Pilgrimage to Hell: A book for dudes

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SFF book reviews James Axler Deathlands 1. Pilgrimage to HellJames Axler Pilgrimage to HellPilgrimage to Hell by Jack Adrian / James Axler

Pilgrimage to Hell is the first book in the long running Deathlands series. There are 100 volumes of Deathlands, written by 12 different authors under the house name James Axler. Pilgrimage to Hell was started by Christopher Lowder under the pen name Jack Adrian, but Lowder became ill and Laurence James stepped in to finish it under the penname James Axler. Pilgrimage to Hell is the one that started it all, and I’ve waited a long time to be able to read it.

Life as we know it was obliterated in a nuclear apocalypse in 2001. Pilgrimage to Hell takes place several generations after the nukes destroyed civilization. Ryan Cowdar and Krysty Wroth are the protagonists, though there is an array of supporting characters. Ryan is a mysterious bad ass with an eye patch, and Krysty is a tall, big-boobed, combat-trained, red-headed beauty. Together with their team of warrior merchants they take on the ruthless baron of a “Plague Pit” town.

I enjoy a good literary art piece as much as the next book nerd, but sometimes the old gray matter needs a break… well here it is. I’ve been looking for a good action Mad Max-like post-apocalyptic book for quite awhile. A literary masterpiece this most certainly isn’t. Instead, Pilgrimage to Hell is exactly what you would expect it to be.

There is lots of bloody action and over-the-top characters, with some bawdy and macabre humor tossed in. If there were a template to be made for “Books for Dudes” this would be the mold to start with. The men are manly, the women are beautiful. Sex is brief and very “Dude-centric.” It was the first time I’d seen the word “pumping” used to describe the act of intercourse. Mutants (Muties) and Cannibals (Cannies) are the common foe in the Deathlands.

Pilgrimage to Hell is awesome for the very same reasons that Chuck Norris, Rambo, and demolition derbies are awesome.

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JUSTIN BLAZIER (on FanLit's staff September 2009 – September 2012) Like many fantasy enthusiasts, Justin cut his teeth on Tolkien. Due to lack of space, his small public library would often give him their donated SFF books. Justin lives in a small home near the river with his wife, their baby daughter, and Norman, a mildly smelly dog. He doesn't have much time for reviewing anymore, but he still shows up here occasionally to let us know how he feels about stuff.

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  1. Justin- I’m excited to see this book reviewed and to see Deathlands have its own FanLit page. :)
    While I’ve never read any Deathlands books (I’m always intimated about starting a series that already has a huge number of books in it.) but I’m a huge fan of apocalyptic fiction and what used to be known as Men’s Adventure, which more often than not goes hand-and-hand.
    Back in the 80’s used to read al lot of similar series; The Guardians, EndWorld, The Doomsday Warrior, and a few others that I’ve forgotten (or were just too bad to claim).
    Fun review. I’m always trying to give my gray matter a break, and I love bloody action and bad-ass women with big-boobs. You’ve inspired me to hunt down some of these books.

  2. Pilgrimage to Hell is very rare. Often goes for $80 on various sites.

  3. Which reminds me why I never started it. :(

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