First published back in September of 1988, the seventh instalment into the epic Deathlands series, entitled ‘Dectra Chain’, was written by the series’ first author and creator - Laurence James, under the usual house name of James Axler.

DLS Synopsis:
Ryan Cawdor together with Krysty Wroth, J.B. Dix, Jak Lauren, Dr. Tanner, Lori Quint and their new addition to the group – the Apache shaman ‘Man Whose Eyes See More’ (quickly renamed Donfil More), emerge from another gut-wrenching jump via the Mat-Trans system.  The band of survivors find themselves in a whole new similarly equipped redoubt, although this particular one has an additional Mat-Trans gateway installed, with a higher security pass requirement.  Spacesuits hang close by, giving the group a good idea of this secondary gateway’s extra capabilities.

Whilst searching for an exit to the redoubt, Dix unwittingly opens a tightly-sealed door that instantly lets in an unstoppable tirade of water.  As the water level rises, so Cawdor’s band of survivors find themselves trapped in the flooding redoubt with no way out.  Luckily, the remaining air within the complex, together with its apparent positioning and the retreating tide, finally come to their rescue. 

Making their way into the world outside, they are instantly greeted by the choppy sea hammering away at the redoubt’s exterior.  A long and tiring climb to the land above reveals their location on a small island just off the coastline of Maine.

Constructing a raft using the various debris scattered around the island, Cawdor’s group manage to pitch themselves across the vast channel that separates the island from the mainland.  But mutated beasts inhabit the unforgiving waters of the Lantic.  Great White sharks cross-mutated with Killer Whales scorer this area of the sea.  The ever-present threat of the goliath beasts of the sea can attack at any moment.

Alive and all in one piece, the group hit the mainland and make their way to the nearest sign of civilisation – a town named Claggartville.  Upon arriving they are instantly informed of the rules that they must abide to within the small whaling community.  They have three days grace in which to find work.  Three days of bed and food, provided by Jedediah Rodriguez at the Rising Flukes Inn.  After that, if no work has been found, then they’re out.

However, the group soon pick up on an unspoken ill-feeling within the hard-working whaling community.  Exploring the town and listening to the locals talking brings up one name in particular - Captain Pyra Quadde and her whaling vessel ‘Salvation’.  But questions soon lead to violence when the hot-headed Jonas Clegg takes exception to the arrival of the outlanders.  Clegg doesn’t last long against Cawdor, but his death sparks a personal vendetta from his employer – the infamously despicable and ruthless Captain Quadde.

Marked as an enemy of the Salvation’s captain, Cawdor has to watch his back.  But that’s not too easy to do when they locals are cowards who will willingly instigate underhanded tricks in order for Quadde to get her man.  And so, away from the eyes of the rest of their group, Ryan Cawdor and Donfil More are carried away to spend probably their last remaining days aboard the Salvation, hunting alongside Captain Quadde’s hardened crew, for the great leviathan whales of the Lantic…

DLS Review:
This next instalment once again starts off with briefly setting down the characters of Cawdor’s band of survivors before throwing in the first adrenaline-rush of near-death action.  From here on, James keeps up the pace with one heart-racing event after the next, keeping up the constant fight for survival going at a mile-a-minute.

Once the group arrive at the small whaling town of Claggartville, the tale relaxes its pace, instead concentrating more on establishing the new setting, whilst building on the mysterious tension that seems to surround the Salvation and its captain.

With a hefty slab of Herman Melville’s classic novel ‘Moby Dick’ (1851) thrown into the remaining two-thirds of the storyline, the novel takes on a decidedly strange new angle.  Even the language used by the local townspeople is from a different era.  The whole novel becomes more like a Horatio Hornblower tale than that of a ‘Deathlands’ story.

That said, the excitement and action is still there and waiting to burst out for the dramatic final escape and unavoidable showdown.  The tale picks up the pace for these final eighty or so pages, bringing the novel back to square one once again and ready for the next post-apocalyptic adventure.

All in all it’s certainly not the most post-apocalyptically embracing of storylines, or indeed the most exciting of pulpish reads.  It’s certainly an intriguing new angle for the ‘Deathlands’ saga to take on board, but after the similarly mock-return-to-the-past storyline from ‘Deathlands 6: Pony Soldiers’, it may have been a better move to have gotten back into the swing of the devastated post-nuke environment, rather than a ‘Moby Dick’ style of escapade.  An enjoyable read nonetheless…particularly the first third of the novel!

The novel runs for a total of 349 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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