Tag Archives: Book Reviews

Gamma World Book Review: Red Sails in the Fallout

Note: This review contains affiliate links.

Last Tuesday saw the release of the second Gamma World novel since the 4e compatible ruleset came out. Titled Red Sails in the Fallout, it’s a fun romp across the Australian outback with plenty of action and imagination.  It was written by a different author (Paul Kidd) than the first Gamma World novel (Sooner Dead), although you will have to forgive if I make some comparisons between the two.

The book’s main protagonists are Xoota (a prescient/felinoid quoll), Shaani (a radioactive/electrokinetic lab rat) and “Wig-wig,” (an empathic swarm of earwigs).  They are joined later in the book by other party members who have their own quirks and strengths to add to the story, but I don’t want to be accused of spoilers, even small ones.

This book uses the same plot device as Huckleberry Finn: create a reason to leave home, set the characters adrift into the unknown, and engage them in random unrelated adventures along the way.  It worked for Huckleberry Finn, and it works for Red Sails in the Fallout.  Not only does it work, but it works splendidly.   Plus, the book is funny – Paul Kidd doesn’t take Gamma Terra too seriously, which is good because, from what I can tell, most people who play Gamma World don’t either.  Kidd does humor effortlessly, with off the cuff quips and humorous situations.  The fact that the humor has an Australian twist only helps.

So, comparisons to Sooner Dead.  First, in making these comparisons, I’m not saying one is better than the other – they’re merely differences.  Both authors have handled Gamma Terra well, and in their own way.  Sooner Dead focuses mainly on two protagonists who act as guides for a group of scientists, where Red Sails has more of a “traditional” party on a “traditional” quest that you would experience if you were actually playing Gamma World.  Also, Sooner Dead makes no mention of Alpha Mutations or Omega Tech, where Red Sails features these elements of the game prominently.  The characters even talk about “feeling new alpha mutations coming on.”    Finally, where Sooner Dead makes no direct mention of specific origin types (to the point where I’m STILL not sure what Hella’s origins are), Red Sails states them loud and proud.  It makes me wonder if Mel Odom (Sooner Dead’s author) wanted to play down these elements in his novel, or if it’s just that the book was simply commissioned as the game was still being developed.

Either way, that’s a strength of Sooner Dead.  One of the problems with Red Sails is its assumption that the reader has played Gamma World.  While this is probably a pretty good bet, alluding to the fact that “radioactive omega ale” can trigger “alpha mutations” without further explanation could leave some readers in the dark.  There is quite a bit of “Gamma World vocabulary” that the author drops, and a quick explanation for the uninitiated would go a long way towards bringing more readers into the series, and maybe even more players into the game. 

Small problems aside,  I really enjoyed Red Sails in the Fallout. Not only was it an entertaining read, but it also made me want to get back into playing Gamma World.  Most of the book’s plot had me imagining how I could drop a similar encounter into a Gamma World game.  The plot and action are fast and furious, and the locales varied and exotic.

Finally, I will note that Wizards of the Coast has begun publishing their books for the Kindle (and probably other e-readers) which I think is a really smart move.  It’s how I purchased the book this time around, and thus there was no waiting for Amazon to ship me the book on the day it was released.  It was just there.  Sooner Dead is also now available for Kindle (it wasn’t when it first came out).

If you’re looking for a fun beach read this summer, pick both of these books up.

If you’ve read the book, let me know what you thought in the comments!

A Review of the New Gamma World Novel, “Sooner Dead”

Have no fear, avid reader of the blog. Our series “Where to find Gamma World Miniatures” will return next Thursday.  This week, we wanted to bring you a different sort of Gamma World content.  Enjoy!

We’re giving away a copy of this book!  Read on…

First, some background.  I’ve read a grand total of two D&D novels. One of them I’ve completely forgotten, and the other was a Drizzit novel.  I enjoyed neither, which is why, I suppose, I’ve only read two.  I’m not sure I can put my finger on what exactly I didn’t like about them.  Perhaps it’s simply because they didn’t live up to the “Lord of the Rings” standard.  Perhaps the authors were trying too hard to make sure each and every character fit into a neat D&D template, and never broke any of the game’s rules.  Or maybe the dialogue was just bad.  Who knows.  At any rate, I’m not a fan of the D&D novels.

I should also say that the idea of “sponsored” novels kind of turns me off.  When a company commissions a book to promote another product, it makes me not want to read the book.  In short, I guess you could say that the first Gamma World novel was already behind the eight ball in my mind.  Still, I decided to pick up Sooner Dead by Mel Odom, partly out of curiosity, and partly because I thought doing a book review might be fun.  Let me say, I was glad I did.

Note: Like any good reviewer, I’ve kept this review spoiler-free.  Also, in the spirit of full disclosure, this review contains affiliate links.

Sooner Dead follows a pair of wilderness scouts, Hella and Stampede, as they escort a team of scientists across the Redblight, which is a part of present day Oklahoma.  In game terms, Stampede is a Bisonoid (not a real origin) Seismic, and Hella is…well, aside from humanoid, I’m not sure what Hella is (though I have a theory).  And that’s one of the really cool things about the novel.  The author doesn’t go out of his way to rub your face in the fact that the book is based on the Gamma World game.  He takes the concept behind the game, and elaborates.  Which, come to think of it, is one of the things that makes the Gamma World game great – the amount of latitude given to the player’s imaginations.

The characters are believable, likeable (or unlikeable, as the case may be), and developed for the reader as the novel progresses.  Also, the cast of secondary characters is broad, both within the scientific expedition, and in the groups the expedition encounters.  The plot takes the reader to plenty of interesting locations that set the author’s vision of Gamma Terra, and the action is very well described.  There’s plenty of it, too.  Plus, an ending that leaves us wondering what happens next.

Gamma Terra in this book has a good mix of technology, guns, alien creatures, and low tech postapocalyptic wasteland.  The Redblight is a mostly wild area of the world, with sporadic trading outposts that may or may not be safe to stop in.  Very “wild west” meets “Terminator,” but not in the trainwreck way that we all know “Cowboys vs. Aliens” will be.  I mean, come on, does ANYone think that will be a good movie??

Finally, the one small gripe I had with the book.  And it’s a small one.  At one point, one of the characters mentions that something is “like rolling a 20 on a d20.”  While the narrative went on to justify why the character would say something like that, it was jarring enough to knock my imagination out of its “suspended disbelief.” I get it – the author is winking at the audience, but I don’t think it was necessary.  See?  Small gripe. 

Pick this book up.  No, it’s not classic literature, thank heavens, and it doesn’t try to be.  Of that I’m glad.  This was a really fun read, and I hope that Wizards of the Coast has Mel write more Gamma World for us.  Especially if we can find out more about Hella and Stampede.  In case anyone is listening….

And now, the contest

I am giving away a copy of “Sooner Dead” by Mel Odom to one lucky reader.  You can enter the contest a total of twice; you get one entry for each of the following:

  • Add a comment to this post. I will frown at your comment if it is not funny, but it will count as an entry nonetheless.
  • Tweet the following: RT @bandofmisfits Read the review & win a copy of the new #GammaWorld novel “Sooner Dead”! http://trunc.it/ebagk
  • While you’re over at Twitter, go ahead and follow us; it won’t help you for this contest, but the next contest we have planned will pick its winner out of our Twitter followers.  It’s kind of like entering that contest ahead of time.

The contest ends on Saturday, February 12, 2011 at 11:59 pm Eastern Standard Time. We’ll post the winner as part of this Sunday’s Weekly Roundup.  Good luck!!