Saturday, March 3, 2018

Deathlands #03 - Neutron Solstice

Gold Eagle released “Neutron Solstice” in March of 1987. The novel is the third installment in the long running post-apocalyptic series 'Deathlands' and is penned by Laurence James (as James Axler). The last book, “Red Holocaust”, had our magnificent seven entering a redoubt in Alaska, with the last page promising that the exit would be hot. Thus the stage is set for this book, “Neutron Solstice”, which has it's location in the balmy swamps of Louisiana.

At 254-pages, this book could have shaved 50+ pages off. Aside from a few firefights, it's lacking any forward pacing or substantial plot development. Instead, it methodically sets up exploration, locations and the familiar “kidnap and torture” premise that's overly utilized. Voodoo themes, telekinesis and even the walking dead are par for the course for any destructive fantasy set on the bayou, yet even those factors don't elevate the book to an enjoyable pace. The end result finds this one average at best.

The story has Ryan and his crew facing a squad of bullies led by the tall, crippled Baron Tourment (get it?). He has a physic mutation and fears that his kingdom will fall to a man with one eye – Ryan. The Baron is camped in a Best Western hotel with troops and a lieutenant named Mephisto. Across the village at Holiday Inn lies our heroes, now six after losing a member. There's endless scouting and planning, that ultimately leads to Krysty and Lori being captured and used as rape bait. Ryan's team aligns with a ragtag group of survivors led by Jak Lauren, an albino teenager that has a knack for killing. The finale is entertaining but highly predictable. 

Embedded in the narrative is some backstory on Ryan. His home is in Front Royal, VA and he escaped death at the hands of his evil brother Harvey. This sinister sibling killed Ryan's older brother Morgan and is also the culprit behind Ryan's missing eye. Harvey also sired a child with his father's wife. It's messy and will eventually be expanded in the fifth novel “Homeward Bound”. In between is the fourth title, "Crater Lake". I'm on it.