race to beat the Cubans to the capital.

This was the second book that Larry Bond and his uncredited partner Patick Larkin wrote. This time set in the Apartheid era South Africa. Nowadays it is a bit dated with its Apartheid government and Cuban troops in Africa. Indeed the Apartheid government would soon cease to exist in a year and I think that by the time the book came out the Cubans had already withdrawn from Africa. Still while a bit far fetched the story was plausible at the time. Bond writes a sweeping tale that encompasses a wide range of characters American, Cuban and South African both black and white. It rolls forward with non stop excitement to a satisfying conclusion. Larry Bond was my favorite of the military genre at the time and this is one of his best works.

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.

THE LAST RANGER #7 THE VILE VILLAGE BY CRAIG SARGENT

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Copyright 1988.

Martin Stone and his dog Excalibur are riding in search of April. They get caught in a radioactive thunderstorm that almost kills them. Fortunately they are found by the Undertaker and his many kids. The Undertaker manages to nurse Stone and the dog back to health. Even more helpful is the young eighteen year old daughter Luann. After a while applying all this ointment to Stone’s naked body just drives her crazy and she jumps in bed. So Stone must once again have endless sex with a beautiful young woman instead of proper rest from his injuries.

So after a while he finds out the Undertaker has a thriving business in coffins since the town of Cotopaxi was taken over by two opposing factions. On one side is the biker gang The Head Stompers. The other are the Strather Brothers a bunch of mountain men psychos who worship Al Capone. They are bleeding the locals dry with taxes and Stone comes up with a plan. Posing as The Preacher Boy he kills the second in command of the Head Stompers and ingratiates himself into the Strater Brothers. He comes with a plan to turn the two factions against each other. It doesn’t work and he’s captured and subjected to torture which he manages to escape. It looks grim but the two factions do start fighting and he is saved by an uprising of the local farmers. The Undertaker has plenty of business at the end.

So this is basically Yojimbo or A Fistful of Dollars adapted to the world of Martin Stone. A small town being exploited by two factions. A mysterious stranger comes in and manipulates the two sides into wiping each other out. This was actually a well done book that kept my interest. Some more goofy stuff are the various cat dishes the locals eat. His pit bull defeats a lion. And basically the whole area has stereotypical Mexican peasants or somewhat inbred mountain-men. Not really the people who live out in the country as someone from the East Coast probably believes inhabit the vast center. Still one of the better ones as he was suffering from the AIDS virus. As we will see the series will start to go downhill fast.

RIFFTRAX LIVE: OCTAMAN

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So its spring and a new year. Which means we get a whole new slew of Rifftrax Live. We start off with this turkey of a movie. First though a warm up with a short from the eighties featuring McGruff the Crime Dog. Yes a guy in a dog costume lectures us on dangerous of poisons. Specifically the various household chemicals with the pirate skull and crossbones on it denoting danger. Well this goes into the dangers of old prescription drugs lying around and then into the evils of illegal narcotics. With an old eighties say no to drugs and users are losers message. Somehow I don’t think these helped much given the current opioid crisis and success in legalizing marijuana.

McGruff lecturing kids.


Then we start with the movie. A film from 1971 shot in Mexico. Some science type guys and one girl are investigating the effects of radioactivity from underwater nuclear tests. This lake next to the ocean is just full of radiation. So much that it creates these weird mutant octopus.

Live calamari. Yum.


It also created an octopus man a.k.a. Octaman with an A instead of an O. Now Octaman doesn’t like these scientists one bit and starts to stalk them.

I have my eye on you. Octaman’s first victim.


The scientists the greasiest gringos you ever saw seem perplexed on what to do. Bullets don’t seem to have any effect but light from flashlights do hurt Octaman.

Waiting for the oxygen to get consumed so it can suffocate Octaman.


They do finally manage to trap it in a ring of fire. Then they manage to capture it in a net but that doesn’t work.

Calamari in a net. Now what?


Oh the Octaman also has a crush on the lady scientist and numerous times tries to carry her off. But the creature moves so slow it is stopped by the others and has to drop her.

Attempt 621 to carry off the girl.


Eventually the scientists decide to leave but find the road blocked by some brush and one fallen tree. Their inept attempts to clear the road fail so they decide to go after Octaman. They have some endless time crawling through a cave. Eventually they manage to pump enough bullets in the creature where it crawls off into the ocean to die? Or not?

Octaman and his two of four working arms.


So this movie was one big turd. My god it was endless scenes of guys in a rowboat. Guys crawling through a cavern. The Octaman coming out of the reeds and flailing its tentacles. Many scenes were shot in the dark and you could hardly see any action. The baby octapuses would meow like kittens. This was one of those painful movies to watch. You need to crack jokes just to keep your sanity which makes it an excellent movie for riffs. So only watch with the professionals riffing and never attempt to watch alone.
Rifftrax trailer

Octaman trailer.

And coming in June Star Raiders.