> TEOTWAWKI Blog: Review: Deathlands 84 & 85, Empire of Xibalba



Review: Deathlands 84 & 85, Empire of Xibalba

For those unfamiliar with Deathlands, they're a long-running series of books from publisher Golden Eagle, set in a post-nuke world. They're not the greatest in literature--they're churned out at a fairly regular pace by a rotating crew of ghost writers. Some of the writers are better than others, so the quality varies pretty regularly, from lame and nearly unreadable to pretty good. I recommend reading reviews before buying anything, as there are definitely some steamers in the Deathlands collection.

The Deathlands books are also definitely not for kids--the profanity, violence and trashiness vary with the author, but consider these the equivalent of an "R" rated movie. Authors occasionally interject cheesy sex scenes--probably to meet word count--which end up being more hilariously bad than anything else. I skip over these, and wish they would skip over these. Some books have 'em, some books don't. Although I do have Deathlands to thank for introducing me to the term "turgid member."

It's rare to find plot continuity between books, so you can usually just jump into the series where ever you want. Nearly all of the books start with the crew of heroes teleporting into their new land of adventure, with no loose ends from previous novels to worry them.

The Deathlands series has a strong following amongst long-distance truckers, and as such, each book also comes out in audiobook format. These are done by Graphic Audio, and are very well done when compared to the typical audiobook. They've got a full cast of voice actors, background music and sound effects. While definitely cheesy in parts, they're definitely much better than having one reader act out all of the characters in a book--men, women, children and everyone else.

Occasionally, the series will have a trilogy or sequel. Books 84 (Plague Lords) and 85 (Dark Resurrection) are one of these, a story arc that overlaps two novels.

At the start of Plague Lords, the group of heroes finds themselves in the Gulf of Mexico. They come across a stash of plastic explosives and head off to a nearby ville to barter for some supplies. Of course, the Baron of this ville has a score to settle with Ryan, the group's leader--basically all of the Barons in Deathlands have a score to settle with Ryan. And they run into the owner of the plastic explosives, a grizzled ship captain named Harmonica Tom.

Meanwhile, a mysterious group of pirates from South America are attacking coastal villes. They use plague-carrying story tellers to infect the towns before attack, softening them up before the well-armed pirates move in for the kill. Ryan and Co. eventually end up on their way to one of these towns, setting up the novel's cliffhanger ending.

I liked the new characters introduced in the novel, but suspect they vanish without a trace for book 86, which is too bad. The core group of characters doesn't change much--everything, weapons included, maintains a status-quo from book to book. Here's the crew, for the uninitiated:
  • Ryan Cawdor, fearless one-eyed leader (Snake Plissken-like), who has managed to piss off about every ruler in the Deathlands.
  • Kristy Wroth, Ryan's psychic lover. She has strange Gaea powers and almost every book has a big bad guy who ends up trying to kidnap/seduce/brainwash/rape/marry her at some point.
  • J.B. Dix, the Armorer, Ryan's longtime companion and weapons expert. He wears glasses.
  • Mildred Wyeth, doctor cryogenically-frozen before the war and reanimated by our pals and now J.B.'s woman friend. She explains pre-war technology and medical mumbo-jumbo.
  • Jak Lauren, albino youth. He has leaf-bladed throwing blades.
  • Doc Tanner. Old dude from the Victorian-age, time traveler. He quotes other novels.
  • Dean Cawdor, Ryan's annoying son. Thankfully he's absent from these books (off at school)--the voice actor on the audiobooks gives Dean the most comically annoying kid-voice I think I've ever heard.
The core group of characters don't really age or change much. I doubt anyone would complain if the authors killed off Krysty, Jak, Doc, Dean or Mildred and introduced some new blood into the series. They would do well to change things up more every now and then, and also to have some more continuity/cross over between novels.

For Deathlands books, these were pretty decent. Don't expect a lot--they're bad sci-fi/action novels, after all--and you won't be disappointed. The heroes venture out of their usual North American stomping grounds, and there's some good post-apocalyptic action throughout. There are unfortunately a few trashy parts to skip over, too. There's not a lot of prep/survival related knowledge by be gained here, but they're entertaining. If you have some time to kill this summer, you might want to give these a shot.

Deathlands #84, Plauge Lords >
Deathlands #85, Dark Resurrection >