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Damnation Alley

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  4,596 ratings  ·  248 reviews
Hell Tanner isn't the sort of guy you'd mistake for a hero: he's a fast-driving car thief, a smuggler, and a stone-cold killer. He's also expendable - at least in the eyes of the Secretary of Traffic for the Nation of California. Tanner doesn't care much for those eyes. You'd also never mistake Hell Tanner for a humanitarian. Facing life in prison for his various crimes, h ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published March 1st 2004 by iBooks (first published July 14th 1968)
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Average rating 3.55  · 
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Henry Avila
In some unstated date in the future, a three day war occurred, not a long one by historical standards, but bad enough.....Missiles fall on the Earth and life virtually ceases as civilization collapses. Apparently around twenty or thirty years later, the few people still alive are struggling to survive the catastrophe. This is when Hell Tanner (real name) a biker, gangster, killer all around bad guy gets a pardon. He will be free as an eagle and that bird which soared in the unlimited sky, is no ...more
Dec 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a post-apocalyptic novel of Southern California. Hell Tanner, an imprisoned killer, is offered a full pardon in exchange for taking on a suicide mission—a drive through "Damnation Alley" across a ruined America from Los Angeles to Bostonto deliver an urgently needed plague vaccine.

This copy is signed by Roger Zelazny.
Mar 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi
Okay, this was my first full Zelazny experience, and I have to say I liked it—a lot. The story is simple enough: in a post apocalyptic America, where the country has been split into two nations, one being the Nation of California, the other being whatever the citizens of Boston have decided to call it, runs a stretch of road that has been named the Damnation Alley. Since constant hurricane force winds prevent air travel, it is the only umbilical between the two countries. Enter Hell Tanner. Hell ...more
May 11, 2013 rated it liked it
I remember when I was a wee one, I watched the movie Damnation Alley, and I was terrified by the flesh eating cockroach scene. I’ve always wanted to see it again, because I know the film has got to be the best, craptastic, colossal turkey ever! Yay. :D

It’s not an easy movie to come by though. :(

This is one of the reasons I read the book. I wanted to read more about the cockroach scene (which isn’t in the book, damn it!) And practically everyone gives DA rave reviews.

Damnation Alley is pretty si
Dec 19, 2007 rated it really liked it
18Dec2014: It's been a while since I last read this & I need a Zelazny fix. I've been attempting to read half a dozen freebies & they just aren't cutting it. I was beginning to think I just didn't like reading any more, but I had trouble stopping today at lunch.

In some ways, this isn't one of Zelazny's best novels. In many ways, it's rather trite - a post apocalyptic action yarn with a anti-hero. Yawn. Except it's not. Even with the grade-b movie world, it's intriguing. Certainly a great charact
Dan Schwent
Aug 19, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of Post-Apoc cheese
Shelves: zelazny
Damnation Alley is about a biker named Hell Tanner who has to take some plague serum from LA to Boston, travelling a route called Damnation Alley across the nuclear wasteland that is the United States in a car that might as well be a tank. Along the way he encounters such mutants as giant Gila Monsters, spiders, bats, butterflies, and snakes.

Hell Tanner should be regarded as Snake Plissken's ancestor of sorts. Every time he had dialogue I kept hearing Kurt Russell's voice. The writing is a litt
Raegan Butcher
Apr 13, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: cyberpunks and other virgins
When I read this I was struck by the similarities between the deal offered to Hell Tanner to run the serum thru Damnation Alley to a plague stricken Boston in order to recieve a full pardon for every criminal act he's committed in the Nation of California...hmmm. That sounds a lot like the deal offered to Snake Plissken, who seems to share a lot of other similarities with Hell Tanner, who admittedly came first in 1969.Being a big fan of Plissken's exploits I can't help but like this pulpy sci fi ...more
Oct 17, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi, kindle
Reread as research for WIP. Hasn't improved any since last time, a great concept poorly executed. ...more
This book was sitting in the free bin outside of 2nd and Charles and I thought - why not? It looks short. And I really liked Zelazny's A Night in the Lonesome October. Plus there's just something about a vintage 1969 paperback. These old books used to be everywhere, at every sale and every used book shop. Now they are a bit of rarity.

This is basically non-stop action. We get a little taste of Hell Tanner's character, but it's mostly non-stop action. There's been a nuclear war and the only remain
Tough, nasty Hell's Angel with a heart of gold transports a case of vaccine across a post-Holocaust America, to save the inhabitants of plague-ravaged Boston. It's quite good if you're in the mood for that kind of thing.

As several people have pointed out, the main character rather reminds one of Snake Plissken in Escape from New York, though this novel predates the movie.

Deborah Ideiosepius
This is a perfect example of classic science fiction at it's best. It does not at all hurt that anything Roger Zelazny ever wrote is completely addictive to this omnivourous reader, but even without that strong bias of mine this is a pretty spectacular book.

Consider; 1969 the year the first Jumbo jet launched (Boeing 747) long, long before the word 'dystopian' was first in circulation and Damnation Alley comes to deservedly win the Hugo and Nebula awards. This is almost a prototype of post- apo
Aug 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
I hadn't read anything by Zelazny since, oh, maybe 1981. I remember loving the short stories in The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth, but really couldn't tell you why I never went on to read anything else by him. I have The Last Defender of Camelot but it just sits in my TBR pile.

Absolutely enjoyed Alley--despite the raw, post-apocalyptic background and the anti-hero that was really hard to like. Is it better that a good man decline to do something for the right reasons or for a bad man
Dec 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
This movie came out the same year as Star Wars and Close Encounters. It doesn’t hold up as well, but 12-year-old me loved it. I immediately bought the book and loved that, too. It didn’t hurt that I lived in Dayton, Ohio, and the main character, Hell Tanner, had to drive around the radioactive crater that was Dayton. We were a prime target for Soviet nukes back in the day.

I still think this is a great passage:

Something big and batlike swooped through the tunnel of his lights and was gone. He ign
Nov 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: scifi
A guy on a death row is given a chance to live if he can deliver anti-plague serum from LA to Boston - he happens to be a very good driver. The problem is, this all takes place in post-apocalyptic US, and the road in question is called Damnation Alley for a reason.

Sounds fairly familiar; I can recall quite a few books and movies with the same plot. Still, this is probably one of the first books with such plot; also Roger Zelazny is a Master of science fiction even in his minor efforts (such as
Mike (the Paladin)
I gave this a 3 as a tribute to Roger Zelazny. I picked this book up after the movie and barely remember it. i have little recollection of it being that much different from the movie aside from the, convict taking on suicide mission for a pardon. Post apocalyptic America left broken up into police states. Three vehicles heading from L. A. to Boston to deliver plague vaccine across Damnation Ally. That's the part of the west/south west left a dangerous ruin. ...more
Oct 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: post-apocalyptic
First published in 1967 Damnation Alley is a notable godfather of the biker, as in motorcycle, post-apocalyptic genre. It tells the story of Hell Tanner, a renegade biker and criminal who is pardoned by the Nation of California to deliver the cure for a plague that is overwhelming the Nation of Boston. Most of the USA has been devastated by nuclear missiles and the cross country journey is extremely perilous due to radiation, huge storms and winds, swarms of giant creatures, and dangerous itiner ...more
During a 14-day after-travel self-quarantine, a copy of Zelazny’s 1969 story (based on his Hugo-nominated 1967 novella by the same name) about a biker with a heart of gold in a post-apocalyptic future unintentionally fell into my hands. In it, the Nation of California gives Hell Tanner (yes, that is his name) a choice – take a suicide mission to drive an armored vehicle from Los Angeles to Boston, across post-holocaust America delivering a needed anti-plague vaccine, or complete his life sentenc ...more
Joshua Canaan
Dec 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To say that this book--which prefigured both of these comparisons by a goodly distance--is a more Mad Maxy version of "The Road" is no Rolling Stone-esque hogwash, or blind youthful insistence that the contemporary is the all; it is merely and delightfully accurate. Zelazny was a brilliant writer, and the most lyrical of his genre. He and Ellison led the fine and too short-lived generation of science fiction/fantasy/horror writers who believed that the offerings of literature could be offered h ...more
Nov 19, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: softcover
A rather Light weight adventure post-apocalyptic story as compared to the epic and iconic "Lords of Light", but written with clever or humorous prose as are usually found in his shorter works such as those found in Zelazny's "The Doors of His Face and other stories". And so, I now know, thanks to Goodreads reviewer "Peter Tillman", this was an expanded version of a novella published in 1966. Makes perfect sense. I recall a movie based on this that I saw an eon ago when I was a pre-teen and recal ...more
Michael Burnam-Fink
Damnation Alley is pure post-apocalyptic cheese, decorated with some ideas of genuine weirdness that uplift an otherwise mediocre by-the-book thriller. Roughly 25 years after a nuclear war, America is a blasted wasteland, with California and Boston the only two nations of any importance left. Boston is afflicted by a deadly plague, and California has the cure. The problem is the 3000 miles of howling atomic desolation between the two. Only one man is bad enough to make the journey; Hell Turner, ...more
Jan 21, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dtb
I don't think Zelazny thought the story through properly.

I just reread the book after more than 30 years and was horrified by all the holes in the storyline.
* The US was flattened, yet LA and Chicago survived, if anything, they should have been the first to go;
* These cities not only survived, but were thriving enough to build radiation/bullet-proof vehicles;
* Where did the raw materials and food come from to feed the people in these cities (and the communities that were passed through) - eg,
Jul 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
In this post-apocalyptic adventure, Zelazny examines many of the same themes that Heinlein explored in GLORY ROAD. It's been unfortunately dismissed by many because of the terrible film version that was loosely based on it, which is a real pity since it's a well-written, intelligent book. The last paragraph is one of the most memorable that I've encountered in any piece of literature. ...more
Eric Mesa
Jun 21, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is 100% perfect as an illustration of a story being about the journey and not the destination. Zelazny creates a world in which a nuclear war has created a nightmarish, hellish landscape with enormous creatures. Hell Tanner has to cross this wasteland to make a delivery. (view spoiler) ...more
Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
A competent post-apocalyptic nuclear wasteland adventure, written in pulpy prose. It's generally undistinguished, but there's the occasional nice turn of phrase:

"He raised his goggles and looked at the world through crap-colored glasses, which was pretty much the way he looked at it without them, too."

"The bells told him that his nation was sinking slowly into the blackness that always lies a half-inch below life, waiting for the crust to weaken."

Towards the end of the novels there's an almost s
Better than 3 but definitely not 4 stars. This was a wild ride across the North American continent from LA to Boston, passing through many dead, and I do mean dead, cities and through a lot of obstacles. Hell Tanner gets a full pardon from California for any crimes he ever committed if he agrees to take plague vaccine to Boston - through Damnation Alley. He's a driver and a good one at that. Three vehicles, fitted with missiles, flame throwers, and other weapons and with surround vision and radi ...more
Jan 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hell and Corny! This is a fairly straightforward adventure story. It's fun but I like other Zelazny stories better.

The protagonist, Hell Tanner, follows the template that many of Zelazny's men do: the chain-smoking, wise-cracking type. A couple of good moments from him really made me laugh, especially on the last page: he's about done-for but still giving people crap — that's funny. I also enjoyed the exchange with Corny about the back rub; in fact I liked their relationship all around, simple t
The novella this novel is based on is one of the best action-adventure stories ever written. I had always resisted reading the book because expanding on that virtually perfect work of pulp art always seemed kind of like bullsh*t. Well... sad to say, it is. The novel still works pretty well, but it doesn't have the tightly plotted forward momentum of the original. It feels like Zelazny just sort of added some irrelevant stuff to bulk it out. It just doesn't feel right.

The original, which is in Th
Jun 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing apocalypse at it's BEST...ergh, i wish i could remember the epitaph the main character writes for his girl who dies along the way...something like: 'Here lies Cordelia / it might not matter to no one but she was my girl and I loved her..' Dang! Anyways, wonderful book, wonderful introduction to Zelazny - if you enjoy reading books about what happens after the world ends, you can't miss this one. ...more
Erik Graff
Sep 20, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: escapists
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: sf
This was simply a fun read, great escapist literature for those who don't mind North America transformed into a war-torn hell. ...more
Sep 21, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: ebook-own, ebook-tbr

Really boring and I literally couldn't care what was going on.
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Roger Zelazny made his name with a group of novellas which demonstrated just how intense an emotional charge could be generated by the stock imagery of sf; the most famous of these is A Rose for Ecclesiastes in which a poet struggles to convince dying and sterile Martians that life is worth continuing. Zelazny continued to write excellent short stories throughout his career. Most of his novels dea ...more

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“Something big and batlike swooped through the tunnel of his lights and was gone. He ignored its passage. Five minutes later it made a second pass, this time much closer, and he fired a magnesium flare. A black shape, perhaps forty feet across, was illuminated, and he gave it two five-second bursts from the fifty-calibers. It fell to the ground and did not return again.

To the squares, this was Damnation Alley. To Hell Tanner, this was still the parking lot.”
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