First published back in August of 1987, the fourth instalment into the epic Deathlands series, titled ‘Crater Lake’, was once again penned by Laurence James but published under the consistent house name of James Axler.

DLS Synopsis:
Waking once again from their resent teleportation via another one of the Mat-Trans gateways, Ryan Cawdor together with Krysty Wroth, J.B. Dix, Jak Lauren, Finnegan, Doc Tanner and Lori Quint are greeted by the sight of a redoubt that looks like no one has been in its confines in the last hundred years.  Searching through the various equipment, Finnegan manages to pick up a faint radio signal in the deserted control room of the redoubt.  A looped message that beacons survivors to come to their retreat for assistance with any matter of science or the study of past technological developments.  However, as they begin to move around the quiet confines of the redoubt, the group is jumped by a waiting horde of mutants.

Escaping from the vicious mutants that had gathered within the few areas they could access, the band find that they are now located in the Ginnsburg Falls area of Oregon.   Upon leaving the redoubt in search of the source of the radio signal, Cawdor and his group arrive at the heavily populated and organised ville of Ginnsburg Falls.  Here, they quickly learn of the extreme right-wing values that this community lives by, with the strict ruling of the aged Mayor Sissy and his family dominating the community with oppressive laws and vicious punishments.  Their motto “Walk the line and you’ll do just fine” becoming a symbol of their single vision.  However, with Krysty and Lori separated from the group to become either whores or housemaids (at Mayor Sissy's choosing), whilst Jak is taken away to be executed, Cawdor and his remaining men decide to take actions into their own hands.

And up north from Ginnsburg Falls is the beautifully serene area of Crater Lake.  Inside the vast lake that was formed by the inactive volcano - Mount Mazama, Wizard Island holds a subterranean secret.  Beneath the picturesque setting of the lake, Cawdor and his troupe will discover the psychopathic descendants of a government research team who are carrying on the work of their project Eurydice – a project that is finally coming to an end.  And with the end of the project, so comes the end of the world.  For the scientists plan to annihilate the final remnants of life.  Their mission is death across the entire globe.  But one small group now stands in their way…

DLS Review:
‘Crater Lake’ is a novel separated into three distinct chunks.  Each one of these chunks has its own separate and self-contained storyline.  The first section being the desperate fighting with the mutie hordes within the confines and tunnels of the redoubt.  The second chunk of the novel being the capture and subsequent escape from the oppressive right-wing ville of Ginnsburg Falls.  And the third part, which is by far the most substantial of the plot-lines, being the imprisonment, destruction and escape from the Wizard Island Complex for Scientific Advancement.

Within these three separate storylines, the action is thick and fast, even with large portions of the novel given over to the difficulties of their repeated imprisonment.  In each case the scene and its setting is gradually set, with the suspense slowly mounting until the bloodthirsty action ultimately spills over once again.

The violence and sex is as graphic as ever.  Laurence James keeps together a thoroughly gripping and exciting storyline, packed with twists and turns and gruesome action, as well as delivering an engaging and involved plot.

The novel includes some important moments for the Deathlands series, such as the announcement of J.B. Dix’s full name (John Barrymore Dix) as well as the truth behind the Doc’s past (explaining the link he has with the distant past, which has been hinted at from the beginning of the Deathlands books).  There is one final critical moment within the book, but to avoid including any spoilers, this one will remain undisclosed.

All in all, this fourth instalment into the Deathlands series is another intense and action packed post-apocalyptic treat.  The three storylines are each crammed with edge-of-the-seat thrills, with the grand finale of the ‘Crater Lake’ plot finishing off the novel in an altogether dramatic and gripping fashion.

Although much of the tale falls into the all-too-easy-to-predict trap, the enjoyment for the reader is not lost for one second.  That said, the ending itself is a little on the weak and understated side.  Not exactly a cop-out, but not the most satisfying and engaging of endings.  However, once again, this in no way overshadows or takes away from the utter enjoyment to be had from this excellent addition to the Deathlands series.

The novel runs for a total of 250 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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