What happens when a corporate hunter is deemed obsolete…?
It doesn’t matter what you call her. Riley. Burner. She forgot her name long ago. But if you steal from the supply lines crossing the wasteland, her face is the last one you’ll see.
She is the force of nature that keeps the balance in the hot arid desert. Keep to yourself and she’ll leave you well enough alone. But it’s when you try to take more than you can chew that her employers notice and send her off to restore the balance.
Then she gets the latest call. A supply truck knocked over too cleanly. Too precise. And the bodies scattering the wreckage weren’t killed by her normal prey of scavengers. These bodies are already rotting hours after the attack.
Cowering in the corner of the wreckage is a young girl. A girl that shouldn’t be there. A girl with violently blue eyes. Just like hers.
The First Omega is a new, stand-alone novella from the author of (most recently) the acclaimed Protectorate sci-fi series. When it was first announced, the description that this was like “Mad Max meets X-Men” caught my attention. A bleak picture of a blasted future, one with a Western feel, it is a story of nature-vs-nurture, and how to face obsolescence. I rather enjoyed it.
Riley is a hunter. Sent to the hot, arid wilderness to protect the property of Pac-At — supplies and other materials shipped across the blasted countryside, often the targets of pirates and others desperate for supplies to help them eke out a meagre existence. Riley’s been doing this for a while, she’s acquired a deadly reputation. She has also become rather attached to the place and the few connections she’s made with certain “pillars” of the community. Called out to investigate a crash, she finds amongst the wreckage a young girl who seems to be very like herself.
What follows is an intriguing novella about nurture-vs.-nature. Riley loves the land she operates on, she feels a connection to it that is more powerful than expected. Despite her violent purpose, she nevertheless has developed nuanced sense of justice more suited to the environment. As the novella progresses, we learn more about her past and purpose. Naturally, given the short length of the book, it is rather tricky to dive too deeply into the details without spoiling things for new readers. (Which is a shame, as I have many thoughts about the conclusion of the story, and Riley’s fate.)
Despite being a novella, we come to know Riley rather well, and I enjoyed this glimpse of this future that O’Keefe has created (not that I’d want to live in it). The action scenes are well-written and not over-done, and there are plenty of interesting character moments that flesh out Riley and also various supporting cast members. O’Keefe has a real knack for bringing the locations to life, and the level of description is just right — enough for us to paint a picture in our imaginations, but not so detailed as to get in the way of the story. It would certainly be interesting to read more stories in this setting.
If you’re after a quick, enjoyable read, then I would certainly recommend you give The First Omega a try. If you’re already a fan of O’Keefe’s work, then you’ll no doubt have picked this up already. If you’re new the author’s work, then this is a pretty cool place to start.
Megan O’Keefe’s The First Omega is out now, published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK.
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Review copy received from publisher