Showing posts with label Outrider. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Outrider. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Outrider #05 - Built to Kill

Robert Tine’s ‘Outrider’ series comes to a premature ending with book five, “Built to Kill”. Genre fans hold the series in high regard – keeping in mind that it’s a fun, senseless ride that doesn’t convey any realism or seriousness. It’s 80s post-nuke fiction with all of the characteristics or stereotypes that go with it. The publisher, Pinnacle, was sold shortly after this book’s release in 1985, bringing to a halt the series with a promised book six (pictured below) never reaching fruition. Regardless, this closing chapter has a great makeshift ending that wraps up storylines and characters from the past four novels. I’m extremely satisfied with calling this book the ultimate finale.

Each of the past four novels had our hero Bonner battling marauders, gangs and tyrants in each of North American’s new territories – Slavestates, Hotstates and Snowstates. Chicago, where Bonner and other loners live, has always been a neutral city surrounded by dried up lake Michigan. It’s a hard area to attack, made even more difficult with the amount of firepower possessed by these loners and renegades. However, arch enemy Leatherman poses a scheme to align the territorial leaders into a collective combat force to take Chicago. It sounds awesome on paper…but realistically we just know Leatherman plans to eliminate everyone but his own forces. He wants to rule the whole continent and thinks the downfall of Chicago will be the best opportunity.

The author brings in all of the familiar characters of the series – Beck, Bonner, The Means, Clara, Lucky and even a surprise visit from a guy named Starling. At times it’s intentionally humorous and I found myself laughing out loud at the antics of Starling and Beck. Lucky actually plays a big part in the book, moving him from under the hood to a spot in the front seat. I always liked the character and it was really entertaining to see more of him. From an action stance, the novel does spend a lot of time setting up what is essentially a 10-page fight. I thought the inevitable confrontation between Leatherman and Bonner was more fizzle than spark. The book could have been fleshed out with a little more action but publishing and time restraints probably limited the author’s creative force. Overall, this series was highly entertaining and closed out perfectly in my opinion. Grab copies of these books and keep them safe and dry. Pass them on down the line and let the next generation explore this wacky and wild genre we know and love.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Monday, December 18, 2017

Outrider #04 - Bay City Burnout

Richard Harding’s ‘Outrider’ series rolls along with entry five, “Bay City Burnout”. It was released in 1985 under Pinnacle’s “Crossfire” line of action and adventure. The odd numbered books in the series are clear standouts with book two being the series’ low point. The author remains on task of documenting the iron-fisted adventures of the protagonist, Bonner, through nightmarish post-nuclear North America. However, the series can get subjugated by a more comical conquest, thus the failures of “Bay City Burnout”.

The book starts off in a familiar location, Dorka’s bar in neutral Chicago (the rest of America is controlled by feudal tyrants). Bonner and the series’ regulars like the Mean Brothers typically hang out here prior to the book’s plot unveiling. After a really funny opener with the Mean Brothers carrying in a piano to introduce music to the gang, the book’s premise is revealed. The western portion of the former US is now controlled by a land baron aptly titled The Rich Man. He has a wealth of supplies and treasure but locked into defensive combat with feudal gangs. He’s sent an expedition into Chicago to rally troops to his cause with the promise of wealth for their services. The convoy is led by a one-dimensional idiot named Roy. Bonner notices that Roy is holding a lighter that belongs to his friend Seth (a character from prior books) and the two butt heads. Bonner declines the offer and heads to Lucky’s garage to fuel up his armored car.

I’m not sure if the author had enough of a plot created to have Bonner just chase Roy to the west coast looking for Seth. That’s a bit thin and had already existed as a theme in the last book. To counter that, Roy’s gang brutally rapes Bonner’s girlfriend while he is gone. The next morning the convoy heads west with about sixty Chicago recruits. Bonner, furious about the attack, heads out with The Mean Brothers to follow Roy back to The Rich Man’s compound. He can kill two birds with one stone; revenge the rape and rescue Seth. Along the way he teams up with his old colleagues from the first book, Clara and her motorcycle sisters.

I think generally speaking this should have been a fairly good entry. The idea of Bonner and the gang crossing the Rockies, braving the elements and running a few guerilla tactics to take out pieces of Roy’s small army sounds great on paper. But, Harding never expands on any of these ideas, instead dwelling on senseless, comical dialogue between Roy and his misfit crew. Often the book reminded me of that 1979 film ‘The Villain’ with its slapstick chase scenes. There’s a few hit-and-run tactics thrown in but Harding portrays Bonner in God-like status as he single-handedly kills nearly 50 members of the gang (with assistance) before they arrive in California. The last 15 pages rewards the reader with another Leatherman and Bonner confrontation…but it’s short lived with very little payoff. Overall, it’s not as bad as the second book but definitely fails to rekindle the fire and intensity of the series debut. Let’s hope the series finale ends with a bang instead of a comical whimper.

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Friday, December 15, 2017

Outrider #03 - Blood Highway

Richard Harding’s third ‘Outrider’ entry is “Blood Highway”. It was released in 1984 through Pinnacle. Unlike it’s predecessor, “Fire and Ice”, and contrary to the book’s title, Harding actually slows the highway action down for this stock-still adventure starring our hero Bonner and his “strong man” friends The Mean Brothers. While the series first novel, “The Outrider”, worked extremely well with the “road warrior” styled mentality, “Fire and Ice” was a little too sporadic and uneven to fully expand the book’s elementary plot – finding gasoline. After the second entry, I had really decided not to pursue the series any further. Thankfully, I had a change of heart.

“Blood Highway” centers the action in the southwestern US, an area now known as the Hotstates. Here, the Mississippi River dried up and what’s left is a barren wasteland. Like the Slavestates ran by the tyrant Leatherman, the Hotstates are ruled with an iron fist by a guy named Berger. He runs his own gang of enforcement known as the Devils. As the book begins, Bonner and The Mean Brothers are in the Hotstates (Texas I believe) grabbing a supply of meat to return for supplies in Chicago. They clash with a group of Devils where Bonner sees a peculiar little .22 rifle bearing a familiar slogan – “Bobby. His Gun”. This inscription apparently means a lot to Bonner and Harding soon explains why.

In prior years, Bonner had met a warm, wholesome family in a community aptly title Almost Normal. Here, things are the closest to what we know as everyday suburbia – houses, lawns, fences and barbecues. At one point, Bonner was even asked to stay, but he declined knowing his rebel spirit would never let him settle down. Bonner had befriended a boy in the community named Bobby and taught him to shoot using that same rifle. Fearing that the community had been attacked, Bonner and The Mean Brothers head north to check on the town. To their horror, they find the whole community wiped out and its residents hanging on poles. Bonner knows the survivors have been taken as slaves by the Devils and a slave farmer named Farkas.

Harding really carves out a simple plot – rescue the good guys from the bad. It’s elementary, redundant…but so much fun here. Bonner teams up with a motorcycle gang of midgets called The Lashmen to attack Farkas’ compound and free all the slaves. The author moves the pace along without dwelling too much on Bonner’s strategic plans. Its simple efficiency is ultimately its best asset. While it reads comparably to an ‘M.I.A. Hunter’ book (scout the camp, attack the camp, freedom!), it works extremely well here. Farkas is the despicable character we love to hate while a little focus on The Mean Brothers is exactly what ‘Outrider’ fans wanted.

“Blood Highway” certainly doesn’t pave over any unfamiliar territory. We’ve read this story numerous times. Yet Harding is a crafty storyteller and the heart of the book is it’s good versus evil clash with a clear winner. Gunfights, fistfights, car chases and a great sense of humor are winning ingredients for this entry. “Blood Highway” picks up the same sense of enjoyment as its debut and hopefully will propel that vibe into the fourth volume. I’m riding shotgun for this.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Outrider #02 - Fire and Ice

I’d have to say that Richard Harding’s first entry in the “Outrider” series was nearly brilliant. Aside from a few pieces of dialogue the book had a tremendous pace and engaging action sequences. Harding followed that book with a sequel in August of 1984, a mere two-months from the release of its predecessor. Where Harding had a story to tell with “Outrider”, it’s follow-up is absolutely abysmal. It’s sad considering how promising the series looked.

Our hero, the knife-wielding, super-car driving Bonner is laying low in Chicago and chilling with his hottie (Harding never elaborates much on this character but she sporadically appears in both books). His colleague from the first book, Starling, shows up to advise Bonner that it would be in their best interest to find some gasoline reserves. Bonner says he isn’t interested but Starling reminds him that if they don’t find the promised gas reserves (a character in the prior book, Cooker, said it’s the Heaven of gas reserves) then Bonner’s arch enemy Leather will get it. This strokes Bonner’s engines and soon he is out the door and the book’s premise is underway.

Bonner, Starling and The Mean Brothers team up with a locomotive engineer to find the gas and bring it back to “neutral” Chicago. Leather and his goons are on the hunt for the gas as well. It sounds good on paper, but Harding misfires terribly. The book just goes nowhere and the action sequences are few and far between. When the bullets do start flying…I just didn’t really care. In fact, I disliked this book so much that it took me nearly two weeks to read it – it’s only 214 pages in length. The huge fight that is brewing between Bonner and Leather (an anticipated continuation of their struggle in the first book) never comes to fruition. The only bright spot for me is the atmosphere. It’s cold, snowy and dark – key elements that keep this book from reaching the “burn the pages now” tier.

I have the whole series and will eventually get around to book three, but I might master the art of pruning banzai trees, take cooking lessons and grow my own wine vineyard before I get around to it.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Outrider #01 - The Outrider

This is why I love this genre so much. "The Outrider" is the ultimate example of the post-apocalyptic hero formula done perfectly. Author Richard Harding is actually Robert Tine, a novelist who wrote a ton of movie novelizations in his prime. He absolutely excels in this action yarn that kicks off the 'Outrider' series of books. The series is presented in five books and, according to some online reviews, never officially ended with a good send-off. Nevertheless, based on my experience with this first novel, we are going to get a thrilling five book run. This debut was released by Pinnacle in 1984.  

Harding presents the familiar premise of a nuked America. While he never really elaborates on how far into the future this is, one would assume around 50 to 70 years after the big one hits (at least one full life cycle). The country is separated into districts and rulers. From Ohio through Pennsylvania and Tennessee lie the Firelands, a ruined stretch that saw the coal fields ignite and burn. This is Hell. The Slaverstates consume Washington, DC and run northeast. The southwest is simply known as the Hotstates (the Mississippi river evaporated) and the pacific northwest is known as the Coldstates. Chicago remains a neutral area and an open city, thus our hero Bonner lives there with other loners.  

Bonner gives us a brief rundown of what used to be the Outrider clan. After the bomb, groups of Outriders traveled through the country and provided supplies, support and law to the survivors. They were trusted and generally accepted by the remaining Americans. Somewhere along the way the Outriders stopped and unruly districts popped up. At the beginning of the series Bonner gets attacked by a baddie, a henchman sent by Bonner's enemy Leather, the sadistic ruler of the Slaverstates. The two have history together as Outriders but Leather took a left turn into barbarism. I assume a shortage on outpatient mental health care? He is holding captive Bonner's lover Dara and Bonner wants her back. 

Bonner quickly kills off the hitman and heads to a garage where a super Dodge buggy awaits. It has a .50 caliber gun mounted on it's rollbar, a weapon that Bonner quickly uses to annihilate a small squadron of armed goons right outside of Chicago. Our hero teams up with two guys, Starling (expert archer) and Cooker (expert fuel man) and journeys into the madness to kill Leather in Washington DC. After some shootouts early on the trio of badasses hit New York first to bail out an old friend of Bonner's. This portion of the book reminds me of John Carpenter's 'Escape from New York'. There is a huge prison there that is surrounded and manned by some wild crazies. The two free the coveted Harvey from his cell and pick up two behemoth twins aptly titled the Mean Brothers. This group then heads into Washington DC where they meet up with The Sisters, a commando force of women decked out in fine fashion and combat boots.

With this many heroes and firepower the ultimate destination is Leather's fortress. Bonner uses too much bravado and becomes a full-fledged member of the Morons of Pulp Fiction. He gets captured and forced to watch his lover Dara get raped and beaten to death. Let me get you a Shasta to go with that. Thankfully Bonner's crew blows up a nearby building so Leather orders the death blows on Dara instead of the ill-advised gang rape. She still dies. There went a potential backstory that could run for years of publishing checks. Bonner escapes, hacks off Leather's hands before our arch enemy escapes for the next book. A hired killer named Beck sets out to kill off Bonner but has a change of heart at the end. Cue the credits kids as Leather seeks out a wench that will hold his junk to pee. 

This one is absolutely loaded with action, over the top characters and a furious pace from start to finish. I loved the book and huge props to Harding for including three outrageously bad-ass firearms for our heroes to utilize - Ruger Super Redhawk .44, Steyr Aug .556 and the Winchester tactical 12 gauge. Among Bonner's useful skills comes a ton of knife work. He is able to throw combat knives with extreme accuracy and that combined with Starling's ability with the bow and Cooker's flamethrower - well it's like a comic book team of destruction in one fell swoop. In true post-nuke fashion, the book embodies everything we know and love about 'Mad Max', 'Road Warrior' and 'The Warriors'.

Buy a copy of this book HERE