First published back in September of 1986, the second instalment into the long running ‘Deathlands’ series was somewhat symbolically entitled ‘Red Holocaust’.  The novel was written by Laurence James and was the first addition to the series to go under the house name of James Axler.

DLS Synopsis:
Ryan Cawdor and his small group of hardy militia are transported to another heavily secured redoubt, this time in the heart of Alaska, via the newly discovered Matter Transmitter (‘Mat-Trans’) unit.

Upon arriving in their new surroundings, the group are apprehensively greeted by the only remaining inhabitants of the redoubt – an eccentric old man named Quint (referred to as the Keeper) and his two wives Rachel and Lori.  These three questionable individuals have been living out their days in the safety and comfort of the massive complex which comprises of a gigantic redoubt-cum-stockpile.  Now with the unexpected arrival of their first ever guests, the careful balance of the air in the enclosure has been disturbed, and the many items stored in the complex are finally giving over to decay.

Cawdor is getting restless for the outside world again.  Hiding within a complex away from the real world outside is no life for the likes of the veteran war captain.  When the group discover a museum within the many levels of the complex - a museum that houses every military armament from before the nukes practically destroyed the world - the overseeing eyes of Quint have finally had enough of these new unwanted guests.  The Keeper has his rules...and they must not be broken.

Elsewhere, a band of murderous bandits, collectively known as the Narodniki, led by the unforgiving and twisted leader Uchitel, are making their way across the frozen expanse between the U.S.S.R. and Alaska.  On their travels the group of just less than thirty, rape, murder, plunder, torture and steal from every person and community they encounter.  Their long trek is a forced one, in the knowledge that just days behind them is a much larger and far superior equipment regiment of Russian soldiers, with the sole mission of eradicating the Narodniki.  However, Urchitel has read of the wealth of the Americans.  Here, in this great new land for them, they will surely find the weapons and power they need to wipe out all of their enemies...

DLS Review:
From the very outset, author Laurence James dives in head first with the edge-of-the-seat action; instantly getting stuck in with the ‘Deathlands’ premise that was so lovingly set down within the first novel.

With the tale jumping between the two storylines (Cawdor in the redoubt and the Narodniki terrorizing everyone they encounter on their journey to America) the pace is kept tight and eventful with the sudden developments brought on within every new chapter.  Indeed, the characterisation of Ryan Cawdor’s band is quietly expanded upon and their individual back stories subtly developed a little further, whilst the tale hurtles along with scenes of savage rape, torture and murder at the hands of the Narodniki.

As well as the lively and thoroughly gripping parallel running storylines, James throws in a few more exciting twists and surprises; namely a demented religious sect that skilfully injects a much needed burst of full-bloodied violent action to the proceedings.

Although no where near as complex or elaborate as the previous novel ‘Deathlands 1: Pilgrimage To Hell’ (1986), this second instalment is certainly a roller-coaster of a ride that not only keeps the reader thoroughly gripped from the outset, but perhaps more importantly at such an early stage of the epic series, further develops upon the characters whilst setting down more of the groundwork for the overall ‘Deathlands’ premise.

The intriguing snippets of mystery that flirt with a multitude of secrets all of which are sure to be revealed later are once again casually thrown around with gay abandonment (as they were in ‘Pilgrimage’).  This cleverly helps to bring about an entertaining veil of intrigue to the many characters as well as the storyline as a whole.

All in all, the novel is an exciting and fast paced early addition to the ‘Deathlands’ series, disclosing further details of the tight band, developing further on the individual characters, and ultimately painting a even more complex and enthralling picture of the bleak new world that is the Deathlands.

The novel runs for a total of 251 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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