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Chill Factor is the fifteenth book in the Deathlands cycle written by original author, Lawrence James under the house name of James Axler for Gold Eagle Publishing who are also responsible for The Executioner novels by Don Pendleton and many other "pulp" series, largely unheard of over here. Chill Factor continues from the end of Dark Carnival with mercenary, Ryan Cawdor, and his bunch of friends returning to the homestead of a former companion in order to pick up his son, Dean Cawdor, with whom he had been staying. But there is a problem....Dean has been captured by Slavers and one of the attackers who was interrogated by Jak and his wife let slip a name from Ryan's recent past just before he died as being in charge of the attack!
Major-Commandant Gregori Zimyanin was first encountered in the novels Red Holocaust and Red Equinox and is a mad Russian with an old score to settle with Ryan and his pals. He has no idea originally who he has captured but is struck by the facial similarities between Dean and someone from his past and soon begins to take a keen interest in him. Meanwhile, Ryan hits the L.D (Last Destination) button on the Mat-Trans gateway and heads after his son leaving his companions behind. This is the first time the companions have been split up and it is interesting to see Ryan in a solo adventure. The Gateway takes him to a mountain range where Zimyanin has set up a Sulphur mine in order to make explosives that he can trade to become rich in Jack, the currency of the times. Dean is just one of a number of slaves but Ryan is not interested in any nof them, only his son!
Unfortunately Ryan's arrival wakes up a series of Killer Security Droids and before long, the one-eyed man is fighting a war on two fronts....both against an old enemy and a set of new ones that are increasingly hard to chill! This only complicates matters as Ryan struggles to sat alive long enough to rescue his son!
This is an okay entry in the Deathlasnds series but not one of James' best! Too much is left unresolved ~ for example we are given no explanation of how Zimyanin escaped his last fate or how he came to set up the mines or whether they were already there and the mad Ruskie just took control! The droids too have never been encountered before and this seems a little strange considering the number of Redoubts that Ryan's band have visited?
Apart from these few niggles with the plot, the rest of the novel is surprisingly quite good. But though I enjoyed it, I did think that at times it was only just scraping above average. It is quite important for those obsessed with following the series chronologically and ends on another cliff-hanger which leaves you wanting the next book but the gaping plot holes do leave the dedicated fan feeling more than just a little bit disappointed that more care wasn't taken to slot this more neatly into the crest of the ycle!
Another example of a continuity error occurs when it quickly becomes apparent that Ryan has "lost" the co-ordinates for Jak's homestead somewhere between the last two books that enabled him to remove Dean to safety during Dark Carnival! Here Ryan is obsessed with using the L.D button and holds firmly to the hope that no one else has used the Gateway in the interim of his task meaning that a return jump will take him somewhere new after rescuing his son. It is almost as though Lawrence James has just forgotten about this little plot device and decided to carry on regardless! Maybe he just doesn't want Ryan and his friends having too much control over their Matter-Transporter jumps in the future but this does just strike me as a bit messy and not very respectful to the rest of the series.
Overall, this is a good adventure but could have been executed far better and there are moments where the plot does let you down but it is not the worst in the series by any means ~ just a bit of a lazy installment at times in a series that deserves better.....
Book Series: Deathlands