Damnation Alley by Roger Zelazny

If you’ve seen the pathetic movie they made of this, put it out of your mind. If anything, the book has more in common with Escape from New York, not only in the plot but also in the protagonist Hell Tanner. Like Snake Plissken from Escape, Hell is a likeable criminal with a cool-guy manner, on a near-suicidal mission for the government in order to earn his freedom. The setting is a future earth after some kind of global war that had a lasting effect on the atmosphere. Air-flight is impossible due to a carpet of debris in the sky, continually churning around the world, sporadically raining down huge rocks and sucking them up elsewhere in whirlwinds. Human life is mostly confined to cities and towns, which are isolated from each other by wastelands crawling with mutated animals and vegetation. This is the story of Tanner’s adventure across America in a computerized, shielded super-car, carrying a vaccine with which to save the dying people of Boston.

One of the things I liked about this book is that there are no chapters. It’s just a great, short, pleasantly superficial roller-coaster ride from start to finish.