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Pilgramage To Hell is the first novel in the Deathlands series by James (made-up name) Axler that so far has run to 98 consecutive novels! The name James Axler is a pseudonym used by several authors who have all contributed to the series after the original novellist who took the name died. The Deathlands series is a mass-market post-apocalyptic epic serial that follows a set of central characters as they travel around what is left of America by means of a series of matter transporters hidden deep within Goverment Redoubts.
In an alternate version of our own world, January 2001 is the date that the world blows up....not with a whimper but with a bang! A renegade Russian Terrorist organisation plans a series of crippling attacks against Washington DC and takes out most of the men in positions of power. The 43rd man in line to become President of the USA finds himself suddenly promoted and, in a fit of trigger-happy madness, sends all manner of Americas nucleur arsenal against the supposed enemy, Russia! Russian military likewise retaliates and before anyone can stop to think, everything blows up out of control! And within hours......the whole wide world as anyone knows it dies!!!
About ninety years pass and slowly survivors begin rebuilding a life for themself! A mysterious man known only as Trader discovers Military stockpiles untouched since the war and begins dealing in death and armaments all across what was once America but is now known simply as Deathlands! And slowly he begins to gather together a team of likewise minds both to help him in his dealings and to help protect his interests! One of these is the one-eyed, hostile Ryan Cawdor; a man who will play an important party in all that will follow....
Pilgramage is the book that sets everything else off, introducing us to a world and characters we will get to know better as further books progress! This first novel deals largely with Trader's men discovering a long hidden and forgotten secret buried in a guarded military instalation that will see all of their lives together and is a great introduction to what later goes on to become a truly memorable series! True it is a bit cheesey at times and does read like the script of a John Carpenter b-movie from the late eighties and early nineties! But there is also something about this novel that sucks you in and refuses to let go!
Ryan Cawdor is obviously based on Carpenter's Snake Plisken character from Escape From New York but is fleshed out here with a moral conscience that helps him make ever-so-slightly more structured decisions. Other characters we are introduced to who will become regulars of this series include flame-haired Krysty Wroth and the mysterious Dic Tanner who is like a man out-of time!
If there is one criticism that I would make, it is that this is very plainly the first book in a ongoing series and many questions are left, for now, unanswered but no matter how cliched and contrite this book sometimes feels, there is still a lot of depth here that lifts this book above other pulp-sci-fi popular novels and gives it a smack of credubility that is both fresh, punchy and original!
These books are not widely available over here and so, if you are interested in starting this series, you may need to hunt on Amazon to find them. One thing is certain though, this is the start of a series that shows a lot of promise and things only get better from here.....