“ Genre: Sci-Fi / Fantasy / Author: James Axler / Mass Market Paperback / 352 Pages / Book is published 1997-12 by Harlequin Mills & Boon „
Pony Soldiers is the sixth book to feature in the Deathlands series set in an alternative world where much of America and the rest of the world has been devastated by a short-lived nucleur conflict. Ryan Cawdor and his band of mercenaries patrol The Deathlands by means of matter-transporters hidden beneath secret goverment military redoubts, spreading death and attempting to leave the areas they visit in better hands than when they arrive, but are unable to control their destinations because the secrets behind the transporters have been long lost to the sands of time. Only Doc Tanner, a member of the band who knows far more that the group have yet to discover but is subject to moments of senility, has any idea how the mat-trans work and even his knowledge seems a little vague. And so the band of brothers move from place to place, transported in a matter of instants by ancient and faltering technology, making The Deathlanmds better one moment at a time....
In this sixth adventure, the group find themselves caught up between two opposing armies in a battle that has lasted several hundred generations. Not long after arriving at their latest destination, Ryan and his comrades encounter what appears to be General Custer and a patrol of Pony Soldiers eager to put an end to Ryan and his friends. Their first thought is that they must have Chron-Jumped back in time, something the transporters are allegedly capable of but which seems, with their current knowledge, impossible. But then it appears that instead maybe Custer and his men have ben brought forward.
Which, if either, is the truth......or is it something more? Falling in with a tribe of Apache Indians who are fighting the Pony Soldiers, Ryan and his buddies soon discover exactly what is going on and are shocked when a figure from their recent past shows his face once more! What follows is another cracking tale ffrom made-up-name James Axler; a pseudonym that first covers the writing of author, Laurence James, and then other swriters who take over the mantle later in the series. Whilst it is true that this is the weakest so far of the series, it is still a good read and its biggest fault is the way in which it quickly becomes predictable!
For the reader, there are many hints and clues as to the shock revelation of a characters return long before he appears thus eliminating the element of surprise and this kind of ruins the only strong element of the novel. If the secret had only been maintained a little better it would've made this a much better book. If you are merely a casual reader of Deathlands, this will not affect you, and this book can be pleasently enjoyed as a stand-alone in its own right, but anyone who has read this series religiously from the beginning will no doubt feel disappointed not just at who conveniently returns but the manner in which the climax is once more left very much open leaving the way for another later re-apperarance!
Though I am a big fan of this series, Pony Soldiers just feels too much like a weak link and there is little here that is new or inspiring as there has been in earlier novels! A side-swipe from a possible direction the book could have followed feels like a bit of a cop-out and if this book HAD gone in the way it hints it might do, again this would've been a vastly different book!
Overall, this novel is still good but lacks some of the brilliant performance of earlier books....