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Literature / Damnation Alley

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Damnation Alley is a novel by Roger Zelazny, taking place 30 years after World War III destroyed civilization. Hell Tanner, the last Hell's Angel, is hired/coerced into driving across what used to be the US to deliver a desperately needed vaccine.

Inspired a 1977 film of the same name, which doesn't have much in common apart from the name and a post-apocalyptic setting. A more faithful adaptation would be the Judge Dredd story The Cursed Earth Saga.

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The novel contains examples of:

  • After the End: Damnation Alley is steeped with post-apocalyptic visions, from the forlorn decaying towns to the very air which churns in constant turmoil, ripping apart anything rising up more than a couple of stories.
  • All Bikers Are Hell's Angels: Interesting enough, Tanner is the last Hell's Angel that exists (the rest were annihilated before the novel).
  • And the Adventure Continues: Tanner does not stay in Boston, waiting only long enough to smear some swear words onto a freshly erected monument to himself.
  • Anti-Hero: Tanner starts out as a Nominal Hero: he only agrees to deliver the vaccine in exchange for full pardon and under threat of death. During the travel, he slowly becomes noticeably nobler—and at the end he's a Unscrupulous Hero, or maybe even a Pragmatic Hero.
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  • Apocalypse How: Class 4. Earth's ecosystem was almost completely annihilated in the nuclear war, with surviving flora and fauna being mutated beyond recognition. Humanity clings to life in isolated enclaves, all of which are police states.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Many dangers of the Damnation Alley are of this kind. They include giant gila monsters, huge bats, and giant spiders.
  • Awesome Mc Cool Name: Hell Tanner. Yes, Hell is his given name—according to him, from his birth he was a bit of The Un-Favourite for his father.
  • The Black Death: It's the illness that hits Boston and kickstarts the plot. Like the trope entry says, it underlines the gravity of the situation more than any other disease would.
  • Cool Car: The cars sent by California into the Alley are bulletproof, heavily armed, and equipped with enough provisions and facilities that one theoretically could spend the entire way inside. And just in case, there are backup two motorcycles aboard.
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  • Cosy Catastrophe: The area around Albany is depicted this way. California has its harsh weather, Boston's just been hit with a plague, and the road from Albany to Boston is teeming with biker gangs, but here, you just live on a farm and there are festivals twice a year when a caravan from Boston comes along.
  • Giant Spider: Mutated spiders can be roughly the size of a human.
  • Hostile Weather: It's even bigger problem than the mutated wildlife. Stuff like a whole bunch of tornadoes at once or a hail of stones are an everyday occurence in Damnation Alley.
  • Scenery Gorn: As much as can be put into words and not visuals, the Damnation Alley is this.
  • Thicker Than Water: At the beginning of the book, Tanner, still very much The Sociopath, takes some pains to prevent his brother making the dangerous run through the wastelands. The means include the knowledge of hidden cache of money and Percussive Prevention.
  • Title Drop: Damnation Alley is the in-universe name for Flyover Country, particularly in context of crossing it.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Tanner guns down a hostile biker gang, but then he notices one of them is a girl, so he gets out of the car, grabs her, and shoves her in before driving away. He explains it by saying that he didn't like the idea of a girl dying.

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