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Sooner Dead by Mel Odom

Posted by travizzt on March 15, 2011

In post-apocalyptic Oklahoma, two guides lead a group of scientists into the wasteland in search of something that the two never expected.

Sooner Dead by Mel Odom

Sooner Dead is the first book in the newly released Gamma World line of novels. Sooner Dead is also a stand-alone novel, meaning you shouldn’t need any prior knowledge of Gamma World to understand it. Gamma World is a setting of Dungeons and Dragons, set in a post-apocalyptic version of the world we currently live in. Mel Odom has written a vast number of novels. He wrote three books in the Time Police series with Warren C. Norwood (Trapped!, Stranded!, and Refugee), a Young Hercules novel titled Young Hercules, the Rover series (The Rover, The Destruction of the Books, Lord of the Libraries, and The Quest for the Trilogy), a Might and Magic novel titled The Sea of Mists, the Left Behind: Apocalypse series (Apocalypse Dawn, Crucible, Apocalypse Burning, and Apocalypse Unleashed), the Hunter’s League series (Hunter’s League, The Mystery Unravels, The Secret Explodes, and His Legacy Avenged co-written with Dave Seeley), three NCIS novels (Paid in Blood, Blood Evidence, and Blood Lines), the Quest for the Trilogy trilogy (Boneslicer, Seaspray, and Deathwhisper), the Lost Souls series co-written by Jordan Weisman (Burning Sky and Dead Lands), Lethal Interface, Omega Blue, Stalker Analog, Omega Score, F.R.E.E.Lancers, F.R.E.E.Fall, movie novelizations and tie-ins (Blade, Snow Day, 102 Dalmatians, La Femme Nikita, Vertical Limit, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and XXX), a few Sabrina the Teenage Witch novels (Know It All, Harvest Moon, I’ll Zap Manhattan co-written with Nell Scovella, Mummy Dearest, Pirate Pandemonium, Dream Boat, Tiger Tale, Off to See the Wizard, and Sabrina Goes to Rome), Roswell novel titled Shades, Hunters of the Dark Sea, The Colossus of Mahrass: A Jaelik Tarlsson Voyage, a Secret World of Alex Mack novel titled In Hot Pursuit!, three Shadowrun novels (Preying for Keeps, Headhunters, and Run Hard, Die Fast), a few Buffy the Vampire Slayer novels (Unnatural Selection, Crossings, and Revenant), three Angel novels (Redemption, Bruja, and Image), a Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel novel titled Cursed, a Journey of Allen Strange novel titled Legacy, two Battletech: MechWarrior novels co-written with Blaine Lee Pardoe (Roar of Honor and By Blood Betrayed), three Net Force Explorers novels co-written with Tom Clancy (Shadow of Honor, Gameprey, and High Wire), a Diablo novel titled The Black Road, and a Without a Trace novel titled Personal Foul. He also has extensive work within the Forgotten Realms novel line with writing a book in the Lost Empires series titled The Lost Library of Cormanthyr, the Threat From the Sea trilogy (Rising Tide, Under the Fallen Stars, and Sea Devil’s Eye), a novel in The Cities series titled The Jewel of Turmish, and a novel in The Wilds series titled Wrath of the Blue Lady. He has also written a vast amount of novels under the pen names of Don Pendleton and James Axler, as well as writing a number of short stories to various anthologies. Sooner Dead was released in February 2011 and was published by Wizards of the Coast LLC.

In the wilds of Oklahoma, a group of scientists are traveling through the stretch of land called the Redblight. The group hired two guides, the human woman Hella and a bisonoid, humanoid bison, named Stampede, to help in their travels. The guides have no idea what the scientists are after and the scientists, along with their security team, have no idea what they are in for.

Criticisms:
1) Cliffhanging Chapters. The biggest problem with Sooner Dead is the cliffhanging chapter endings. This is a huge pet peeve I have when reading anything. I do not see the point of having every chapter end with “And this happened”, only to be told exactly what happened a page later. It quickly loses the intended impact that ending on a cliffhanger is supposed to have. It wouldn’t have been an issue if the cliffhanger had the reader wondering what is going to happen for a few pages. But one page? One page is almost worthless. There isn’t any sense of suspense or wonder that can be developed within a quick page turn. It doesn’t help that we only follow the story through Hella’s perspective so the reader knows that what ever happens, she’ll most likely be okay. This issue really took away some of the impact that these scenes were supposed to have.
2) Story. The plot for Sooner Dead is very simple, straightforward, and mediocre. The basic premise of the novel is the journey the group takes through post-apocalyptic Oklahoma. That’s the story in a nutshell. There were almost no real side-stories. The side-stories that are included never really seemed to amount to anything worth while. So we just have the main plot to keep our interest, but with such a simple plot, it’s a hard thing to do. However, for such a simple story, there sure are a lot of plot twists. I didn’t expect that. Unfortunately, the twists weren’t very good and seemed like they were half-baked ideas that just never fully develop. It doesn’t help that the plot twists are totally random. It seemed like when they happened, they just suddenly happened with almost no build-up to them happening. I do understand that this random aspect is what one of the basic premises behind Gamma World, but it doesn’t make for an interesting plot. These things need some sort of build up to get the reader wondering that is going to happen. Instead Sooner Dead gives us things that happen out of thin air.
3) Ending. The ending for Sooner Dead came off as overly silly and sappy. This isn’t a huge issue, but it didn’t fit well with the gritty, serious tone of the story. I won’t spoil it, but after reading a story that was mostly dark in tone, the ending was a shade too light. It’s comparable to having rainbows and puppy dogs for the last moments of your terror driven night in a graveyard. The ending just didn’t fit well with the tone that the rest of the story had and it was distracting.

Praises:
1) Pacing. Sooner Dead was a surprisingly fast paced read. The cliffhanging chapters did help in creating this frantic pace, but there were other factors as well. The story is mostly action-packed. There are countless gun fights, battles, explosions, and every kind of action there could be. Almost every page was filled to the brim with action. This did make a lot of scenes incredibly exciting, which made me tear through those parts fast. With so much action jammed into Sooner Dead, it would be shocking if you couldn’t get through it quick.
2) Hella. I liked the idea of Hella, even though she needed more development. Hella is an experienced scout with a lot of qualities that most young ladies have. This made her slightly interesting right off the bat. How can a young woman live such a harsh and unforgiving life, but remain kind and still have a shred of innocence about her? There is also her mutation, which is really cool. Hella has the ability to transform her hands into guns, through the use of nanobots. That was really cool and made me start to show some interest in her character. Then throughout the novel, there are bits and pieces of her personality that show up that really add to her character as well. There isn’t quite enough to really keep my interest, but it was stirring and made me want to know more about her.

Side Notes:
1) Title. Is the title a subtle reference to the Oklahoma Sooners or am I just seeing things that aren’t there?
2) Gamma World. Gamma World seems like a very interesting and random place. I just thought that Sooner Dead would have had more humor like I heard that Gamma World is supposed to have.
3) Cover Art. There is one word that perfectly describes the artwork for Sooner Dead and that’s action. There is so much going on that you can’t help but become excited. You have Hella riding atop of Daisy, what she is riding, blasting away at a group of bikers while Stampede looks ready to smash them with a pole. It’s an exciting cover with a lot of color. It really does its job in drawing in your eyes and piques your interest.

Overall: 2/5
Final Thoughts:
I have to say that I am disappointed with Sooner Dead. I was really anticipating something more from this story as soon as I heard about it. What I got was a simple story with a lot of problems. One of my biggest pet peeves that an author can do is make every chapter end in a cliffhanger, only to pick the story right back up the very next page. It doesn’t make you wonder what is going to happen when the answer is just a quick page turn away. There is no excitement to be gained from this. This could have been prevented if there was another perspective used instead of just Hella’s. I could have overlooked that if it wasn’t for the story being extremely simple. There is just one story to follow here, just one. There is no complexity, which Sooner Dead really seemed to need. The plot twists felt random and not fully developed or realized. It just made for a simple, single-minded story with a cheesy and sappy ending that went against the tone of everything up until that point. However, if you like action heavy novels, this is for you. The novel did read surprisingly fast, which can be expected from an action heavy book. Hella was a good idea that just needed more time to develop. But at least Hella had something going for her, which is more than can be said about any other character could claim. The rest of characters felt wooden, under-developed, and switched their motivations within a paragraph. Overall, I don’t think I could recommend Sooner Dead to anyone who isn’t a fan of brainless action.

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