First published back in September of 1991, the thirteenth instalment into the epic Deathlands series, entitled ‘Seedling’, was written by the series’ first author and creator, Laurence James, under the usual house name of James Axler.

DLS Synopsis:
Following another jump through the Mat-Trans system, Ryan Cawdor together with Krysty Wroth, J.B. Dix, Doc Tanner and Mildred Wyeth arrive in a worryingly-well-preserved arrival chamber.  Upon opening the doors to the outside world, the band of post-holocaust survivors are hit by a dangerously low air pressure and the glimpse of something vast approaching.  Already feeling the after-effects of the last jump, the group nevertheless swiftly make another jump in the Mat-Trans, this time arriving once again in the destroyed remains of New York City.

Here Cawdor and his gang make their way out of a large Victorian house in which the Mat-Trans chamber was housed deep underground via a dangerously damaged elevator.  As they emerge from the building, they are confronted by a youth pointing an AK-47 at them.  The standoff doesn’t last long, and soon enough Cawdor and his companions have made their introductions to the young survivor named Dred.

Making their way to one of Dred’s South Bronx hideouts, the youth explains that he’s a member of a gang named the Hawks and that they are currently within their turf.  However, this particular area of the South Bronx is situated next to a territory inhabited by a large group of scalies who live within the old warehouses and dockside buildings alongside the Harlem River.  

But, as Cawdor and his companions are soon to learn, there’s much more going on within what was once known as Manhattan Island.  In a decrepit rubble-covered landscape teaming with a uniquely efficient mutie force, a fragile truce has been forged between the scalies and a highly-equipped band of survivors under the ruling of a man who calls himself ‘The King Of The Underworld’.  A man named Harry Stanton who has a strong bond with Cawdor and his past.

However, Stanton’s not the only thing to be linked with Cawdor’s past here in the rubble of New York.  Within the vast carcass of this colossal concrete jungle, a shocking revelation is waiting for Cawdor.  And the companions will need to enter the very heart of the scalie territory to see if there is truth in what they have learnt...

DLS Review:
This is one of those ‘Deathlands’ instalments that is such a perfect example of how utterly entertaining the series can be.  Okay, so Jak Lauren sadly isn’t in the novel, having stayed behind on their last jump to start off a family with Christina Ballinger.  And the void that the fourteen-year-old albino fighter has left within the group is particularly noticeable in the early chapters.  However, once the gritty action kicks in and Cawdor et al are back in the swing of some good ole’ mutie blasting, then the lack of Lauren in the thick of it all is soon (but not entirely) forgotten.

The novel feeds off a lot of Cawdor’s backstory that has been detailed so far in the prior instalments - most notably from within ‘Time Nomads’ (1990).  Indeed, by now the series is well and truly underway and the characters’ detailed backstories and events that have taken place in previous novels are really beginning to come into play.  And the tales are definitely the richer for it.

With the crumbling New York backdrop, author Laurence James has produced one of the most perfectly post-apocalyptic settings of the series so far.  Indeed, the novel is particularly dystopian in feel, in its atmosphere and through the environment that the characters find themselves within.  And the novel just soaks it up for all its post-skydark goodness.

Pace-wise the novel hammers along at a fair old click, always with plenty going on at any one given moment.  Indeed, barely a chapter goes by without at least a handful of muties biting the dust in some form or other.  And when the plot has meant for an otherwise less-action-filled chapter, Laurence James tops up the bloodspill by throwing in a quick mutie or vicious gang attack with guns smoking and bodies toppling.

The novel dishes out the bloodspill like there’s no tomorrow.  In bringing in an organised colony of scalies (which operate like a mutie version of Sec Men), James has given the perfect opportunity for really cranking-up the mutie slaughter with a seemingly endless supply of scalies on tap.

And that’s not to mention the arrival of a key new character (my lips are sealed).  Here, the book has brought in a whole new angle, making it a particularly important instalment into the ‘Deathlands’ series as a whole.

This really is an absolute corker.  For those that love the ‘Deathlands’ books, this is one of the very finest examples of how utterly entertaining the books can be.  It’s an absolute must read for the continuation of the series, with some real critical key points in it (well…one BIG point).  This is ‘Deathlands’ at one of its best.

The novel runs for a total of 349 pages.

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