Friday, February 10, 2023

Deathlands #07 - Dectra Chain

Let's talk about Deathlands. So far, the series has been solid except for the mediocre fourth installment, Crater Lake. I can chalk that up to, “everyone has a bad night”, even paperback warrior Laurence James. But, James rebounded in a big way with the series' turning point, Homeward Bound, and subsequent post-apocalyptic western Pony Soldiers. I was really looking forward to this seventh novel to see where we go from here in terms of location and quality. Dectra Train was published by Gold Eagle in 1988 and remains available as a Graphic Audio Book wherever quality 80s over-the-top, post-apocalyptic literature is offered. 

After the stint in the American southwest, Ryan and the gang enter the redoubt and make the leap. Their jarred landing puts them in another redoubt that appears as if it was just utilized by someone or something. I would imagine this little plot sprinkle will re-surface in a future installment. It's like a Quantum Leap episode where Sam discovers another leaper. 

Inside the redoubt, the group's newest member, the Apache shaman Man Whose Eyes Sees No More, receives his simpler name of Donfil More, inspired by his favorite rock duo, The Everly Brothers. The group emerges from the redoubt and find a barrage of water and a mutant. After contending with the obstacles, the heroes make a raft and battle a great white shark. It turns out that the group have arrived at a seaside area of what once was the state of Maine. The author perhaps adds in a bit of his literary influences by having the group discover a road sign that lists Jerusalem's Lot (the Stephen King fictional town; Salem's Lot) and Miskatonic University (H.P. Lovecraft lore). Total freakout coolness moment. 

On with the show, Ryan leads his band of travelers to a coastal village called Claggartville. The town works in the whaling industry and have a variety of ships and crews, the largest being the Salvation captained by a hideous, sadistic woman named Pyra Quadde. The narrative leads to Ryan and Donfil placed in shackles aboard the Salvation performing hard labor. It's a typical prison-break styled story as the heroic duo attempt to survive their harsh environment while planning an escape. Meanwhile, the rest of the gang are planning to set sail to find Ryan in their hijacked boat. 

Dectra Chain is a total blast. It's like a combination of Lovecraft and Moby Dick in the smooth, velvety afterglow of a destructive mushroom cloud. I like the fact that each of the heroes had a small part to play, including Doc's unwavering voice of wisdom, which isn't completely lost in the violence and gunfire. Some could argue that this is just another nautical adventure with all of the familiar tropes, and there is some truth to that, but having these memorable Deathlands characters fighting it out on the high seas was really clever. I loved the plot development, the bad guys (and girls), the locale, and the journey through Maine in autumn. Overall, another solid installment in what is slowly becoming one of my favorite series titles of all-time.

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

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