First published back in January of 1988, the fifth instalment into the epic Deathlands series, titled ‘Homeward Bound’, was once again written by Laurence James but published under the series’ ongoing house name of James Axler.

DLS Synopsis:
Waking once again from another teleportation via another one of the many Mat-Trans gateways that are scattered throughout the ravaged landscape of America; Ryan Cawdor together with Krysty Wroth, J.B. Dix, Jak Lauren, Dr. Theophilus Tanner and Lori Quint find themselves this time on the outskirts of New York City.

The band of post-apocalyptic survivors make their way south past New York City via the Mohawk and the Hudson rivers in a small raft that they ‘acquired’ from a recent skirmish with a settlement of muties.  Their direction – to the ville of Front Royal in Virginia where Ryan Cowder’s younger brother Baron Harvey Cowder lives out his days ruling over the communities around the highly protected fortress that was once Ryan’s home.

Cowder thinks back to his younger years when his brother Harvey and his wife Lady Rachel Cowder plotted against his own family, murdering his father and older brother to gain ownership of Front Royal.  Ryan himself only just escaped with is life, after losing his eye and gaining a large scar across his face from that very last encounter with his power-mad brother.

Now, all these years later, Ryan and his troupe plan to go back to Front Royal with a long-awaited vengeance in mind.  Heavily fortified with weapons and countless sec men, the chances of getting close enough to the no-good baron are remote at best; but this is an opportunity that Ryan Cowder can’t miss out on.  A chance to even up the score.  Vengeance on his despicable brother, his treacherous wife and their equally vile heir – Lord Jabez Pendragon Cowder.

The road to the ville will be long and tough, with the ever-present threat of hostiles around every corner.  But that is nothing compared to the danger and near lunacy that they will embark upon once they arrive at Front Royal.  Their only hope is that no one recognises Ryan before he gets the chance to settle his long-awaited score…

DLS Review:
Laurence James returns once again with another fast paced and adrenaline fuelled plotline for Ryan and his crew to get stuck into.  As usual, the novel begins with a quick refresher of the basic ‘Deathlands premise’, lightly washing over the six principal characters…and then we’re set for another fast paced journey into the very heart of violence.

The opening third of the novel is given over to the hectic and dangerous journey from the redoubt to their eventual destination of Front Royal.  Here the tale throws in all of the usual mutie mayhem and the day-to-day struggle for survival in this dangerous and savage world.

Author Laurence James jumps straight in showing the reader exactly what Deathlands is all about, injecting plenty of lavish gun-porn and jocular plays on the backhanded violence that is now very much the norm within these books.  Indeed, at times the characters begin to slide more towards that of casual killers with virtually no conscience to speak of, than purveyors of a honesty and strong moral principles within a ravaged post-apocalyptic world.  However much potential for a layered depth this could have given to characters, it is quickly pushed aside for the predominating thrust of the prevailing action and blood spill to follow.

Revenge is at the very forefront of the entire storyline – both for the character of Ryan and for his corrupt and repulsive younger brother Harvey.  Much of the tale is given over to the anticipation and mounting excitement of a violent revenge, from both characters point of view.  This just further strengthens the series’ unapologetic, unashamed and down-right uncompromising stance on delivering no-holds-bared post-apocalyptic pulp violence.  And once again that’s exactly what you’ve got here.

The plot, the capture and the eventual violent finale are all equally as over-the-top as each other.  This is what you expect and what you ultimately want from a Deathlands novel.

The tale does develop well upon Ryan Cowder’s elaborate backstory, fleshing out the character even further whilst creating more of an idea towards the man that he is and how he became that very man.  Its place within the whole Deathlands saga is perhaps one of the most important of the books – giving a wealth of insight into the principal protagonist of Ryan Cowder.

All in all this is another excellent addition to the truly epic Deathlands saga and one certainly not to miss out on.

The novel runs for a total of 317 pages.

The novel was later adapted into the Deathlands straight-to-tv movie entitled ‘Deathlands: Homeward Bound’ (2003).  Much of the storyline was kept quite close to that of the book, however many changes were made to the characters, including the complete removal of Dr. Theophilus Tanner and Lori Quint.

© DLS Reviews

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