The First Omega by Megan E. O’Keefe

People live a hardscrabble existence in O’Keefe’s dystopian Southwest. They get what they can out of the arid soil,  and some even try to take advantage of the high-speed rail that runs through. Pac-At’s rail trucks carry everything across the continent from weapons to flour, but you have to look out for the bull… Riley, as she’s known to some and The Burner, as she’s calls in the darkness of night, protects the shipment, retrieves it if stolen, and takes out any thieves. She’s a complete badass and that fighting style… What fun to read!

A call comes and Riley dashes through the desert in her electronic destruction-delivery vehicle called the Beast to find a ghost car thrown off the tracks with a mysterious piece of cargo left behind… A young woman named Omega. Riley’s simple life is about to be disrupted… There are things that point towards corporate interference, but questions abound. Who is this girl and why is looking at her like looking into a mirror for Riley? Those bright blue eyes… It would be easy to assume that Omega too has certain augmentations…

At just under 100 pages, The First Omega builds and builds with O’Keef’s wonderful phrases. I could highlight multiple passages on every page, which is exactly what I remember from my time with her novel Velocity Weapon. And the secondary characters where definitely a plus… Ma Ricketts, the gritty proprietor of the local diner and Ratta, the leader of the desert clan. All have a role to play in this immersive setting.

But there is one character who isn’t fleshed out as much as I would have liked… That is Riley’s opposite, the villain Alpha. The book is told in first person from Riley’s POV and most of the characterization of Alpha is explained or told through her eyes. I needed her on-page more… I wanted to see and experience her action and her power. There are only a couple short scenes with her in it, but she is much more pivotal to the plot than those few pages.

Overall, The First Omega is good short story with a compelling speculative premise. It’s not perfect, but I was happy to read it through in one sitting.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Thank you to NetGalley, Orbit Books, and the author for an advanced copy for review.

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