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Red Sails in the Fallout by Paul Kidd

Posted by travizzt on August 6, 2011

After Watering Hole’s water supply turns salty, it’s up to Xoota and Shaani to brave the dangers of the desert to fix it.

Red Sails in the Fallout by Paul Kidd

Red Sails in the Fallout is a stand-alone novel as well as the second book released in the new Gamma World line of novels. The first novel in the Gamma World line is Sooner Dead by Mel Odom. These novels are not connected. Gamma World is a real world post-apocalyptic setting of Dungeons and Dragons. Paul Kidd has written a few other Dungeons and Dragons based novels; White Plume Mountain, Descent into the Depths of the Earth, and Queen of the Demonweb Pits for the Greyhawk novel line and Council of Blades for the Forgotten Realms series The Nobles. He has written a number of original work as well; Mus of Kerbridge, A Whisper of Wings, Lace and Steel, The Rats of Acomar, Fey, Dreamscape, Lilith Petal Storm, Neue Europa, and The Fangs of K’aath and its sequel Guardians of Light. He as also written a few short stories that have appeared in Dragon Magazine. Red Sails in the Fallout was released July 2011 and published by Wizards of the Coast LLC.

Xoota was just a simple scavenger looking for old parts that she could sell back in Watering Hole. However, all that changes when the humanoid quoll bumps into a humanoid rat deep into the desert wasteland of Australia. The rat, Shaani, tells Xoota that she’s out here for science as she continues to dig deep into the sand, uncovering a ship. But trouble soon follows, and the duo barely make it out alive and decide to head back to Watering Hole. On the way, more trouble arises and they are saved by a swarm of earwigs calling themselves Wig-wig. Shaani invites the swarm to come with them to Watering Hole and now the trio head off. Upon arriving, something isn’t quite right. The towns only means of survival, a well, has been contaminated by salt. Shaani quickly understands that the water must come from somewhere, and decide that the trio should head out to find the source of the salty problem. Unfortunately, no one has gone that far into the desert and returned. But after looking around town, Shaani discovers a broken vehicle, which she quickly turns into a ship, able to hopefully cross the desert. However, they still have a problem. With the problem of the salt water, they have no water to make it to where ever the problem is and back before becoming dehydrated. Thankfully and unfortunately, Xoota meets a human named Benek, who thinks himself to be superior to all mutants and non-pure humans, and just so happens to have enough clean water to survive the journey. Benek is looking for a guide to help him find a facility housing thousands of frozen brides, so he can restart the human race. While his mission is creepy, he has the necessary amount of water. Upon the ships completion, all four set off and find themselves facing unknown dangers, and soon discover why no one returns from the desert.

Criticisms:
1) Climax. Red Sails in the Fallout has a very lackluster and sudden climax. While the story did have a decent enough build up to what was going to happen, it just came off as too quick and not all that exciting. It’s an average climax that does work, but it could have been better. It will still be a shame to spoil it, so that is not going to happen. Here is the best way to put it, it resolves Benek’s quest like it was nothing more than an after thought. What makes it worse is what happens before this concerning Benek and Shaani was downright sinister, and to have the whole thing resolved like it did makes you feel like you were cheated. It’s not that the climax is a bad one, but it seemed rather unimpressive and a little too safe. Truth be told, it makes the story feel lackluster and not that exciting. It doesn’t ruin the ending, but it does come very close to it. It’s not a bad way to do a climax, but it leaves you feeling like it should have done something different.

Praises:
1) Characters. The characters are really interesting and likable. There wasn’t a character that didn’t feel like they were useless. Everyone seemed very interesting, unique, and they all had good moments. The weakest character is Benek. He is mostly aloof and doesn’t really seem that interesting. You can see that he really does think that he is superior, even when he is proven wrong, and that’s really his sole trait. However, he does have one glorious moment towards the end. It’s just downright cruel what he does and you never suspected he would do that kind of thing, or at least go through with it. Rustle, a three-headed tree that the group meets late in the story, is another weaker character, but he memorable as soon as you meet him. The reason to why he is weaker is because he comes into the story about two-thirds of the way through and doesn’t have the time to really develop. He is still good and plays his role nicely. The original three are the best in the novel. Shaani can be a little annoying with spouting out lines about science, how she’s a lab rat, and how lab rats and humans worked hand in hand, but she never passed the point of extreme annoyance. She does come close, but she is very charismatic and likable. Truth be told, it’s hard for you to really dislike her because has a lot of charisma and her carefree attitude is surprisingly fun. Xoota is good. She’s likable, interesting, and really develops by the end of the novel. She goes from a loner to something more and her journey to that makes her a very interesting character. But, the character who really stole the show is Wig-wig. He was just a blast. Just take Shaani’s carefree attitude and multiply that by one hundred and you have Wig-wig. Every time he said something, it was extremely hard to not smile. All in all, the characters are very good and really takes this story to the next level.
2) Story. Red Sails in the Fallout is a very surprising story. At the quarter point of the novel, it was hard to see how long this story can keep up without resulting to unusual things happening to just move the story along. Everything that happens, you can see the possibility of it happening, nothing felt forced or added to pad out the story. It all seemed logical and possible. The story itself is simple; save Watering Hole’s water supply and find Benek his brides. It doesn’t try to do anything more than that and it works. It’s not something that feels bigger than it is meant to be. This does help the story to be more identifiable and enjoyable. It’s a simple story with plausible events happening that add the necessary drama and action to it.
3) Humor. There was quite a few humorous moments in Red Sails in the Fallout. It isn’t laugh out loud humor, but instead more subdued. It’s a good type of humor for this story, and it doesn’t make the whole thing into a joke. The humor helps to enhance the story around it, without taking away from the more drastic and dramatic moments. In some cases, the humor really helps in these aspects and makes the more dramatic moments more dramatic. The subdued manner helps draw you into the story, and makes you committed to it. It’s really just icing on an already fun cake.

Side Notes:
1) Uncomfortable Moments. Red Sails in the Fallout had a lot of uncomfortable moments in it for someone who isn’t into anthropomorphic animals. Having Xoota’s underwear being brought up every few chapters, focusing on her pouch, and overly describing certain attributes of Xoota and Shaani made me feel very, very uncomfortable. It would have been okay if these things were only brought up once, but to have it repeatedly appear made it hard to really get into the story because I just could not, and would not, picture these characters in that kind of light. It’s something that I did try to look past while writing this review because it’s a personal bias. I also may be over thinking these things, but to me, it was painfully obvious what the author was going for during these times.
2) Alpha Mutations. The idea of alpha mutations in the Gamma World setting just seem like an easy excuse for deus ex machina. Alpha mutations are daily mutations that the mutants of the world can receive and range from utterly useless to overpowering killing abilities. The use of alpha mutations in Red Sails in the Fallout is, thankfully, subdued and not over used. However, you can really see problems that can possibly arise from this in future novels.
3) Location. The setting for the novel is never really given, but there are hints to it taking place in Australia due to the characters seeing the Aura Australis, or the “Southern Lights”. Also, it’s hard to not picture these characters talking in an Australian accent.
4) Cover Art. Red Sails in the Fallout has a very action heavy cover. The characters, Shaani and Xoota, do look good. The bright blue of Shaani’s chainsaw and the neon green of the armored skeletons really do draw your eye in. The rest of the colors are nicely subdued, which really helps the blue and green stick out. However, the border of the cover is very distracting and really seems unnecessary. It takes away from anything else that could be in the picture. It’s a good cover, but it should take up the whole cover instead of three-quarters of it.

Overall: 5/5
Final Thoughts:
Red Sails in the Fallout is a fun story but does have a very lackluster climax. The climax isn’t bad, but it could have been something more exciting. It came off as too safe and too sudden. It really does make the seem not as important. The characters are good. There are a few weaker characters, but all in all, they did have some wonderful moments that cause you to like them. Benek and Rustle are rather weak, but they do have a lot of great moments that make up for their weak points. Wig-wig and Shaani had a lot of charisma and you really do like them, even if Shaani does border on annoying. Xoota really goes through a change in the novel and it’s great seeing this unfold. The story is really surprising. At first you think that it’s going to somehow falter late in the story and make up things to pad it out. But it doesn’t. Everything that happens really does seem logical and that’s the surprising part. Aside from that, the story doesn’t try to do anything that it can’t do. It does what it needs and it does it well. Finally, the story has some great subdued humor that really enhances it. It doesn’t take away from the dramatic parts or turn the story into a joke. All in all, Red Sails in the Fallout is a good story with some likable characters. It’s worth reading, but it can be a little uncomfortable at times.

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