Monday, June 2, 2014

Jason Striker #5: Amazon Slaughter

Jason Striker #5: Amazon Slaughter, by Piers Anthony and Roberto Fuentes
April, 1976  Berkley Medallion Books

Taking place soon after the events of the previous volume, the fifth installment of Jason Striker continues the derailment of what was once a fun series. Our protagonist is still an idiot, coincidence still abounds, and unrelated subplots still spring up and go nowhere. Most unfortunately, the bell-bottom fury of earlier volumes has vanished. It would appear the damage was done, so far as sales went, as this was the last published installment of the series (that is, until the authors self-published the completed material of volume 6 in 2001).

Once again the novel opens on a character other than Striker; in fact Amazon Slaughter opens on a scene of torture-porn, as a ninja is strung up and flayed deep in the Amazon jungle by a crew of Brazilians lead by Fernando Mirabal, last seen in Ninja’s Revenge. The ninja is one of Fu Antos’s, who as we’ll recall now resides in the body of a prepubescent boy and is currently building a new Black Castle in the Amazon. The locals, however, are not happy about this, and thus try to get info out of the captured ninja, whom they torture in excruciating detail.

This leads to a pitched battle in which Fu Antos himself shows up, leading his ninjas (who we learn have yet to fully believe that this young boy really houses the soul of their immortal master) and some native Indians in an assault on the Brazilian encampment, an assault which Mirabal manages to escape. Striker doesn’t come into the picture until after all of this, as he lands in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, continuing on with his mission for Fu Antos, which he began in Ninja’s Revenge.

Above I mentioned Mirabal’s return from the previous volume; one enjoyable thing about the Jason Striker series is the small world it takes place in, with characters appearing and reappearing like a regular soap opera, but at times it gets to be too much. Take for example Striker’s first day in Rio. Bored and walking along the beach outside his hotel, he spots a very attractive and busty young woman. As Striker’s checking her out from afar, thugs pull up along the beach and attack her! And the lady defends herself with some judo moves that greatly impress Striker! But when more thugs show up, Striker rushes to the lady’s defense – only to discover it’s Dulce, a Cuban secret agent of sorts who met Striker back in #3: The Bamboo Bloodbath!

So again, the coincidence that smears this series already rears its head, so early in the book. Dulce, in a plot completely unrelated to Striker’s, just happens to be on the same beach as Striker’s hotel. After trouncing the thugs, the couple repairs to Striker’s hotel room, where the expected sex scene soon occurs. And here Striker discovers that Dulce is a virgin, which means that Striker has now taken the virginity of three women in this series. He should start handing out business cards.

But Striker’s still a dolt, and after some good lovin’ he and Dulce order room service, and blithely go about stuffing themselves with the overly-described local food. And wouldn’t you know it, they both pass out! Yep, the food’s been drugged, and only as he’s dropping to the floor does Striker realize they should’ve taken precautions when ordering the food, as surely the thugs from earlier would still be looking for Dulce. But anyway the authors take the opportunity to drop Striker and go into third-person, detailing Dulce’s plight as one of her captors (thugs in a Brazilian “Death Squad”) attempts to rape her, and she bites off his friggin’ tongue!

The sleaze element is very pronounced this time out, with even more torture porn as Mirabal takes a captive Striker on a tour of his dungeon. Here we have squirm-inducing bits where a beautiful young woman gets one of her teeth pulled out and an older man is nearly drowned. Then it’s Striker’s turn; Mirabal straps him into a chair and proceeds to electrocute him, grilling him for info on Fu Antos. But Striker turns out to be a regular Alex Jason, and uses his mystical ki powers to block out the pain of electrocution. His fortitude not only makes him a hero to the other prisoners, but also makes possible his escape, when local rebels break in to free him.

Meanwhile the scattershot plotting of the series continues, with arbitrary cut-overs to the ongoing war between the minions of Fu Antos and the soldiers of Brazil. This is completely egregious stuff, not to mention gross, in particular a needlessly-detailed and overly-long sequence in which a dwarf ninja sneaks into the Brazilian compound and hides in the camp latrine, lurking beneath the bench the soldiers sit on when taking their dumps, and waits all day while the soldiers come in and relieve themselves above him! All so he can be here when one particular colonel comes in, so the dwarf can jam a friggin' spear up the dude’s ass! (And of course the authors must inform us that the colonel loudly passes gas right before the ninja gets him with the spear – I mean, these authors are nothing if not thorough.)

But talk about scattershot – Striker’s freed from prison and not two pages later he’s just wandering around the friggin’ streets of Rio, just checking out the sights as Carnival rages around him! Some thugs are following him, but they’re quickly eluded with some clothes Striker finds and some dirt he smears on himself so he’ll look like a local! And because these authors have never really been concerned with streamlined plotting, soon enough Striker’s checking out some go-go dancing chick in the crowd, and she collapses into his arms posthaste and asks him to carry her to the local voodoo store. And Striker, who, you know, just broke out of prison, is happy to comply, and thus the novel breaks off into yet another divergent plotline.

And what a doozy of a plotline it is! My friends, my patience was sorely tested by Amazon Slaughter, as in the second half it spirals into a complete and utter waste of time. Lazy coincidence and plotting abounds; the go-go girl is named Oba, and for no reason she takes Striker to a voodoo ceremony. Now, earlier Striker took some food that was offered at the base of some religious statue – and guess what? Turns out these people are here to worship that very same god, who reveals via strange means (people fainting, the incense candle not lighting, etc) that it’s pissed at Striker! And Striker has to somehow appease the god, who no matter what will get revenge on Striker.

What just took me a paragraph to explain goes on for pages and pages and pages. And the authors aren’t done with all this voodoo stuff, as later Oba gives Striker even more egregious voodoo history – and since they can’t converse in the same language, she does it by dancing it out for him in pantomime!! Honestly it’s some of the dumbest shit I’ve ever read. And meanwhile it cuts over to these long sections from other perspectives, as on the one hand Dulce is caught by Mirabal, who doesn’t torture her, proves to her that he’s gay(!), and tells her he has mysterious plans for her, and on the other hand we get long and tedious warfare sequences between Mirabal’s soldiers and Fu Antos’s ninja.

Oh, and a penniless Striker tries to make cash by getting into a streetfighting tournament, where after taking on a grizzly bear he runs into an old martial arts aquaintance. Due to his skills Striker gets a crowd, and one of them’s a Death Squad sadist, and a huge melee ensues, with Striker and Oba escaping to some random dojo, where the resident swordsmaster graphically eviscerates the Death Squad stooges and Oba and Striker go into a backroom and have sex while standing up. This is easily the most explicit sequence yet in the series, with Striker informing us it’s his most powerful orgasm ever. TMI, Striker.

And meanwhile Mirabal loses a huge battle against Fu Antos, and the immortal ninja-child is about to kill him when Mirabal shows Fu Antos a photo of Dulce…who looks identical to Fu Antos’s centuries-dead mistress, from the opening chapter of Nina’s Revenge! Now, how in the hell did Mirabal know what she looked like?? No matter; Dulce, despite being of a different ethnicity, looks so much like his mistress that Fu Antos allows Mirabal to live, in exchange for the girl. When Mirabal informs Fu Antos that Dulce is in love with Jason Striker, Fu Antos vows that Striker will die, even if he is “friends” with the man.

This leads to a lame sequence where Striker and Oba (who still acts shit out for him via dancing pantomime) visit Brasilia, “city of the future,” and go to a fancy restaurant where they stuff themselves, dirty and unkempt from being on the road…and Oba passes out. Yes, the exact same situation as earlier in the novel, though this time a non-hungry Striker has merely pretended to eat(?), stuffing food into his pockets instead of his mouth(?!). Men come in, strip them down (Striker pretending to be unconscious), and arrange Striker and Oba in a compromising position, so that Dulce and a capoeira-fighting guy can come in and discover them…I mean, it’s so, so stupid. And Striker gets up, beats up the capoeira guy (who turns out to be Oba’s husband), and defends himself to Dulce, who decides to forgive him. Oh, and Oba was apparently a traitor, there to set Striker up, or something.

The authors plod on into the home stretch, with absolutely no consideration of plot development, mounting suspense, or satisfying resolution. Venturing into the jungle toward the Black Castle (neither of them knowing that Fu Antos now wants them for different reasons), Striker and Dulce go about an Adam and Eve sort of life, living off the flora and fauna and enjoying one another’s company in the cheap showiness of nature. It gets more and more tedious and baffingly-lame when Striker, my friends, discovers that he has a gallstone!! Now Dulce must care for him, practically carrying Striker through the jungle, finding coca leaves (ie, cocaine) for him to chew on against the pain.

The “climax” features a half-dead Striker who is somehow still able to pull off fancy judo moves on “jungle Indians” who attack them. These Indians turn out to be minions of Fu Antos, and in the snapshot-style finale Striker and Dulce are taken to the Black Castle. But Striker is by this point so screwed up that we only get elliptical rundowns of what ensues…Fu Antos coming at Striker with a sword, Dulce pleading for Striker’s life, and now Striker, the book cutting to present-tense in the final paragraph, alone on some “crude wooden craft” as it plies down the river, Striker at death’s door due to his gallstone, which needs to be operated on immediately. The end!!

One can’t blame Berkley Books for cancelling this series. One can’t also help but wonder what happened to the series. While the first three volumes were goofy fun, filled with the bell-bottom fury of ‘70s kung-fu, the fourth and fifth volumes jettisoned all of that, taking the series into unwelcome and uninteresting areas. Recurring characters from the first three novels were gone, replaced by deus ex machina ciphers. Apparently then the first three volumes comprised their own trilogy, and volumes four through six would comprise another; however the sixth volume never came to be…that is, for a few decades.

As mentioned above, in 2001 the authors self-published the material they’d written for this sixth volume, Curse Of The Ninja, and like a regular glutton for punishment I’ll of course be reading it.

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