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Twin Cities Run (Endworld)

Twin Cities Run  - David   Robbins In preparation for the aftermath of World War III, wealthy filmmaker Kurt Carpenter established a survivalist retreat in the wilds of northwestern Minnesota. He called this retreat "the Home" and his followers "the Family" and left the Family instructions on how to rebuild society after the war. Now, one hundred years after the end of the war, the Family is forced to explore the wastelands outside of their sanctuary to find the cure for an epidemic of "premature senility" that has been plaguing members of the family.

That's the premise for David Robbins' '80s post-apocalyptic Endworld series. In the third of the series, Twin Cities Run, a group of "Warriors" (a sort of social class) from the family attempt to venture to (yup) Twin Cities, Minnesota, so search for medical supplies. Our group of heroes include Hickcock, a guy who carries twin six-guns and has a fondness for the Old West; Joshua, the group's Empath, which is sort of like a priest, I guess; Geronimo, a superb Native American hunter and tracker; and their leader, Blade, a big "hunky" (yes, the word "hunky" is used, if I recall) dude with rippling muscles who (you guessed it) carries around a bunch of knives. Joining them is an African-American woman named Bertha, a refugee from Twin Cities they picked up in the last volume. They all pile into the SEAL, their armored vehicle, and head to Twin Cities, but when they arrive they find themselves in the middle of a territory war between the four local gangs: the Porns, the Horns, the Wacks and the Nomads. Turns out "Minnesota nice" was one of the things that didn't survive WWIII. You betcha.

I gather that this series has its fans and the edition I read was a 2010 Leisure Books reprint (with a really sucky cover, I might add), but I have to say the whole thing was pretty dumb. The writing is pretty simplistic, along the lines of a Filmation cartoon (think He-Man and Bravestarr). The characters' names sort of fit in with that cartoony feel, being so obviously descriptive of their most apparent attributes (Blade/knives, Hickcock/"Old West" dude, Geronimo/"Indian" dude, Joshua/spiritual dude). Another guy, an Asian (or "partly Chinese") named Rikki-Tikki-Tavi (!) makes an appearance and, yup, he carries a katana. 

I've noticed that when reading I do often tend to examine the racial/ethnic matters within a story, but usually it is because these matters are very noticeable despite the fact that they may not be intentional. Robbins appears to be making a show of having a racially diverse cast of characters, but the diversity is limited to racial stereotypes. Another weird thing is that when Bertha, the African-American woman who joined up with them, is taken to the Home the Family is shocked because they've never seen a black person before. It is explained that Kurt Carpenter, the founder, tried to pull a Noah and include someone of every race when he founded the Home. Apparently, he couldn't find any black people? 

Also problematic is that Hickcock and Bertha sort of have the hots for one another, which is not problematic itself but their terms of endearment for one another are rather unusual. He calls her "Black Beauty." She calls him "White Meat" and sometimes "honky!" I personally never found "honky" to be as offensive as other racial slurs, but it still seems a little weird. Some of the dialogue is unintentionally hilarious ("'Don't I get a hug?' Bertha baited him. 'I missed you, honky!'" I would seriously hate to see this conversation if the roles were flipped). I'm not saying the book is racially offensive or anything, but Robbins writes like he's never met a real non-white person in his life, so he relies on stereotypes. It's just dumb.

Story-wise, there is some pretty good action and it progresses pretty well (despite one hanging plot thread--maybe he intended to resolve that in a later volume). Overall the action is pretty PG-13 except for one instance that creeped me out in a way that the author probably never intended. [At one point Blade is captured and tied, naked and spread eagle, for the Wacks, a gang of crazies, to taunt. A mother and daughter pair of Wacks come up to him and the Mother Wack points out Blade's penis to Daughter Wack to teach her the difference between men and women. Then the Daughter Wack says she wants to cut off his penis and keep it and the mother says no (they have to save the penis for Clorg, because he likes to eat them). Aside from the obvious yuckiness of this scenario, having a little girl (crazy Wack or not) anywhere near a penis sends me creepy pedophile signals. I did not like this bit at all.] 

The action is okay enough to grant the thing two stars, but what dropped it another star for me was the obvious proselytizing of the story. There is a point in the story where Joshua debates bible scripture with a member of the Horns and convinces him to try to seek a peaceful solution to the gang war in Twin Cities. While it was Joshua quoting all the scripture, I had the feeling it was Robbins preaching at me. Not the sort of thing I'm very receptive to, especially when I just want to read about survival in a post-apocalyptic nightmare. 

On the whole, Endworld #3: Twin Cities Run was dumb, cliché and preachy. On the plus side, it's pretty easy to read and if I had to choose between reading this and staring at the other people waiting in the waiting room at the doctor's office, I might just read this (if no magazines--Time, Good Housekeeping, hell even Ok!-- were available). I don't think I'll continue with this series.