Damnation Alley

More Zelazny, this time a retro-review from August 2, 2009.

Review: Damnation Alley, Roger Zelazny, 1969.Damnation Alley

Hell Tanner, the last of the Hells Angels, gets a pardon from the Nation of California – if he takes plague vaccine from Los Angeles to Boston. To make it, though, he has to go through Damnation Alley — what’s left of America after a nuclear war. It’s a land of giant critters, volcanoes, biker gangs, and storms that drop boulders out of the sky. Along the way, murdering, pimping, thieving Tanner decides he may just like to have a go at being a hero …

This is a fast-paced, very enjoyable adventure story told in prose colorful in every sense of the word. Zelazny himself preferred the shorter novella version. He was right. The added bits about life in plague-ridden Boston don’t add much and a poetic, impressionistic section on the source and circulation of the winds that plague the world breaks up the pacing and tone. And, needless to say, there’s little in the way of plausible science. Still, those are minor blemishes, and the story is worth reading in either version.


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