First published back in January of 1993, the seventeenth instalment into the epic Deathlands series, entitled ‘Fury’s Pilgrims’, was written by the series’ original author and creator, Laurence James, under the usual house name of James Axler.

DLS Synopsis:
Emerging from another Mat-Trans jump, Ryan Cawdor together with his eleven-year-old son, Dean Cawdor, Krysty Wroth, J.B. Dix, Doc Tanner, Mildred Wyeth and former gunner for the Trader, Abraham (aka Abe), are instantly on edge as they encounter thin air and a strange gravity greeting them in their new randomly chose destination.

It doesn’t take the band long to realise that they are no longer on solid ground, but rather on an orbiting space station somewhere.  However, having been left abandoned for nigh-on a hundred years, the station has become precariously unreliable.  And it’s not long before an auto self-destruct of the entire space station facility is accidentally triggered.  Furthermore, the countdown itself has become corrupted over time, and the band of survivors find that they only have a matter of minutes before the whole space station is destroyed.

Making another swift jump via the Mat-Trans unit, Cawdor et al arrive in a large redoubt located somewhere around what had once been the great windy city of Chicago.  Exploring the secured complex, they find that the vast majority of the redoubt had been successfully evacuated immediately prior to the nuclear apocalypse of 2001 that had put civilisation onto the back burner for the next millennium.  Interestingly, one of the remaining areas that’s showing as having not been cleared is marked as the Chron-Temp section.  Where Mat-Trans units are able to make jumps in space, these Chron units are able to make jumps in time.

Upon arriving into the Chron-Temp section, Cawdor and his companions find that the units are showing that three individuals are waiting for their long-forgotten Chron jumps to be accepted.  They decide to active the units to finally bring these surviving guinea pigs forward.  It is a decision that will not only bring them face-to-face with a horrific serial killer from before Sky Dark, but will also bring them a potential new companion in the form of Brother Michael – a nineteen-year-old oblate from the community of Nil-Vanity in the Sierras.

But Doc Tanner finds himself struck by the pain of his past when a unique trawl video is located showing Tanner and his wife, Emily, immediately prior to his first Chron jump on the 11th November 1896.  It’s a harsh reminder which Tanner takes particularly badly.

However, after finding a fifteen-man war wag, fully armed and topped up with fuel inside the redoubt’s main outer garage, Cawdor and his companions along with Brother Michael, decide to leave the confines of the redoubt complex and explore what was once Chicago.

But out there, in the vast wreck of Chicago, there are dangers lurking in the concrete rubble of the destroyed city.  Muties are lurking in the shadows, and a band of cannibalistic mutie women have been waiting for the arrival of a woman with flaming red hair to take them from their underground lair.

Once again, Ryan Cawdor and his band of post-apocalyptic survivors will find themselves fighting for their lives as they make their way through another savage area of the Deathlands…

DLS Review:
This next instalment is another pretty darn solid addition to the Deathlands series.  Jak Lauren and his young wife are once again long-gone, and instead we have the recent addition of Abe (who had travelled alongside Cawdor and Dix back in the days of the Trader) filling in the gap.  Author Laurence James doesn’t bother with much of an introduction for Abe, relying on you to have read the previous instalment – ‘Deathlands 16: Moon Fate’ (1992) to know how this character came to join Cawdor’s gang (although the background for this is not entirely essential to the plot).

The early few chapters are a little quiet on the action front; instead cautiously setting the scene and adding more layers to the Deathlands backdrop as a whole.  However, once were out of the space station and into the Chicago redoubt, Laurence James picks up the pace by throwing in an army of giant albino spiders which put a much needed burst of energy into the somewhat plodding pace.

Giant spiders successfully tackled, and the pace begins to dwindle again; instead focusing on the backstory of Doc Tanner and his precariously balanced sanity.  Indeed, Tanner comes under the spotlight somewhat in this particular instalment – with a secondary storyline surrounding Tanner’s desperate desire to return to his wife and children gradually weaving its way through the tale.

The inclusion of a whole new character in the form of Brother Michael (to be later renamed Michael Brother) adds a new spark of interest into the story.  As usual, Laurence James gives his new blood plenty of over-the-top character traits to ensure that the exaggerated pulp vibe of the Deathlands series is maintained.

It’s true to say that there’s nothing that really stands out all that much in this particular instalment.  Author Laurence James plays along some pretty safe ground throughout the novel, with the usual mutie gun fight thrown in, a bit of capture & rescue, and a character dilemma adding an extra layer of characterisation to it all.

However, although it’s not exactly ground-breaking stuff, ‘Fury’s Pilgrims’ nevertheless delivers an abundance of entertainment and violent thrills.  It’s textbook Deathlands – with all the elements that fans of the series love.  Tried, tested and executed to perfection - there’s a heck of a lot to like in the novel.  It just takes a little while for the real meat of the plot to really get going is all.

The novel runs for a total of 346 pages.

 © DLS Reviews

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