The Amtrak Wars is a series of six science fiction/fantasy novels written by British author Patrick Tilley in the 1980s. They depict a three-sided war for control of the North American continent a thousand years in the future, long after the modern world has been as destroyed in a nuclear war.
There were originally twelve books planned in the sequence, divided into two six-book series. After completing the first six the author chose to direct his attention to other projects, and has not so far returned to the series, despite occasional hints of doing so with a new book called Ghost Rider.
In 2007 the books were optioned for development as a series of movies with the new title The Talisman Prophecy. In 2009 concept art appeared on the production company's website hinting that some design and story elements will be changed in the transition to the screen.
- Cloud Warrior (1983)
- First Family (1985)
- Iron Master (1987)
- Blood River (1988)
- Death-Bringer (1989)
- Earth-Thunder (1990)
- Ghost Rider - a planned continuation of the main series. No release date has been set.
In AD 2015 the United States of America and the other nuclear-armed nations of the world (although only Russia is mentioned by name) engaged in a mutually destructive conflict known as the War of a Thousand Suns, also called 'World War III' or 'The Holocaust'. The modern world was destroyed with a death-toll accounting for at least 95% of the human race.
There were only a few survivors. A group of politicians and wealthy industrialists in Texas, apparently forewarned of the war (and possibly responsible for it), had taken shelter in massive bunkers secretly located several thousand feet below the city of Houston, and survived both the war and the resulting several decades of nuclear winter. This body reconstituted itself as the First Family of the Amtrak Federation in the mid-21st Century, with their soldier-citizens becoming known as Trackers. For four centuries the Federation was purely an underground civilisation, tunnelling out a vast subterranean network of cities, bases and connecting train lines. In the 25th Century the Federation broke out onto the surface world and began establishing overground outposts and way-stations. To their horror, the Federation discovered that they were not alone in this new world.
Against the odds, some of the other citizens of the USA had survived the nuclear war. Eking out a miserable life on the surface, exposed to radiation and the harsh elements, they had mutated into a much hardier form of human able to resist hardships more effectively. They had failed to reestablish any kind of civilisation, instead gathering to live in tribal groupings and eventually evolving a warrior ethos not dissimilar to that of the Native American civilisation of a thousand years earlier. The Federation dubbed these people the 'Mutes', although they referred to themselves as the Plainfolk and the tribes of the southern deserts, informally as the Southern Mutes.
The Federation expanded its territory over the next four centuries, held back only by a very low birth rate. In this time they conquered most of the lands held by the Southern Mutes, spreading cross the former states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and beginning the subjugation of Colorado and Kansas. The invasion of the latter two states has brought the Federation's borders perilously close to those of the Plainfolk, and the stage is set for a direct encounter between the two factions. During the campaigns against the Souther Mutes, some Trackers reported the enemy using what appeared to be supernatural forces as weapons, but all such talk was outlawed by the First Family for fear of spreading panic. If the Mutes did possess such abilities, they were clearly insufficient against the superior technology of the Federation.
Approximately a century ago, the Plainfolk were surprised by the sudden appearance of large sea vessels on what they called the 'Great River'. After initial hostile confrontations between the Plainfolk and the 'dead faces' who crewed these vessels, parleys were held and eventual peaceful trade between the two sides began. The Plainfolk learned that these people called themselves the 'Iron Masters' and hailed from the lands to the east of the Great Lakes, a country they called Ne-Issan. Like the Plainfolk, the Iron Masters were deeply concerned with honour and standing, allowing mutual respect to flourish, but in reality the Masters saw the Plainfolk as both a workforce that could be exploited and also a buffer against the encroachment of the Federation to the south. In return for a labour force to work in their homeland (effectively as slaves), the Iron Masters gave the Plainfolk weapons such as crossbows and blades, as well as pots, pans and other implements the Plainfolk, lacking any knowledge of metallurgy, could create for themselves.
In AD 2989 the Federation commences its invasion of Plainfolk territory with an exploratory assault by the wagon-train known as the Lady from Louisiana and its air wing of Skyhawk aircraft on any Mute forces they encounter. Their initial skirmish is with the Clan M'Call of the She-Kargo bloodline. Despite their superior weapons, the Trackers suffer extensive losses due to the M'Calls' ferocity and their use of magic, on a scale never before seen, in the battle. The Lady is able to beat off the attack but is forced to withdraw with heavy casualties, including the loss of most of its air wing.
Among the missing, presumed dead, pilots is Steve Brickman. In reality, Brickman survives and is taken prisoner by the Mutes. Once amongst their ranks, he learns that the Mutes are more intelligent and more human than the Federation makes them out to be, and that all the Mute bloodlines and clans, despite divided by petty internal differences, are united in the belief of something called the Talisman Prophecy, which states that a saviour-figure known as the Talisman will one day unite all the Plainfolk and destroy the Federation, crushing their cities beneath the ground, as well as rescuing the Plainfolk's kin taken into slavery in Ne-Issan.
Brickman falls in love with a Mute woman named Clearwater, but eventually overcomes his newfound respect for his captors to escape back to the Federation, where his story is met with widespread disbelief, as it is known that the Mutes do not take prisoners. Brickman is eventually recruited into the ranks of a shadowy intelligence organisation known as AMEXICO, which is well aware of the existence of both Mute magic and the Talisman Prophecy. Brickman is ordered to use his relations with the Mutes to win their trust and capture the three most powerful Plainfolk magic-wielders, namely Clearwater, her former lover Cadillac and their mentor, the powerful Mr Snow.
As the books proceed, Brickman becomes a double-agent, working for the Federation whilst attempting to work out how to get all three of his 'targets' and himself to safety whilst ensuring the safety of his family back in the Federation, whom AMEXICO are effectively holding hostage. Along the way, Brickman has to undertake a hazardous sabotage mission in Ne-Issan and a perilous journey across the northern plains at the height of winter, all the while trying to understand his own place in the Talisman Prophecy.