Victor Milan's latest DL is a good one, but not as tightly written as Nemesis was.
Milan has been a long-time action/adventure writer for a few decades, proving he is one of the top-line writers of this genre even before he came aboard the DL train of writers.
Following up with Nick Pollatta's last and final DL entry, Milan has the companions still around the Northeastern part of the US, around Maine. The story begins with a battle with slavers, which is a HUGE part of this story, where Milan seems to be creating a slaver production that may cover a vast area of Deathlands and beyond. Interesting premise for future stories.
During the battle with slavers, J. B. Dix is blasted with a mortal chest wound, and Ryan and the companions are forced to follow a Russian baron and his cadre to his nearby ville. The Russian baron and his wife are interesting characters, and I found myself wanting to learn more about them. (Echoes of Zimyanin here, but actually good instead of evil.)
The Russian baron and his wife make a deal with Ryan: They will operate and try to save J.B.'s life if they embark on a mission to save their stolen daughter from the slavers. Of course Ryan agrees and they set out with an interesting young Russian sec woman to a bloody adventure that was fun and a fast and breezy read.
Although there is nothing here that truly stands out in terms of originality, Milan still manages to prove that he can pen an action/adventure with interesting characters and a plot-line that, even though has been done before, still manages to feel fresh enough and interesting enough with numerous well laid out action sequences. Also, Milan's Ryan is a bit more gruff with his companions than some other writers, especially when it comes to dealing with Mildred and newcomer Ricky - who to me, is essentially a Puerto Rican Dean Cawdor. Ricky interacts with the companions like Dean did in the beginning when he was first reunited with his father. I like that Victor Milan introduced a new character to the group. And I like Ricky.
I just wished it was Dean Cawdor.
Anywho, this particular DL adventure was good, but did have its problems. I found it quite odd that the frog muties in this entry were seen as nothing new to the companions, but this reader doesn't recall these particular types ever being introduced to the series. And whatever happened to the scalies, the ones that looked like walking and talking alligators that had Dean in NY way back in the series, when Ryan first rescued him? I thought these were them, but they were called just plain 'frogs' - not scalies.
I won't ruin the ending, but the ending, albeit pretty good, made me feel a bit cheated. A certain character suddenly comes up with an ailment that was not foreshadowed before, and it just felt thrown in. And there was another character that was strongly introduced at the beginning, that just disappeared at the end. Felt like that should have been covered a bit better, is all.
However, any story that has background stuff and beginnings like this one had, with J.B. reliving his past life as he lay dying on the operating table, showing how he became the armorer for the legendary Trader - is always great fodder for this reader. I thought it pretty brilliant how Victor Milan placed this in the story, but also penned in a way to intertwine it into the current story. Very fresh and ingenious writing there.