Book Review: Red Holocaust by James Axler (Deathlands #2)

Red Holocaust (Deathlands, #2)Red Holocaust by James Axler
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Read for the Apocalypse Now! Reading Challenge.

Method of the world’s destruction: global thermonuclear and biochemical warfare.

This book was pretty much exactly what I expected.

The Deadlands series takes place about a hundred years after a major thermonuclear and biochemical war plunged the earth into nuclear winter. The sky is full of what they describe as “chemclouds” and the world is just emerging from the cold snap. Crazy human whackjobs roam the countryside, some of which happen to be our protagonists, who work for a guy known as Trader to go to little stashes in bunkers and underground bases known as redoubts to get stuff left behind by the old world, mostly food and weapons. They run into even crazier human whackjobs and usually end up shooting at them. Foes in the story include: the guardians of the redoubt they invade and steal from, who happen to be a brother-sister couple with a young woman child; a bunch of crazy desperate radiation-damaged and starving mutants trying to live in the wastes who just want to get in where it’s warm; a doomsday Christian cult who believe in human sacrifice; a pack of Russian crazies who escape to Alaska to pillage and rape the countryside because old books say it’s better in America; and a Russian cavalry unit pursuing the pack of crazies.

None of these guys are good or decent people, but aside from the Russian crazies, they’re certainly no worse than the characters, who stomp around stealing from people and indulging in gun porn and blowing sh*t up in every libertarian survivalist’s ultimate fapfest fantasy. The hero, Ryan, is a cipher who goes around acting like a sociopath (in that not much seems to phase him emotionally and he has no qualms just taking people’s stuff because he thinks he’s a superior human being to them,) screwing the prettiest girl in the party (who is strong enough to squish him like a zit because she’s a mutant but who nevertheless is enchanted by the size of his organ, I guess, because she just meekly does whatever he tells her,) the not-as-pretty woman who naturally also wants Ryan despite having a solid handful of other, smarter, and much more interesting men to choose from, whose momentary jealous thought against the pretty one is punished almost immediately by getting blown up, and a few guys who rarely talk. The only interesting one in the bunch is the Doc, who has amnesia and who occasionally remembers snippets of stuff you know is going to be important later in the series but right now has not a thing to do with a thing.

Axler kept switching back and forth between them and the bad guys, who were animals given human form, combing the Russian countryside raping and torturing and murdering whomever they came across and taking their stuff. You knew they were going to meet up eventually and the big confrontation would be when the two groups faced off. I was almost rooting for them, though; at least they were interesting, and they had equal opportunity rapists!

Every time a weapon appears it’s described by make, model and serial number, and every time a person appears every weapon on their person is described, as another reviewer has pointed out. I’m sure the point of all of this is to appeal to right-wing gun-porn fans because I don’t see why it has to be repeated every time otherwise. I personally just don’t care that much.

But I finished reading it anyway, because I wanted to know what was going to happen in the big confrontation. I guess it’s a little bit like cheap greaseball burgers; the action and the weirdness were fun, despite its greasiness. I didn’t hate it, but I probably won’t read another one.

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