First published back in September of 1992, the sixteenth instalment into the epic Deathlands series, entitled ‘Moon Fate’, was written by the series’ original author and creator, Laurence James, under the usual house name of James Axler.

DLS Synopsis:
Once again emerging from the Mat-Trans unit close by to Jak Lauren’s new home in the blistering heat of New Mexico, Ryan Cawdor together with his ten-year-old son, Dean Cawdor, make their way across the sourcing landscape to reunite with their companions.  However, as they draw closer to the Lauren ranch, Cawdor spots smoke rising from the isolated residence, sparking a feeling of growing concern in them.  And their fears are finally realised when they find the ranch totally devoid of life; the buildings burnt to the ground and the livestock nowhere to be seen.  Furthermore, signs of a firefight are all around the property; the blackened remains of wags left smouldering close by.

Inspecting the destroyed ranch for any clues as to the whereabouts of their friends, Cawdor finds a note attached to the rope in the water-well that had been left by Krysty.  The note means that there is a good chance their companions are still alive.  But Krysty’s warning not to drink the water, no matter what the cost, leaves Ryan and his son even more anxious and equally perplexed.

Travelling northwards, Cawdor and his son find further signs that Krysty et al are still alive and also moving northwards.  And then they find the pit of quicklime-covered dead.  A mass grave of corpses showing the undisputable signs of the bubonic plague.  And suddenly things start to make more sense.  The rest of the story is provided in notes left by Krysty.  The leapers had arrived and contaminated everything.  And so Krysty and the others did the only thing they could.  Burnt it all to the ground and got the hell out of there.

But the Deathlands has a lot more in store for Ryan before he can be properly reunited with all of his companions.  The last of the lethal androids, dubbed Sec Hunters, has tracked Cawdor down.  And in the desert wasteland of New Mexico, the Ancient Indian ruins known as the Anasazi are home to a community of savage and surprisingly intelligent Stickies – including one from Cawdor’s own past.  One particular Stickie who has been looking forward to crossing paths with the infamous Ryan Cawdor.  One Stickie named Charlie who has an axe to grind with Ryan.  And on the night of the next full moon, the power-hungry Stickie leader plans to offer another great sacrifice.  Stickies are well-known for their sadistic love of torture.  And Charlie is certainly no exception…

DLS Review:
Once again author Laurence James barely bothers with any introduction to the main Deathlands characters before launching this next instalment straight into the post-apocalyptic delights on offer this time around.  And from the start James doesn’t disappoint, throwing down a host of gritty clues surrounding the leper communities fate and then unleashing another of those utterly cheesy (but nevertheless quite entertaining) Sec Hunters from ‘Deathlands 15: Chill Factor’ (1992) into the equation.

By now the pace is moving up a couple of gears, and then all of a sudden we have some savage Stickies joining the party and good old Ryan, Krysty and Jak Lauren are captured.  What follows here is textbook Deathlands shenanigans, with a host of new characters brought into the tale, including one of the Trader’s men from Ryan’s past named Abe.

With capture and imprisonment on the cards again, James then launches into a graphic scene involving the torture and slowly-drawn-out execution of one of the prisoners who had attempted to escape from the Stickies.  What follows is possibly one of the most graphically detailed and nasty chapters that has occurred in a Deathlands novel thus far.  A chapter depicting the prolonged torture of the prisoner that once-and-for-all sets in concrete the utter viciousness of the Stickie race.  And then later still there’s the rape of Cawdor by a rather grotesque Stickie named Marcie.  Oh yes, it’s all in there!

Admittedly, ‘Moon Fate’ doesn’t really offer up much in the way of stand-out-from-the-rest-of-the-pack originality.  The plot and premise is all quite standard ‘textbook Deathlands’ stuff.  But there’s nothing wrong with that at all.  After all, if you’ve got this far in the series, this is undoubtedly the pulpish post-apocalyptic action that you love in the novels.

And in essence that’s really what ‘Moon Fate’ is.  A standard ‘Deathlands’ novel that packs in the thrills and bloodspills, with plenty of the usual action, tension and savage post-apocalyptic world violence.

The end sequence feels like it’s straight off a movie script. The setting a slightly cliqued ‘final showdown’ scenario, with the tension almost palpable throughout.  And although James throws in a couple of interesting curve balls to the final sequence of events, it nevertheless feels somewhat badly realised.  Indeed, the absolute finale to the book is over before you really know it; leaving the reader wanting just that little bit more in order to properly finish off an otherwise straight-down-the-line textbook Deathlands instalment.

The novel runs for a total of 349 pages.

 © DLS Reviews

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