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Homeward Bound is the fifth book in James Axler's extensive Deathlands series and, like all the others so far, can be read as a stand-alone novel as well as part of the greater continuing story. Set in an alternative America destroyed by nucleur conflict, the series follows a group of armed mercenaries as they travel across Deathlands by means of matter transporters hidden deep beneath military stock-piles.....
In Homeward Bound, the group randomly find themselves arriving in what was once New York. Not knowing when they might end up this way again, the group hold a brief discussion and agree to travel down to what was once neighbouring Virginia and seek out the old home Ville of their unofficial leader, Ryan Cawdor. Before he left, there was a family dispute that saw him losing one eye and nearly his life and now Ryan decides it is time to return and settle the score with his psychotic brother and his father's ex-wife who control the land with an iron fist and keep the people in servitude.
The journey is not without its dangers but soon they arrive and Rya discovers that things are worse than he had thought! His brother is descended into gluttony and madness, his sister-in-law is addicted to Jolt, a new drug that ruins what is left of life in the Deathlands, and his incestous nephew is just as deranged as his father. Bodies line the streets and manor and the people live in fear of stirring their Baron's rage. Captured and held prisoner, Ryan soon begins to question the wisdom of his decision.....after all, they do say you should never go home again!
This is the book many readers and fans of the series have been waiting for. We get to see a glimpse of Ryan not often revealed after several hints and clues as to his past and are taken on a very emotional and personal journey. But unfortunately, this novel suffers from the same fault as some of the others so far in that the bad guys really aren't that threatening when you finally get down to it! An earlier encounter with a drunken supporting character had suggested that Ryan's brother was far more powerful than he actually turns out to be and the reader can't help but feel a bit disappointed when the truth becomes clear. Ryan's brother has become corupted by the very power he coveted and has now become something of a mess. He is only a threat in the way that his madness makes him unpredictable and as for the others, they are just as fracked up in their own little ways.
Still, this is still a good read and there is plenty of action as always to keep things moving. Though it sometimes feels as though Axler has written this almost just to get this part of the onging story arc out of the way, I nonetheless enjoyed it and it is interesting to get a glimpse of what has happened to such an iconic city such as New York in this new reality!
Overall, this is not the best of the series (that remains for me, Red Holocaust!) but it is essential reading and an important part of the Deathlands series. It is just a shame it is not handled a little better and you are left with a real sense that this paticular plot has been perhaps a bit over-hyped and over anticipated a little too much. But then again, maybe that is deliberate and Axler is trying to prove a point and send a message....
Book Series: Deathlands