ROGER ZELAZNY “Damnation Alley.” Novella. First appeared in Galaxy SF, October 1967. First collected in The Last Defender of Camelot (Pocket, 1980). Reprinted in Supertanks, edited by Martin H. Greenberg et al (Ace, 1987). Expanded into the novel of the same title (Putnam, hardcover, 1969). Nominated for a Hugo Award in Best Novella category (placed third). Film: 20th Century Fox, 1977, with Jan-Michael Vincent (as Tanner) and George Peppard.

   Damnation Alley is the cross-continent route from Los Angeles to Boston, some years after the Bomb. The plague has hit Boston, and Hell Tanner is one of the drivers sent out with the essential serum [they need]. Armored cars are necessary to avoid radioactivity, mutated monsters, and violent storms.

   Tanner is an ex-convict, a Hell’s Angel gangleader, who is forced into leading the caravan with the promise of a full pardon. It is his story, his changing reaction to the job he must do, with side glimpses into the resiliency of man. There is, of course, a tremendous build-up of tension and emotion as Boston gradually becomes reachable.

   Zelazny’s picture of a new world is both beautiful and horribly terrifying: do you believe that?

Rating: *****

— June 1968.