Welcome to the inaugural War Altar multi-book review. You didn't ask for it but you're getting it anyway. The tagline to the worst night of Maynard's life and this article.
Necromunda remains one of Games Workshop's (many) gravely under-used IPs and this is apparent in their Black Library releases. Necromunda has been particularly poorly served in this area. Like all Black Library releases, the quality of Necromunda fiction can vary dramatically. Some of the direr Kal Jericho books, in particular, makes a strong effort to force the standard down. But have hope, ragged hivers, there is non-flamer-related light at the end of the tunnel. We'll look at the three best in the series, in no particular order.
Fleshworks by Lucien Soulban
Fleshworks is the baseline by which all other books in the series should be judged. Lucien Soulban appears to have made more of an effort than the typical Black library author, in producing an entertaining but non-typical Necromunda book.
The author seems to grasp that the setting is sufficiently characterful and doesn't resort to the tired premise of an western plot in an predominantly dystopian setting. The book melds elements of cyber-punk and film noir with a deep respect for the source material that shines through.
The choice to set the book in Hive City and amongst the squabbling of the Houses proper proves astute as this allows the author the freedom required to tell his story to full effect. The Houses come across as functioning entities rather than the charicatures some works depict them as.
The characters manage to attain a measure of realism which is rare in Black Library products and the sheer likeability of the main character persuades the reader to suspend his disbelief during his various death-defying escapes. Some of the antagonists veer dangerously close to the traditional hackneyed gang sterotypes but by and large, he steers clear of that danger.
Commendably, the author resists any temptation to undercut the secretive, cutthroat theme of the book by forcing a clear and unambigious ending. I heartily recommend.
Outlander by Matt Keefe
This second book makes the list despite falling into the space-western pattern which blights much of the Necromunda books. Rather than using the format as a crutch, it surpasses it, providing a breathing living Necromunda which comes across as plausible. Every stereotypical character, from the drifter, to the cowardly mayor, to the hooker with a heart appears but are granted depth and a charm normally lacking.
The author jumps between multiple viewpoints and while initially jarring, this does produce an interesting work without a clear-cut protagonist. The jumps are poorly executed at times but the fault is forgiveable.
Fans of the Good, the Bad and Ugly will adore this.
Junktion by Matthew Farrer
Completing our trilogy, this book places its plot firmly in the Underhive. It manages to depict the impact of constant gang warfare and the unrelenting harshness of the setting without the clumsy comedic overtones of the Donne Ulanti and Jericho series.
The unfortunate protagonist is pitted against immovable objects and irresistable forces and buffeted viciously by cruel fate as he just tries to do his damned job. The backdrop of an Underhive settlement partially besieged is the closest to the "traditional" Necromunda fluff but retains a certain strangeness. The author's greatest success is in projecting the truely bizarre and alien nature of life in the Hive. The inevitable slide towards anarchy that blights any attempt to improve life for the huddled masses is adeptedly highlighted.
It may be third in the list but certainly equal to any of the preceding works.
So there you have it, the unofficial trilogy of Necromunda. Entirely accidentally, they give a brillant snapshot of the Necromunda setting. They collectively set their action in Hive City, the Ashwastes (kinda) and the Underhive. Next up, a forty-two part review of all White Dwarfs since 1988.
Labels: Black Library, Books, Fleshworks, Fluff, Junktion, Necromunda, Newbreed, Outlander, Review