by James Axler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Deathlands 2: Red Holocaust / 0373625022
Someday, scientists will locate the part of the brain that enjoys Deathlands. I hope so, because I'm curious to know why I like these books. They're full of every trigger warning imaginable -- death, murder, guns rape, torture, bestiality, mutant animals chewing your face off, and painful grotesque radioactive deformities. Fun for the whole family!
However, they're also delightfully campy in a B-movie kind of way. The heroes are fun to laugh at, as well as the writing, as both strive to be Serious and Edgy and instead land smack dab in Silly and Stupidly Bullheaded territory. And the novels are such a quick read -- they're like literary popcorn, liberally doused in Movie Theater Butter.
"Red Holocaust" is the second book in the Deathlands series and the first decent one to read. It's written by a different author from "Pilgrimage to Hell", as we now have Laurence James writing as James Axler instead of Jack Adrian writing as James Axler. There is more rape and torture in this book, but significantly less bestiality, which I'm going to tentatively count as a plus. It's a far shorter book than its predecessor, the writing is punchier, and while there are Russian Bad Guys, there's a lot less of a Cold War fantasy feel to the whole thing. Good news all around.
If you're reading through the series and decide to give this one a miss but want a plot synopsis, here are some spoilers (otherwise skip to the end of the review): Ryan and company teleport into an Alaskan military facility to restock and gain a new member to the team, the blond teenager Lori. This part is particularly amusing because Ryan et. al. basically announce that they are going to take as many supplies as they want and then get touchy when the local population of three point out that there is something objectionable about this behavior. Our heroes, ladies and gentlemen! They explore the area for awhile, find some Russians to shoot up, make an oblique reference to the planet Hoth sequence in the Star Wars movie, and then smash up a local cult for good measure before teleporting out again. For science!
If you're still trying to decide whether to read the Deathlands books or not, "Red Holocaust" is really a great microcosm of the series -- if you like this book, you'll like the rest, at least for various meanings of the word "like".
~ Ana Mardoll
View all my reviews