Damnation Alley by Roger Zelazny
The world has been destroyed by a devastating war – only three days – but now nothing is the same. Hell Tanner is a rebel who lives up to his name. He has lived his life in this new world and he respects no one or nothing except his motorcycle. He is mean, uncouth, a thief, will kill at a whim, and trusts no one. He is completely unlikeable in his home, the Nation of California. Unfortunately for him, he has been arrested.
Yet he is also a driver. The people of the Nation of Boston are dying of the plague. The Nation of California has serum that could save them. If anyone can drive a specially armored vehicle across the wasteland between the two nations, Tanner is the person. If he agrees and reaches the Nation of Boston with the serum, he will receive a full pardon for all his crimes. Reluctantly he agrees.
He and the drivers of the vehicles with him meet craters that still have high radiation, bats the size of houses, snakes 120 feet long, and gila monsters that can eat those snakes easily. Rain and lightening storms are not gentle – they are killers with constant sheets of lightening that can last for days. The jet stream winds kill anything that get pulled into them. Tornadoes, volcanoes, and radiation are now natural occurrences throughout the land. It takes a special type of person to drive through the dangers they face.
This is short and fun although nothing special. It was made into a movie back in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s – and perhaps the book was written after the screenplay because it doesn’t go into much depth. It is fast paced, one danger past and another looms. Zelazny doesn’t give the sparse, damaged country side much examination. There is a lot of potential that is ignored.