|Publication date||September 1986|
| Preceded by|
Pilgrimage to Hell
| Followed by|
WHEN ALL IS LOST, THERE'S ALWAYS THE FUTURE
But the future in a world shrouded in the radioactive red dust clouds of a generation-old global nuclear war depends on finding hidden caches of food, weapons and technology -- the legacy of a preholocaust society -- stashed in lonely outposts known as redoubts.
In Deathlands, the war for domination is over, but the struggle for survival continues.
The companions awaken in a new gateway. After recovering, they set out into the redoubt, following a broad passage that seems to go on forever. Ryan notices working sec cameras and doors that can slide down every so often. Okie shoots out one of the cameras, causing the doors before and behind them to drop. As they stand there wondering what's next, a voice comes over the loudspeaker telling them to drop their weapons and put their hands up or they'll be gassed. With no choice, they comply.
Next we go to Ozhbarchik, a tiny village in Russia. A group of raiders calling themselves the Narodniki have ridden into town looking for food and a place to spend the night. They are being hunted by a group of Russian soldiers led by Major Gregori Zimyanin and are heading east, hoping to elude them. They torture and kill all the villagers.
Back in the redoubt, the voice identifies itself as The Keeper, who is a person and most assuredly insane. After keeping the companions waiting for fifteen minutes or so, he raises the door in front of them and tells them to come forward. They keep going down the corridor, which seems to be interminable, before finally reaching a closed door. The door rises to reveal three people: The Keeper, his sister/wife Rachel, and a young woman named Lori. They're taken to get some food.
A few days later, the companions have recovered their weapons and have been given the run of the redoubt, except for any locked doors. Ryan and Krysty are in the gym alone, and they discuss her mutie powers. He convinces her to show off her Gaia strength, and she lifts a 350-pound barbell like it weighs nothing.
The Narodniki, meanwhile, are heading for the Bering Strait and America. One of their number, Nul, has been left behind because his horse tripped over a buried mortar round. He keeps going, though - he can't keep up with the others, but he's not going to give up. As the rest of his group reaches the shores of the strait, seventy miles ahead, he is shot by a sniper.
In the days since they've arrived, Ryan and JB have mapped most of the redoubt, and everyone's gotten new clothes. Lori takes Krysty down to the stores to find a beautiful set of blue leather cowboy boots.
Ryan, bored, decides to go see what's outside. He barely gets out the door when he's attacked by a group of mutie dwarves. He kills them and quickly heads back inside, leaving his LAPA machine gun behind after it jams.
The Narodniki make it to the American side of the strait and soon find a lone trapper checking his lines. Uchitel, the leader, uses an old phrase book to attempt communication, but ends up provoking the man to attack them and is forced to kill him.
Some time later, JB finds the redoubt's armoury. There's a horribly mutated baby crucified in the doorway, along with a message to keep out, but they ignore it. The whole group stocks up on ammo and gets new weapons; Doc finds himself a LeMat and a swordstick; Ryan gets an H&K G12 rifle; and Krysty takes a H&K P-7A 13 pistol.
Quint sees them through the video cameras; he, Rachel, and Lori come to the barracks where the group is staying. Quint says that they broke the rules by going to the armoury, then Lori starts screaming that it's a trap. All hell breaks loose. Hun leaps for her Ingram machine pistol, which is out of reach, but Rachel shoots her in the chest, then Ryan shoots Rachel. Everyone else gets their weapons and dives for cover, but no one can hit Quint. There's a lull in the fight, and Quint decides to throw himself on their mercy. Ryan promises not to kill him, so he stands up, then Ryan drills him right between the eyes. Lori, who had been hit at the beginning of the fight by Rachel, is found to have merely a graze. Okie's in favour of killing her too, but Ryan vetos that - she warned them and didn't participate.
Meanwhile, the Narodniki have found several small villages in Alaska. In one, Uchitel tortures a young man and finds out that there's something called a stockpile near Ank Ridge, to the south, so he decides to go there. They come upon a dam and, beyond that, an early-warning station built during the Cold War. There's nothing there worth taking, but it makes for good shelter, so they decide to stay for the night.
The companions decide to leave the redoubt the next day and head to Anchorage. They gather up supplies, take a few snow buggies, and head south. They quickly find that Anchorage is gone - wiped out by the nukes and swallowed up by the sea. Their map shows Fairbanks to the north, so they head up the highway to check that out instead.
Along the way, they come across a group calling themselves the Church of the Dark Lord Waiting, who worship a cross with a blackened and mutilated version of Christ on it. When Hennings gets out of his buggy, the people fall to their knees - they think he's the earthly incarnation of their god. He's taken away to one hut so the women can have sex with him, while the others get another hut and are fed. Apostle Ezekiel Herne, their leader, tells them what's going on, and that someone will be by with some punch to "aid ... at sleeping". No one likes the taste and they suspect it's been drugged, so they dump it out in a dark corner.
At dawn, Ryan awakens and looks through a crack in the door, which is locked, to see Henn strapped to an altar, about to be sacrificed. He yells at Herne to stop, which surprises the old man. Krysty uses her Gaia power to force the door open, and everyone piles out shooting. The worshippers are wiped out, and the companions rescue Henn and get him some clothes.
After everyone has recovered, they keep going north, right into the teeth of one of the worst blizzards Ryan's ever seen. They're eventually forced to stop, and Ryan catches sight of a small dome - the same station where the Narodniki are staying - and a dam at the head of a valley. By afternoon, the storm lets up, but one of the buggies is having engine trouble, so Ryan decides to go on ahead to check out the valley. He takes Krysty and JB and leaves Henn and Finn behind to work on the buggy. They get out of sight of the other vehicles when a bazooka rocket explodes under the buggy, flipping it over and knocking everyone out. Ryan awakens to find himself in the Narodniki's camp with Uchitel standing over him.
Uchitel asks them where he can find more guns, but Ryan says they have no more. He has one of his men torture JB, but Ryan gives up nothing. During the interrogation, a strong earthquake hits the area, knocking most of the people from their feet. Ryan uses the opportunity to cut JB free, and the threesome grabs their weapons and flees. Ryan gets separated and slides down an embankment to a stream. While separated from his companions, Ryan encounters, and defeats a mutant polar bear. He wanders for a couple days before catching sight of the radar station and heading for it. He sees his friends and collapses, unconscious.
While he's recovering, JB goes to investigate a ghost town by the dam. He radioes back, saying he'd found a pair of missiles - one live, the other a dummy test missile. Besides the missiles, there's little left - avalanches have all but wiped out the mining town - so they decide to stay the night in the town, head back to the redoubt in the morning, and jump out.
That night, Okie is on watch when she hears something near an old concrete sluice that hangs over the camp. She fires off a burst, revealing several Narodniki, who had planned to use explosives to drop the sluice on them. She kills three of the four and goes after the fourth, who has the bomb. He arms it and she shoots off another burst at him, but misses. He's about to throw it when she charges him and stabs him with her knife, but he grabs her and holds her until the bomb goes off, killing them both.
Unfortunately, there's only one road down the valley, and the rest of the Narodiki have it blocked. Ryan has an idea, though - use the missile to blow the dam. They decide to wait for dawn to do so. The Narodniki make camp near the river, where the road crosses it. Major Zimyanin has caught up with them at this point; he and his men are a couple miles up the valley.
When dawn comes, JB fires off the missile, blowing the dam. A vast wall of water washes down the valley, sweeping away all but four of the Narodniki (including Uchitel). Ryan takes some of his people down to capture the Russians, while Zimyanin and his men ride down as well.
Zimyanin claims the right to kill all four prisoners, but Ryan says no. After some back-and-forth, he compromises and gives Zimyanin two, then kills one of his own. Zimyanin has his men kill their prisoners; Ryan is about to shoot Uchitel (the last prisoner), when the Russian draws a pistol and aims it at Zimyanin. Krysty shoots him first, however. With all the Narodniki dead, Zimyanin tries to claim Alaska for the Russians, but Ryan tells him to get stuffed. JB lets off a burst of autofire, getting everyone's attention. They can see a group of people standing next to the other missile. Ryan bluffs the Russians into thinking it's live, so Zimyanin takes his men and leaves.
- This book was authored by Laurence James.
- It was not exactly specified what was behind the freezing doors of the Anchorage Redoubt?
- This novel marks the first mention of Jak Lauren, and Mildred Wyeth, they appear in a fantasy that Ryan has while in the snow, however he quickly forgets the vision.