Thursday, April 9, 2020

Doomsday Warrior #01 - Doomsday Warrior

Jan Stacy (The Last Ranger) and Ryder Syvertsen (C.A.D.S.) originally met in the 1960s at Washington Square Park in New York City. Caught up in the beatnik cultural movement, the lifelong friends began swapping story and book ideas as well as songs. After working together on two non-fiction novels, Great Book of Movie Monsters (1983) and Great Book of Movie Villains (1984), the two collaborated on a post-apocalyptic series titled Doomsday Warrior under the pseudonym of Ryder Stacy. The series was published by Zebra and ran for a total of 19 installments between 1984 through 1991. The first four novels, Doomsday Warrior, Red America, The Last American and Bloody America were authored by both Stacy and Syvertsen. The remainder of the series was penned solely by Syvertsen. My review is for the series' debut, Doomsday Warrior.

The first installment is set in the year of 2089 where most of the world is either controlled by the Soviet Union or in a widely contested battle with the communist country. Most of the U.S. was decimated by nuclear bombs and the survivors maintain a meager living either as slaves or wretched scavengers that have succumbed to radiation's side-effects. With the nuclear attack occurring in 1984, the book's characters are all second to third generation survivors, a unique approach that mirrors another popular doomsday series, Deathlands.

The series stars Ted Rockson, an action-oriented adventurer that leads an American resistance group called the American Free Cities. While most of the U.S. is controlled and enslaved by the Soviet Union, underground cities still remain that are free and liberated from communist control. Rockson resides in Century City, an expansive free society that exists under a section of Colorado's Rocky Mountains (similar to Jan Stacy's character Martin Stone in The Last Ranger). Rockson's role is to lead reconnaissance patrols on missions to discover new supplies, weapons and enemy patrols. It's during one of these missions that readers are first introduced to Rockson and his Firefighter Team.

After blowing up a large bridge and a number of Soviet personnel carriers, Rockson's team comes under heavy fire from communist forces. After numerous casualties, the team retreats back to Century City to formulate a new plan of attack. The intense battle is reported back to three Soviet leaders – Killov, Zhabnov and Vassily. The trio, who compete for political power, begin an expeditionary patrol to find more resistance fighters. After locating a few underground cities, the Soviets are able to capture a number of American prisoners. Using an advanced technology called a Mind Breaker, the Soviets are able to pull pertinent information from American prisoners. Soon, the captives begin revealing locations of more underground cities that the Soviets hope to nuke.

The first 189 pages of Doomsday Warrior is clearly a debut novel that focuses on Rockson's attempts to break into a Soviet stronghold in Denver to rescue prisoners. His mission is to retrieve the captives, destroy the Mind Breaker units and prevent the Soviets from gaining the location of Century City. It's a riveting, explosive narrative that rivals and exceeds most of the 1980s post-apocalyptic novels (Wasteworld, Deathlands, Survivalist, Phoenix, Outrider, etc.). While that was enjoyable, the logic behind the book's second half is puzzling.

It is immediately clear that a new book begins at page 189. At 347 total pages, one would think Zebra would have capitalized on this and released the book's second half as second installment. These books were retailing for $2.95 each, essentially Zebra would have been doubling their money from avid consumers. Regardless of the publisher's marketing strategy, Doomsday Warrior's second narrative explores Rockson's attempts to locate a technologically advanced race in America's Pacific Northwest region.

The narrative begins with an expeditionary unit returning to Century City to report a strange mutant male they found near the Pacific coast line. This area remains vastly unexplored and the team was surprised to find people, evolved animals and a swath of jungle and wilderness that remains nearly intact despite the Soviet Union's devastating nuclear attack. Rockson, hoping to journey even further than the former team, recruits three men to assist him in exploring this new, untapped resource.

Stacy and Syvertsen really hit their stride in this second story arc. The narrative finds the crew battling mutant monsters, deadly quicksand, Soviet KGB forces and mutant, Neanderthal men. The team's exploration of a shopping mall was extremely enjoyable with just the right amount of humor to keep me laughing throughout. While the military style tactics utilized in the book's opening narrative are missing, Doomsday Warrior's second half is surprisingly far superior. The epic adventure, fast-paced writing, character development and action was absolutely top-notch.

The Doomsday Warrior series is off to a tremendous start with this rock-solid debut installment. As the series continues, I understand the quality begins to decline. However, knowing what the future holds for the series doesn't spoil the fun of this early volume. If you read nothing else by Stacy or Syvertsen, at least sample this novel. I think it represents everything that fans and readers loved about 1980s post-apocalyptic pop-culture. Recommended.

Buy a copy of Doomsday Warrior HERE

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