|Publication date||September, 1991|
|ISBN||ISBN 0-373-62513-8 (first edition)|
| Preceded by|
| Followed by|
IN THE RAVAGED WORLD OF DEATHLANDS, YOU HAVE FEW FRIENDS. AND MANY ENEMIES.
As the roaming band of survivors seek desperately to escape the eerie wastes and mutated life-forms of their nuclear hell, they emerge from a gateway back into the ruins of Manhattan -- the concrete battlefield where Ryan had avenged the death of his father and older brother.
The city is a flooded hellzone ruled by street gangs and hordes of reptilian mutants who inhabit the sewers. Under this urban ruin lives the self-styled King of the Underground, presiding over his subterranean fortress filled with prenuke memorabilia. And here, in this once great metropolis, lives a ten-year-old boy. He is Ryan Cawdor's son....
The children shall inherit the Earth.
A particularly rough MAT-TRANS jump takes Ryan Cawdor and his friends to a clean, almost immaculate arrival chamber. A cautious exploration of the nearby control room shows it to be similarly clean, free of dust or any form of decay. It is only when Doc Tanner discovers a cup of recently brewed, sweetened coffee that the companions realize the room may have been recently used. Instead of the usual blast doors, the room's exit appears to be some form of airlock; nearby readouts indicate the outside air pressure is very low. Ryan cautiously opens the exterior door in the hopes that the equipment is simply malfunctioning, only to pass out from a sudden drop in oxygen levels. J. B. Dix pulls him to safety before he succumbs, and shuts the airlock door. The demonstrated lack of atmosphere, combined with a lifeless desert view through the airlock portal and mention of "NASA-SEC" on warnings above it, lead all the companions to the same unstated conclusion: they are on another world. Seeing something through the portal that alarms him, Ryan orders his friends into the MAT-TRANS chamber to make another jump. When pressed for what prompted the reaction Ryan can only say he saw something gigantic and alive underneath the desert sand.
The next jump takes them to a partially damaged arrival chamber. Upon examination the redoubt seems ireminiscent of a hidden redoubt the companions previously visited. Numerous earthshifts have blocked of much of this deep-buried redoubt, including the upper reaches of the staircase leading out of it. With no other choice the companions make use of an ancient elevator to reach the exit. Some ten feet from the top it stops functioning as the cables lifting it begin to fray. The companions narrowly escape through the elevator's maintenance hatch, and hang from the snapped cable strands as the elevator drops hundreds of feet to the bottom of the shaft. J. B. blows the door atop the shaft with plas-ex, allowing everyone to swing to safety.
The elevator shaft opens to a destroyed Victorian house in a similarly destroyed city. Ryan guesses it might be the ruins of New York, which is confirmed when the group encounters an armed teen named Dred. Dred explains (at gunpoint) that he is the king of the "turf" the companions are in, which they acknowledge. A truce is established, and Dred takes the group with him to one of his hideouts in the basement of a ruined house. They are later joined by Retha, Dred's "slut". Soon after a small group of mutants - scalies - attack, but are fended off and killed.
Dred is impressed by the companions' hardware; he thinks that with that much firepower, they could take out several other gangs and rule over a larger territory.
The next day, the companions decide to head across the river to Manhattan. Dred and Retha come along, acting as guides. The only way across the river is a ferry boat run by the York family; the cost for the ride is Retha giving all the men blowjobs. Ryan is willing to let it go, as it's none of his business, but he notices that the rowers are taking longer than normal to get across (probably so everyone can get their turn). He points this out, and the leader, Boss York, says that it's taking longer with all the extra passengers - he wants Krysty and Mildred as extra payment. Ryan refuses, of course, and they kill everyone.
They get the raft the rest of the way over on their own and hide it, then head south. They eventually come to Central Park, which is now a huge open-air market. They're wandering around, looking at wares, when an old woman with a slashed-up face accosts Ryan. She asks his name, but Dred tells her it's "Chiller" and tells her to get lost.
They wander further south to Fifth Avenue and find the Guggenheim, where they spend the night. JB and Mildred have sex for the first time. In the middle of the night, Dred and Retha try to kill the companions for their weapons, but Doc(who had gotten up to take a leak) sneaks up behind Dred and stabs him with his rapier, then Ryan kills Retha.
They head south the next morning, but a blizzard blows up, forcing them to seek cover. They find a large block of rubble and a passageway leading into an old bus terminal. Krysty and Doc, at the rear of the party, are ambushed and captured by scalies, part of an army that holds the southwestern part of Manhattan. They're taken to a holding area underground. Ryan and the others track them, but turn back when they encounter a patrol moving openly through the streets - they're obviously in scalie territory.
Meanwhile, Doc and Krysty are placed with a bunch of other prisoners. One, an old woman (the same one who approached Ryan earlier) brings them bowls of stew and says that she recognizes them as companions of Ryan's (she calls him by name, and mentions Rona). Before she can say more, though, a scalie appears and drives her off. Krysty realizes that they're next to a tank labeled "HNO3 (Conc.)", which Doc identifies as concentrated nitric acid. There's a wheel on the side; Krysty summons her super strength to open the valve, dumping the acid onto the floor, where it runs down to the scalies and kills most of them. The other prisoners (along with Doc and Krysty) escape in the chaos.
Eventually, Ryan and the others rejoin their lost friends; they also find the old woman, who's sitting on the floor, bleeding out from a knife wound. She gives Ryan a locket with his son Dean's picture in it and tells him about Dean and where the boy can be found, then dies.
The companions hurry off to the location she gave them (a cellar), only to find three dead bodies - a scalie patrol had come through no more than an hour before and taken Dean. Another storm was coming, so they decided to stay in the cellar and wait it out. Mildred shakes out some blankets and releases a cloud of flies, one of which stings JB in the cheek. As they're clearing out the dead bodies, an old man named Bluff comes along, asking if they're friends of the folks who used to live in the cellar. Ryan invites him inside and asks him about Dean, and the man says that a boy name Dean used to live there.
The next morning, Bluff heads out, saying he's going to get something from his stash. He returns a couple hours later with a bottle of joltsky, then lets slip that he sold Dean and his friends out to the scalies for that very bottle. Ryan, furious, kills him and tosses his body outside.
Meanwhile, the bite on JB's face is getting worse, and he's running a high fever and delirious. Mildred says he needs antibiotics or he will probably die. Doc suggests they seek out Harry Stanton, whom they'd heard about, and see if he has any drugs. Ryan sets off alone to find Harry.
It takes him most of the day to find the scalie HQ; he's soon spotted by a patrol and chased through the streets, then he runs into a LAV occupied by none other than Harry himself. He gives Ryan a ride back to his base and tells him that he knew Trader and Marsh Folsom from way back, and had even met Ryan himself shortly after Ryan joined Trader's convoy. He takes Ryan on a tour of his base, then gives him some supplies and a ride back to the cellar.
While he's gone, Mildred is forced to lance the boil on JB's cheek; the fly that stung him laid its eggs under his skin, and they're all hatching. she gets the wound cleaned out and cauterized, and the drugs Ryan brings back enable him to make a full recovery.
They hold a war council to discuss plans. Harry said he would send the LAV back with more supplies, so they plan to "borrow" it to go rescue Dean. Harry himself comes along, but Ryan goes ahead with the plan, making Harry into an enemy (even though he promised to return the LAV). They speed off toward scalie territory, dropping into the river and making their way down to a beach, where they pull ashore and make their way into the sewers. After some sneaking about, they find the main holding area and free Dean. (The book ends here.)
- This book was authored by Laurence James.
- Audio Cassette released in March, 1999.
- Second Edition released in April, 1999.
- Harry Dean Stanton was one of Laurence James's favourite actors, so much so that he named two characters after him: Dean Cawdor, and Harry Stanton, the King of NYC.