Review: 'Red Sails in the Fallout', by Paul Kidd
Red Sails in the Fallout: A D&D Gamma World Novel
Paul Kidd (Wizards of the Coast, July 2011)
Paperback $7.99 (307 pages); Kindle $6.39.
This second novel in Wizards of the Coast’s “Gamma World” series is considerably Furrier than the first. As before, the setting is 150 years after a Hadron Collider catastrophe has destroyed civilization, creating a world in which “the survivors of some mythical future disaster must contend with radioactive wastes, ravaged cities, and rampant lawlessness. Against a nuclear backdrop, heroic scavengers search crumbled ruins for lost artifacts while battling mutants and other perils.”
“Red Sails in the Fallout” is not just anthropomorphic, it is flamboyantly and bizarrely Furry.
The setting is the desert town of Watering Hole, location unspecified – but obviously Australia, even if we did not know that Paul Kidd is one of Down Under’s leading Furry fans. Watering Hole is “home to a population of perhaps three hundred, spread across an intriguing collection of families, species, and sub phyla.” The leading establishment in Watering Hole is Snappy’s Tavern:
The tavern was also home to a number of female ‘dance artists’ who were not so much exotic as downright weird. Still, the lunchtime cat girl show always drew a steady crowd. The owner was an easy-going mutant crayfish, her bouncer was eight feet tall and sheathed in rock, and the waitresses could temporarily clone themselves during rush hour.
The main characters are two young women, Xoota and Shaani:
As far as mutant humanoid animals went, Xoota was a fairly typical, fun-loving child of the apocalypse. She was a mutated quoll: a short, compact female figure dressed in sun veil and leathers. Xoota had the thighs of a rider, an archer’s muscles, and tawny fur covered in bright white spots. Across her belly, below the navel, she had a neat little marsupial pouch, and a handful of whiskers jutted from her scruffy muzzle. Her nose was pink, her ears long, and her prehensile tail often twitched in irritation. She wore a leather halter around her breasts, a ragged cloth around her head, and at her belt hung a mace made from metal cogs. A powerful crossbow rode across her lap.
That’s not all. Xoota also has a pair of feathery mothlike antennae just above her eyes with which she can sense imminent danger. She rides Budgie, a giant flightless budgerigar in her searches through the dangerous landscape around Watering Hole for salvageable relics of the pre-apocalypse world.
Shaani is a mutant albino lab rat with an enthusiasm for scientific research and a Pommy accent:
The rat girl was pure white and pink eyed, limber and full of guileless energy. Her features were very humanoid, despite a long, expressive tail and a pointed, delicately pretty rat face. She wore a cotton singlet, voluminous shorts with many pockets, and clunky work books. She used her meager cleavage to stow an ancient penlight. She had delightfully long, white hair plaited back into a ponytail. The rat girl planted her shovel in the salt, pushed a pair of spectacles up on her nose, and climbed happily out to greet her guest.
‘Jolly glad to see you. It was getting a tad lonely. This is a bit of a find, what?’
That is their default appearances, anyway (attractively depicted on Jason Chan’s excellent cover painting). There are also frequent but fortunately temporary “alpha mutations”:
“[Shaani] blinked then checked under her arms. ‘I’m growing tentacles. What a bother.’
Xoota shrugged happily, drinking another ale. ‘Had to happen eventually.’
‘I suppose so…Still, it is better than the time I accidentally grew a rubbery shell. I suppose they’ll wear off eventually.’
‘Spose so. Meanwhile pass the cheese.’”
Xoota also meets Wig-wig, a friendly swarm of mouse-sized earwigs with a single, empathetic hive-mind, in the wasteland. The quoll saves Shaani’s life and the rat girl promptly appoints herself Xoota’s Best Friend. It is very much an Odd Couple relationship. The grumpy Xoota is irritated by Shaani’s teaching Budgie to say, “Who’s a pretty boy, then?” and other parroty phrases, and Shanni’s noisy filing down of her incisors in the morning.
But this is just incidental color. The real plot is about Watering Hole’s sole source of water going bad, and Xoota’s (and Budgie’s), Shaani’s, the Wig-wig collective’s, and Benek’s (a superciliously sinister human) three thousand kilometer trek on the windship ‘Sand Shark’ into the unknown desert – from which no one has ever returned – to fix the problem. There are plenty of anthropomorphic gecko girls, frog men, cockatoo-riding razorback war pigs, and others around Watering Hole, and many adventures with more mutant plants and animals during our heroes’ quest into the unknown desert.