The First Omega is set in a dystopian world with some serious Mad Max vibes. We follow the protagonist, who other people call Riley, as she faces the threats to the lifestyle she has been leading. Living on the outskirts of the city and working for the company Pac-At as a loss prevention operator with a license to prevent loss of Pac-At’s cargo by any means necessary. To get a take on my thoughts on The First Omega, continue reading down below!
Mad Max meets X-Men in this razor-sharp new dystopian novella by the Philip K Dick award nominated author of Velocity Weapon.
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.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
In all honesty, I was reading The First Omega as an Ebook and forgot it was a novella. I was then surprised when I was almost done with the book. I think that this definitely affected my impressions of the novella.
Riley, or The Burner as the locals not so fondly call her, is a genetically altered employee of Pac At, who works to ensure the safe return of cargo taken from their trucks. These trucks are used to haul goods in and out of the city and are prime targets of pirates of the badlands. She and her beloved truck, Beast, are rightfully feared in the badlands due to her reputation. Riley’s life changes when things take an unexpected turn when her cargo ends up being two humans, both similarly genetically altered, and one missing, leaving a trail of death in her wake.
From the point of view of Riley, we get a good character building of Riley and to some degree our secondary characters, Omega and Ma Rickets. Riley certainly starts as a character who shoots first and asks questions later and has some serious confidence that comes off as braggy at times — but I cannot blame her as she has the skill and know-how to back it up. As the book progresses, you see a shift in Riley’s mindset and she begins questioning the company who (literally) made her who she is.
I think my main concern with The First Omega that is really holding me back is the length. It seemed that O’Keefe did not have enough time to fully flesh out ideas in the plot, aspects of the world-building, and development of all major characters. We learn about the main characters who are all living in the badlands, but we do not entirely understand why they live there instead of the city; is it because they are forced to live there? Is it a choice they made? What happened to the United States to cause it to become this Mad Max wasteland? What does the company Pac At even do? What is its cargo?
As you can see I have many questions, which one might argue are not even in the purview of the book. The First Omega is about how Riley deals with the job-gone-wrong and her attempts to end the cycle of people like Riley and their role within Pac-At. Perhaps that is all a reader needs to know to understand the book. Perhaps, like the badlands along six-six, this story is only isolated within a larger unknown framework. For me, it caused frustration at the unanswered questions I had. To fully enjoy a book, I want a story more grounded in a defined world. The ideas and plot of The First Omega were entertaining and well thought out. The plot-driven tunnel-vision of the narration, however, had a lot of opportunities to create a more richly carved out world, which were thrown by the wayside.