Deathlands

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"Pilgrimage to Hell", the first novel in the series

Deathlands is a series of novels published by Gold Eagle Publishing. The first novel Pilgrimage to Hell was first published in 1986. This series of novels was first written by Christopher Lowder, under the pen name Jack Adrian. Mr. Lowder became ill after developing the plot and writing most of the book. Laurence James, under the pen name James Axler then finished the story.[1]

The series exists in both an episodic style and a series format. Some of the novels can be read out of order yet others are dependent on the previous release. There are also a few trilogy sets within the series.

Plot[edit]

On the morning of January 20, 2001 the climax of the Cold War set the post-apocalyptic stage for the series. The end game began with a pre-emptive strike on Washington. Underground nuclear bombs were detonated from within the basement of the Soviet embassy, by an elite group of Spetsnaz operatives, destroying the central command structure and political system of the United States. For an indefinite period of time a nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union devastated both countries and subsequently the entire planet (but little details are known outside both countries). All manner of genetic contagions were released infecting the survivors of the firestorm with horrible illnesses. The remaining survivors lived harshly during a time of prolonged nuclear winter known as 'Sky Dark'. The geography, climate, and ecosystems of the world had changed dramatically. What was left of the United States came to be known as the Deathlands.

100 years later civilization begins again: brutal, short lived, morally confused and crazed from mutation. Between the many hot spots are small plague pits ruled by power hungry individuals who have no limits in order to establish their rule and expand their influence. These individuals are known as the Barons. Their rabble pits are known as Villes and Baronies. Civilization unknowingly resembles the Dark Ages. Trading resumes between the villes: Jack (a regional currency), Jolt (a hallucinogenic mixture of Mescaline and Heroin) and slaves are the primary forms of currency. Life is a strange mixture of ancient history and limited technology that is scrapped from the 20th century. Military technology is the most prized possession of all; success is often measured by the number of bullets he or she possesses. A man named Ryan Cawdor leads a group of companions across the deathlands. Ryan has extremely secret knowledge of the 20th century. The understanding of hidden underground complexes, known as redoubts, that contains Teleportation technology. He and this companions guard this knowledge with their lives. The technology is called MAT-TRANS.

Each novel usually begins with the companions arriving at a frequently unknown redoubt by MAT-TRANS. If the situation is impossible or hostile the companions can use the "last destination" feature of the transporter to return to the sending location. If the redoubt is unknown then the companions usually explore, looking for weapons and supplies which they rarely find. Sometimes they are lucky and find a working shower or stored food which they always utilize or take. The story picks up speed once the characters leave the redoubt and explore the surrounding countryside. Frequently the companions are captured or forced into a confrontation with the local barons. Each novel reveals a little of the characters' history, motivations and the regional location where they arrived.

Main characters[edit]

  • Ryan Cawdor: the youngest son of a powerful baron in Virginia. He first appeared in the novel Pilgrimage to Hell by Jack Adrian. His middle brother, Harvey, is responsible for the loss of Ryan’s left eye after murdering Morgan, Ryan's eldest brother. Ryan’s nephew, Nathan Freeman now controls the barony of Front Royal. Ryan was named after his great grandfather, the original founder of Front Royal. He joined the Trader's convoy approximately ten years before the beginning of Pilgrimage to Hell, at the age of 21. Over the years, he climbed the ranks rapidly in Trader's convoy, soon becoming Trader's second-in-command. It was during this time that he met his best friend J.B. Dix, who joined Trader a little over a year later. Ryan is a master of many forms of combat, including knife fighting, and unarmed combat. He learned a great deal from both Trader and J.B. Ryan was portrayed by Vincent Spano in the Sci Fi Channel original movie version of Deathlands: Homeward Bound.
  • Krysty Wroth: A skilled and talented combatant and markswoman. She is a valued member of the companions' party for both her natural fighting abilities and her limited "feely" (precognitive) abilities. She was initially introduced in the first book in the series, Pilgrimage to Hell in 1986, and it was in that book that she established a mutually monogamous romantic relationship with Ryan Cawdor. She is a mutant, though possessing a rare combination of beneficial mutant traits, unlike the myriad mutilated and deformed “muties” the party comes across throughout their travels. Her most notable characteristic is her long red, semi-sentient animated hair as a result of her mutation.
  • John Barrymore Dix: J.B. Dix, also known as The Armorer, has been Ryan Cawdor's closest friend and travelling companion since both men worked for and travelled with the Trader. He is a thin, wiry, tough man who wears wire rimmed spectacles and a brown fedora. He is very quiet, never using four words when three will do. He is a living encyclopedia on weapons from pistols to tanks to missiles. He is also an explosives expert and good hand to hand combatant, although only an average shot. He carries a large canvas satchel containing his explosives and other weapons at all times. Born in Cripple Creek, Colorado, he spent his early years exploring the local area and salvaging trade goods(primarily firearms) from abandoned dwellings and shelters. He developed severe claustrophobia in one such incident as he was trapped in a cave-in with a corpse for several days while exploring an old mine. After serving several years serving with the Trader he entered the MAT-TRANS with Ryan and his other companions. He began a romantic relationship with Dr. Mildred Wyeth. He has also learned that he has glaucoma and will eventually go blind.
  • Dean Cawdor: the teenage son of Ryan Cawdor. Despite his youth he is a full member of the team of warrior survivors that comprise the primary characters. Dean is the result of an affair Ryan Cawdor had with Sharona Carson when Ryan was still traveling with his old mentor, the Trader. Dean's existence is first revealed in Time Nomads, and he first encounters the group in Seedling.
  • Jak Lauren: An albino distinguished in the books by his unusual syntax when speaking. Jak was introduced in the third book, Neutron Solstice. He is a young man, in his late teens, and is an extremely capable hunter and warrior. His signature weapon are his leaf bladed throwing knives, of which he has between 8 and 12 hidden on him at all times, and often uses them as thrown weapons or for melee when guns are inappropriate. He comes from the suburb of West Lowellton in Lafayette, Louisiana, where the group first meet him. At the time,he is leading a group of rebels against an extremely sadistic baron known as Tourment. When Ryan and the other's first met him, and saw just how skillful of a fighter and leader he is, they are surprised to find he is only 14 years old. He is later married to Christian Ballinger, and temporarily leaves the group to settle down in Latitude Zero, but tragedy strikes and his wife and daughter are savagely murdered, and he rejoins the group. In the Deathlands: Homeward Bound movie from the Sci-Fi Channel, his personality was altered to that of a "savage".
  • Dr. Mildred Winona Wyeth: A stocky black woman, known for her corn rowed hair, and smartass comments to life in general. She is also a medical doctor from the twentieth century who was cryogenically frozen before the apocalypse event. After her introduction in the series she joined Ryan Cawdor and the other characters in roaming the Deathlands via the Redoubts. She has been romantically linked to J.B. Dix, one of the original characters of the series. Mildred is both a skilled physician and a person to contend with firearms wise, having been an Olympic pistol champion before her cryonic freezing, she has the ability to shoot with a level that almost defies belief, notably hitting Stingwings, small fast terrors that are generally feared in Deathlands, as they attack the group while in flight.
  • Dr. Theophilus Algernon Tanner: Also known as "Doc", was rescued by Ryan Cawdor and his people from the ville of Mocsin, where he was being kept captive by Jordan Teague, the ville's baron. Dr. Tanner speaks in a very strange, Victorian way. Physically, he is very tall and skinny. His face is deeply lined and framed by long gray hair. He has perfect teeth and speaks with a deep, rich voice which commands attention. He is a doctor of philosophy, as well as having studied ichthyology. Tanner was actually born on February 14, 1868 in South Strafford, Vermont. During a time traveling experiment by scientists, he was brought one hundred years into the future, to 1998. Since he proved to be a nuisance and kept trying to escape, the scientists pushed him a further one hundred years into the future, to the Deathlands. The time travel has put a strain on his body, and his memory has partly lapsed. His knowledge of pre-apocalypse redoubts (hidden government fortresses) proves invaluable to Ryan Cawdor and his team. He possesses knowledge of several other projects besides the one which "Time Trawled" him to the deathlands time period, notably TITAN, there is a past drug induced psychotic break whenever something brings that particular project to the forefront, and Doc fails to think clearly until the moment passes or he is distracted to another subject. Dr. Tanner was left out of the 2003 film Deathlands: Homeward Bound.
  • Trader: There are many people in Deathlands who bear the title "trader", but only one who used it as his name. Trader is a legend all over Deathlands - a man known for fair deals, a distinct lack of mercy, and the largest and most powerful convoys anywhere. Trader was about 56 years of age at the time of his final appearance (and, it is presumed, death); he had grizzled salt-and-pepper hair and a beard, a burly build, and a chronic cough from his radiation sickness (though he was later cured of this). He carried a battered Armalite rifle, often using it as a crutch.

Enemies[edit]

Over the course of the series, Ryan Cawdor and his band have fought and defeated countless power-mad villains, and most died within one book. Many villains were Barons- rulers of small dictatorships scattered across The Deathlands (notably, Barons are also the primary antagonists of the sequel series Outlanders, except there are now only a small number of technologically adept superhuman barons instead of the hundreds of lesser kingpins). Another notable group are the mutants- humanoid beings that have adapted and gained inhuman powers, psionic and otherwise, due to radiation exposure and natural selection. There are a few notable villains in this list, which include:

  • Cort Strasser: Former Security Man for Baron Teague and sado-masochistic mastermind behind many plots against Cawdor's crew. He appeared three times: as the Sec Chief in Pilgrimage to Hell, as the leader of a group of formidable soldiers in Pony Soldiers, and finally as the leader of a group of raiders who travel by railway in Latitude Zero, in which he killed himself in an attempt to kill Ryan Cawdor.
  • Major Zimyanyin: Major-Commissar Gregori Zimyanin was a member of the Russian Security Bureau (sort of an amalgam of the KGB and the army). He appeared multiple times throughout the series, opposing Cawdor's team. He kills himself after a plot to kidnap Ryan Cawdor's son because he was too honorable to allow a small child to bear such a heavy grudge.
  • Straub: A powerful psionic mutie who had the abilities of mind-reading and hypnosis. He was encountered two times throughout the series: as a leader of a group of bandits in Shadowfall (where he also presumably killed major characters Abe and Trader), and as cohort to evil Baroness Katya Beausoleil in Circle Thrice, where he was shot by Doc Tanner.
  • Magus: A former slaver of genetically engineered mutants, he had his eyes, hands, and jaw destroyed in a fight against the Trader, and later was repaired and learned to master pre-dark technology. He's believed to have magical abilities by the more superstitious in the Deathlands.
  • Baron Harvey Cawdor: The brother of Ryan Cawdor and the leader of a barony in Virginia. He tried and succeeded, with the help of his father's young wife, to kill his father and brothers so he could rule the barony- although Ryan escaped with one less eye. Because of a breech-birth, he was a misshapen hunchbacked man with a proficiency in guns and knives. He was killed in his first appearance in Homeward Bound.
  • Dredda Trask: A woman who lived in an alternate universe where the nuclear detinations never occurred. She was the CEO of a corporation that controlled most of the world, and was genetically altered to be the "perfect" human being. She was later destroyed by parasites that inhabited the void between the universes.
  • Baron Willie Elijah: A powerful Baron who believed in genetic purity and sentenced all other kinds of humans to forced labor. While not entirely evil himself, he has caused a number of villains incidentally, such as...
    • Johnson Lester: His former Sec Man who was later badly burned and later became the leader of an army of mutant stickies.
    • Kaa: A powerful psionic mutant under the captivity of Baron Elijah, but eventually making it into his good graces. He had the ability to control mutants with his pineal third eye. He then tried to commit genocide of all non-mutants in the Deathlands.

Series History[edit]

The series was begun as a joint project by Christopher Lowder (pen name "Jack Adrian") and Laurence James (pen name "James Axler"), with the first book called Pilgrimage To Hell. Laurence James then solely wrote the Deathlands series up to and including Eclipse at Noon. However, due to failing health he was forced to leave the series in 1995. Prior to his death in February 2000, James wrote one last novel, Crucible of Time, which was released in 1998. All other Deathlands novels have been written by a number of other authors, including Mark Ellis who produced the first post-Laurence James entry, Stoneface. Below is a list of the books in the Deathlands series.

Series # Title Author(s) First Edition ISBN Date Released
000 Encounter Alan Philipson (Primary Story), Mark Ellis,

Christopher Lowder, Laurence James

0-373-81197-7 January 1988
001 Pilgrimage to Hell Christopher Lowder (First ¾ of book),

Laurence James (Last ¼ of book)

0-373-62501-4 June 1986
002 Red Holocaust Laurence James 0-373-62502-2 September 1986
003 Neutron Solstice Laurence James 0-373-62503-0 March 1987
004 Crater Lake Laurence James 0-373-62504-9 August 1987
005 Homeward Bound Laurence James 0-373-62505-7 January 1988
006 Pony Soldiers Laurence James 0-373-62506-5 May 1988
007 Dectra Chain Laurence James 0-373-62507-3 September 1988
008 Ice and Fire Laurence James 0-373-62508-1 December 1988
009 Red Equinox Laurence James 0-373-62509-X June 1989
010 Northstar Rising Laurence James 0-373-62510-3 December 1989
011 Time Nomads Laurence James 0-373-62511-1 June 1990
012 Latitude Zero Laurence James 0-373-62512-X April 1991
013 Seedling Laurence James 0-373-62513-8 September 1991
014 Dark Carnival Laurence James 0-373-62514-6 January 1992
015 Chill Factor Laurence James 0-373-62515-4 May 1992
016 Moon Fate Laurence James 0-373-62516-2 September 1992
017 Fury's Pilgrims Laurence James 0-373-62517-0 January 1993
018 Shockscape Laurence James 0-373-62518-9 June 1993
019 Deep Empire Laurence James 0-373-62519-7 January 1994
020 Cold Asylum Laurence James 0-373-62520-0 April 1994
021 Twilight Children Laurence James 0-373-62521-9 June 1994
022 Rider, Reaper Laurence James 0-373-62522-7 August 1994
023 Road Wars Laurence James 0-373-62523-5 October 1994
024 Trader Redux Laurence James 0-373-62524-3 December 1994
025 Genesis Echo Laurence James 0-373-62525-1 March 1995
026 Shadowfall Laurence James 0-373-62526-X May 1995
027 Ground Zero Laurence James 0-373-62527-8 July 1995
028 Emerald Fire Laurence James 0-373-62528-6 October 1995
029 Bloodlines Laurence James 0-373-62529-4 December 1995
030 Crossways Laurence James 0-373-62530-8 February 1996
031 Keepers of the Sun Laurence James 0-373-62531-6 April 1996
032 Circle Thrice Laurence James 0-373-62532-4 June 1996
033 Eclipse at Noon Laurence James 0-373-62533-2 September 1996
034 Stoneface Mark Ellis 0-373-62534-0 November 1996
035 Bitter Fruit Mel Odom 0-373-62535-9 January 1997
036 Skydark Alan Philipson 0-373-62536-7 March 1997
037 Demons of Eden Mark Ellis 0-373-62537-5 May 1997
038 The Mars Arena Mel Odom 0-373-62538-3 August 1997
039 Watersleep Terry Collins 0-373-62539-1 November 1997
040 Nightmare Passage Mark Ellis 0-373-62540-5 January 1998
041 Freedom Lost Terry Collins 0-373-62541-3 March 1998
042 Way of the Wolf Mel Odom 0-373-62542-1 July 1998
043 Dark Emblem Terry Collins 0-373-62543-X October 1998
044 Crucible of Time Laurence James 0-373-62544-8 January 1999
045 Starfall Mel Odom 0-373-62545-6 April 1999
046 Gemini Rising

The Baronies Trilogy - Book 1

Nick Pollotta 0-373-62546-4 July 1999
047 Gaia's Demise

The Baronies Trilogy - Book 2

Nick Pollotta 0-373-62547-2 October 1999
048 Dark Reckoning

The Baronies Trilogy - Book 3

Nick Pollotta 0-373-62548-0 January 2000
049 Shadow World Alan Philipson 0-373-62559-6 March 2000
050 Pandora's Redoubt Nick Pollotta 0-373-62560-X June 2000
051 Rat King Andy Boot 0-373-62561-2 September 2000
052 Zero City Nick Pollotta 0-373-62562-6 December 2000
053 Savage Armada

The Skydark Chronicles - Book 1

Nick Pollotta 0-373-62563-4 March 2001
054 Judas Strike

The Skydark Chronicles - Book 2

Nick Pollotta 0-373-62564-2 June 2001
055 Shadow Fortress

The Skydark Chronicles - Book 3

Nick Pollotta 0-373-62565-0 September 2001
056 Sunchild Andy Boot 0-373-62566-9 December 2001
057 Breakthrough Alan Philipson 0-373-62567-7 March 2002
058 Salvation Road Andy Boot 0-373-62568-5 June 2002
059 Amazon Gate

The Illuminated Ones - Book 1

Andy Boot 0-373-62569-3 September 2002
060 Destiny's Truth

The Illuminated Ones - Book 2

Andy Boot 0-373-62570-7 December 2002
061 Skydark Spawn Edo Van Belkom 0-373-62571-5 March 2003
062 Damnation Road Show Alan Philipson 0-373-62572-3 June 2003
063 Devil Riders

Scorpion God - Book 1

Nick Pollotta 0-373-62573-1 September 2003
064 Bloodfire

Scorpion God - Book 2

Nick Pollotta 0-363-62574-X December 2003
065 Hellbenders Andy Boot 0-373-62575-8 March 2004
066 Separation Andy Boot 0-373-62576-6 June 2004
067 Death Hunt Andy Boot 0-373-62577-4 September 2004
068 Shaking Earth Victor Milan 0-373-62578-2 December 2004
069 Black Harvest Edo Van Belkom 0-373-62579-0 March 2005
070 Vengeance Trail Victor Milan 0-373-62580-4 June 2005
071 Ritual Chill

Altered States - Book 1

Andy Boot 0-373-62581-2 September 2005
072 Atlantis Reprise

Altered States - Book 2

Andy Boot 0-373-62582-0 December 2005
073 Labyrinth Alan Philipson 0-373-62583-9 March 2006
074 Strontium Swamp Andy Boot 0-373-62584-7 June 2006
075 Shatter Zone

The Coldfire Project - Book 1

Nick Pollotta 0-373-62585-5 September 2006
076 Perdition Valley

The Coldfire Project - Book 2

Nick Pollotta 0-373-62586-3 December 2006
077 Cannibal Moon Alan Philipson 0-373-62587-1 March 2007
078 Sky Raider Nick Pollotta 0-373-62588-X June 2007
079 Remember Tomorrow Andy Boot 0-373-62589-8 September 2007
080 Sunspot Alan Philipson 0-373-62590-1 December 2007
081 Desert Kings Nick Pollotta 0-373-62591-X March 2008
082 Apocalypse Unborn Alan Philipson 0-373-62592-8 June 2008
083 Thunder Road Andy Boot 0-373-62593-6 September 2008
084 Plague Lords

Empire of Xibalba - Book 1

Alan Philipson 0-373-62594-4 December 2008
085 Dark Resurrection

Empire of Xibalba - Book 2

Alan Philipson 0-373-62595-2 March 2009
086 Eden's Twilight Nick Pollotta 0-373-62596-0 June 2009
087 Desolation Crossing Andy Boot 0-373-62597-9 July 2009
088 Alpha Wave Rik Hoskin 0-373-62598-7 September 2009
089 Time Castaways Nick Pollotta 0-373-62599-5 December 2009
090 Prophecy Andy Boot 0-373-62600-2 January 2010
091 Blood Harvest Chuck Rogers 0-373-62601-0 March 2010
092 Arcadian's Asylum Andy Boot 0-373-62602-9 May 2010
093 Baptism of Rage Rik Hoskin 0-373-62603-7 July 2010
094 Doom Helix Alan Philipson 0-373-62604-5 September 2010
095 Moonfeast Nick Pollotta 0-373-62605-3 November 2010
096 Downrigger Drift John Helfers 0-373-62606-1 January 2011
097 Playfair's Axiom Victor Milan 0-373-62607-X March 2011
098 Tainted Cascade Nick Pollotta 0-373-62608-8 May 2011
099 Perception Fault John Helfers 0-373-62609-6 July 2011
100 Prodigal's Return Nick Pollotta 0-373-62610-X September 2011
101 Lost Gates Andy Boot 0-373-62611-8 November 2011
102 Haven's Blight Victor Milan 0-373-62612-6 January 2012
103 Hell Road Warriors Chuck Rogers 0-373-62613-4 March 2012
104 Palaces of Light Andy Boot 0-373-62614-2 May 2012
105 Wretched Earth Victor Milan 0-373-62615-0 July 2012
106 Crimson Waters Victor Milan 0-373-62616-9 September 2012
107 No Man's Land Victor Milan 0-373-62617-7 October 2012
108 Nemesis Victor Milan 0-373-62618-5 January 2013
109 Chrono Spasm Rik Hoskin 0-373-62619-3 March 2013
110 Sins of Honor Nick Pollotta 0-373-62620-7 May 2013
111 Storm Breakers Victor Milan 0-373-62621-5 July 2013
112 Dark Fathoms John Helfers 0-373-62622-3 September 2013
113 Motherlode Victor Milan 0-373-62623-1 November 2013
114 Siren Song Rik Hoskin 0-373-62624-X January 2014
115 Hanging Judge Victor Milan 0-373-62625-8 March 2014
116 End Program Rik Hoskin 0-373-62626-6 May 2014
117 Desolation Angels Victor Milan 0-373-62627-4 July 2014
118 Blood Red Tide Chuck Rogers 0-373-62628-2 September 2014
119 Polestar Omega TBA 0-373-62629-0 November 2014
120 Hive Invasion TBA 0-373-62630-4 January 2015

Adaptations[edit]

Deathlands also made it to film in 2003 as a low-budget TV movie that aired on the Sci-Fi Channel. Deathlands: Homeward Bound starred Vincent Spano and Traci Lords. Ryan, Krysty, J.B., and Jak were featured characters in the movie. Cannies, Sec Men, War Wag, and a Redoubt were depicted in the movie. The characters of Doc Tanner and Lori Quint were absent.

Many of the Deathlands and Outlanders novels have been adapted to the Graphic Audio audio book format. The Deathands Saga was initially produced by Random House Audio, though the Saga was never completed. Currently these titles are produced by The Cutting Corporation and are called Graphic Audio. They are primarily targeted at long-distance drivers. With an average running time of nearly 8 hours, each of the books is a definite favorite of many OTR (long distance, over-the-road) truck drivers. The Cutting Corporation sets the Deathlands and Outlanders audio books apart from others by using a multicast. Each character has their own voice, and so makes it easy to picture the events from the book actually taking place. Music and background sound effects also accompany the sound track, setting their productions apart from most normal audio-books.

Related works[edit]

Created in 1996 by Mark Ellis, Outlanders is the official spin-off series from Deathlands, although it established an identity distinct from Deathlands with the first novel, Exile To Hell. Outlanders provided a more expansive and complete backstory for the "Axlerverse" and the causes for the nuclear holocaust rather than relying on the "US vs. USSR" template.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Don D'Ammassa (2009), Encyclopedia of adventure fiction, p. 149, ISBN 978-0-8160-7573-7 

External links[edit]