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Road to Redemption (and Necromunda generally?)


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#1
aa.logan

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I know I gush about some books. But I’ve just finished this and it’s absolutely amazing.

I’m going to do my best to discuss this without spoilers, so I’ll just say that for the first third I thought it was going to be a by-numbers quest with bits of a Deathwish-esque one-last-mission revenge tale thrown in, but then it gets wonderfully, stunningly dark. Possibly even darker than Terminal: Overkill, and that’s bleak as anything in places. The plot remains the same, after the tonal shift
Spoiler
, but the route taken took me aback.

One of the best, and conversely worst, things about Necromunda as a setting, is that it can cleave so closely to pulpy tropes. When it’s good, you get an insight into how the bleakest living conditions and abject misery can’t always grind down the human spirit, fast-paced stories of gunfights, gangs and outlaws and nice slices on the all-to-rare civilian experience in the Imperium. At its worst, you get tired western and pulp tropes. Thankfully, Road to Redemption falls into the first camp, for all that it has a hoary plot. Without wanting to oversell it, it explores faith, personal & collective responsibility, here mentalities, familial ties and other types of loyalty. It oscillates between bleak and uplifting in the best possible way.

The book features, to varying degrees each of the ‘Classic’ gangs, as well as 2/3 of those from Outlanders. Brooks manages to bring the differences between the houses to life really well through their language- we’ve already had his take on, and explaination for, the Goliath speech patterns in a previous short, but this is the first time, as far as I’m aware, that the linguistic idiosyncrasies of Orlock and Delaware has been featured. Each house has it’s own vocal tics and differences in syntax and this really helps to distinguish and further set them apart- the differences between the houses are, after all, more than their fashions; they have their own distinct cultures and have populations far in excess of many modern nations, so why wouldn’t they have different ways of talking? It’s a crying shame that’s there’s no audiobook for this on the horizon, it would be really fun to listen to in this regard alone.

Brooks has already done some fantastic work around gender and sexuality (in this regard I mean all levels of human attraction. Or not) in his 40k work so far, so it shouldn’t come as much surprise that he returns to these threads here.

I’m going to make a sweeping statement here that if you are the kind of reader who has trouble accepting that in an Imperium of a million words these things only exist within the narrow parameters of early 20th Century Europe you maybe have a paucity of imagination that ought to preclude you from reading speculative fiction.

In Choke Point, Brooks gave us one of the few 40k characters that I can recall to express or indicate physical attraction in a convincing way, appreciating the attractiveness of a particular Scion and comparing him to their parmore. Nothing earth-shattering, but refreshing. Here we again have characters expressing a desire for intimacy and being motivated by inter-personal relationships rather than just ‘duty’ or shared home worlds. Religion, likewise, isn’t a certain immutable concept, rather a faith that is struggled for and not universally shared.

Gender too is presented here beyond a binary and it totally works. The culture of Necromunda is drawn from so many modern tropes but, like so much in 40k is more than that. There are characters who are referred to as they/them. It might take some a while to adjust to while reading, but if you can adjust to promethium, this isn’t much more of a leap...

I THINK THAT IT’S GREAT THAT CHARACTERS IN BLACK LIBRARY BOOKS ARE BECOMING MORE REPRESENTATIVE OF WIDER SOCIETY AND THAT THIS NOT ONLY LEADS TO BETTER STORYTELLING BUT ALSO MAKES MARGINALISED PEOPLE FEEL MORE WELCOME TO EXPLORE THE SETTING, BUT IF YOU DON’T I’D REALLY RATHER NOT HEAR ABOUT IT, thanks.
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#2
StrangerOrders

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I wouldn't give up hope on an audiobook, BL seems to LARP the Administratum in how convoluted and drawn out its timelines are sometimes.

 

Look at Palatine Phoenix, bloody thing took two years to make it to audible. Or the NL Trilogy getting audiobooks like a decade after initial release.

 

Glad the story is good, I might give it a shot as Necromunda is a growing part of the setting, for better or worse, and Ive been looking for an entry way.

 

My main problem is that seems like the grimderp-iest parts of 40k on literal steroids, but you seem to be selling it here as actually being pretty deep and interesting beyond initial impressions. Might be worth a shot.


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#3
aa.logan

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On one hand, there are seemingly true-to-life
Spoiler
tactics, on the other there are a pair of old-school escaped pit slaves called Eddie and Murph. Something for everyone.

Edited by aa.logan, 03 April 2020 - 08:51 PM.

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#4
Roomsky

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Necromunda's just been swing-and-miss with me so far.

 

Farrer? Great. Junktion? Boring

Hill? Very strong, unique flavour. Terminal Overkill? Very meh, flavour gone.

Might have enjoyed Redeemer more if BL hadn't cheaped out on their print-on-demand edition.

 

YMMV of course. Even so, this is a very promising review, and I certainly enjoyed Rites of Passage. I'll have to check this out, and I hope Brooks can accomplish what others have failed.

 

 


I THINK THAT IT’S GREAT THAT CHARACTERS IN BLACK LIBRARY BOOKS ARE BECOMING MORE REPRESENTATIVE OF WIDER SOCIETY AND THAT THIS NOT ONLY LEADS TO BETTER STORYTELLING BUT ALSO MAKES MARGINALISED PEOPLE FEEL MORE WELCOME TO EXPLORE THE SETTING, BUT IF YOU DON’T I’D REALLY RATHER NOT HEAR ABOUT IT

 

Preach


Edited by Roomsky, 04 April 2020 - 01:42 AM.

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#5
StrangerOrders

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On the subject of Brooks, I was super skeptical about it due to my not liking his previous work (something about it literally giving me headaches).

 

But I ended up liking Rites of Passage (except the Villain, which isnt on him since it also irked the hell out of me in Great Work and more telling a collective bad habit in BL that I want Olitoned into the nearest plasma reactor) infinitely moreso than I had expected. I even reread it (cutting out the villains PoV makes it infinitely more enjoyable) because I liked the characters from the main PoV so much.

 

Its sort of ironic that both sides of the argument on that thread had me nervous about the book, thinking it would be a ham-fisted mess instead of the eloquent and remarkably well-done work it turned out to be (silly that my favorite part is the House allied to the Vlka having developed a ferocious streak). Sometimes you really got to let people experience things for themselves. 

 

My concern with Necromunda is honestly that I am going to get slapped in the face with so much grimderp that I am going to need to reconsider my life choices. I am hopeful that we dont have things like weird torture parties where everyone drinks liquified babies or something similarly silly.

 

That and things like widely-available boltguns...

 

For the meat of the story, Aa, can you speak more on how Faith is addressed in story? Also, are Astartes or the Militarum touched on at all? I am curious how they would be perceived that far down the scale. 


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#6
Roomsky

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See, I'm here for the "grimderp." People are welcome to their "competent people beaten down by a galaxy of madness," but I'll keep my slave crews loading ammunition on star ships, thanks.

 

Which is why it boggles my mind Necromunda hasn't done it for me. Maybe something about the smaller scale? You'd think that wouldn't be an issue considering how much character-driven story in BL matters to me. Somehow, each I've read so far has left me going "this is mercilessly dark, sure, but is it 40k?"

 

Maybe it's just the zany colours. As someone with Protanopia, I find colours of any sort offensive.


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#7
aa.logan

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Right, faith in Road to Redemption, avoiding spoilers.

The book’s protagonist is from House Cawdor, but as we see from the very first chapter is troubled by his past. He still, however, is guided by and practices his house’s religious traditions. Zeke is a believer, his faith in the existence of the a God Emperor is sincere but it not uncomplicated- we see him struggling with how he should interpret circumstance and moral choices. Socially/structurally, the Emperor is referred to as the source of Imperial power and the legitimacy of Helmawr and by extension all laws and societal conventions; even at the lowest tiers, it is understood that Necromunda and the wider Imperium is a theocracy.

The book shows religion, and the Imperial Cult specifically, as a spectrum. Religion motivates selfless acts, brings disparate people together and is used to justify atrocities throughout the book. You could maybe take that as a wider metaphor for the Imperium, IDK.

In terms of tech and armaments, it’s a piece of fiction, so stuff like ammunition lasts as long as the plot requires, but it’s all suitably grimy and low-grade. Scarcity is referred to, but not necessarily felt directly. Lots of autopistols and stubbers as well as improvised or scavenged weaponry. The combat that happens tend to just ‘happen’; brutal burst of violence which do take their toll- like in Sons of the Selenar, there is a sense of genuine peril for the characters.

No mentions that I can recall of marines, though Saint Guilliman gets invoked at one point. The Guard are absent, though the Sisters are mentioned.
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#8
Xisor

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I haven't read the book yet, or the thread - but I'm sure I'll agree shortly. Brooks stories have been ace so far, and I'm excited to get to this one too!

Also, for Necromunda, I think I only have this, a couple of shorts, JH's Terminal:Overkill (I started reading [and enjoying!] it in a stupid fashion [phone whilst at service stations driving] and haven't reset the habit, or driven anywhere near enough!!) and Soulban's Fleshworks to read before I've exhausted the supply!

Heck.

But the Necromunda books should get huge kudos. They're much more characterful and claustrophobic and... Stylised?... Than many 40k/BL books.

Really refreshing, in a miserable, grim, oppressive urban Wild West sort of way.

Will read this thread properly soon, once I've caught up!
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#9
Xin Ceithan

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Since it will be probably some time till I get to read this, I'd appreciate some extra info on the " linguistic idiosyncrasies " (especially on the Delaque). I'm a sucker for flavor fluff!
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#10
aa.logan

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Since it will be probably some time till I get to read this, I'd appreciate some extra info on the " linguistic idiosyncrasies " (especially on the Delaque). I'm a sucker for flavor fluff!


Ok, I’ll spoiler it just in case anyone wants to discover this independently of the thread

Spoiler

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#11
Xin Ceithan

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Thank you sharing! I certainly work with that.
And,yes, it is these little things, indeed.

And I guess...van Saar
Spoiler

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#12
Roomsky

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Only just started on this one, and it's pretty great so far. Brooks writes a very economic first few chapters that immediately establish who the main character is, why you should care about him, and why he's on the journey he's on. There's a good mix of agency and adversity, and the atmosphere is nice. I'm very interested to see where things go from here.

 

On a side note, I think the cover is super goofy looking. A strange choice.


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#13
Lord_Caerolion

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I'm about halfway through this one so far, and I'm loving the characterizations of the different gangs, although I've yet to see much about the Escher/Van Saar. 

 

I do have one bit of criticism, although it's not really much of one, but

Spoiler


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#14
DukeLeto69

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Finished this over a week ago (time seems a little fluid with lockdown snd days are blending).

I thought this was EXCELLENT and probably the best Necromunda story I have read to date. While I know Necromunda has a bit of a Wild West vibe going on this was the most (spaghetti) Western so far.

Loved the characters, loved the premise, loved the insight into society(s), loved the subtle touches mentioned by others such as pronouns, speech patterns and interpretation of Imperial Cult. Loved the plot, really absorbed me.

Also loved (though not sure I should make this a thing by even discussing it) how Mike Brooks has characters with different sexualities just there, no biggie, just naturally part of the story, ie he doesn’t make their sexuality a thing it just is. And as such it works just fine - excellently executed.

I really liked Rites of Passage but think this hooked me slightly more.

The ONLY thing I didn’t like was the cover. Agree with @roomsky - that was not a “judge the book by the cover” situation!
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#15
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This was so, so good.

 

I've never been able to get into Necromunda (though admittedly I haven't read Sinner's Bounty yet), and was planning to pass this over until aa.logan gave it his glowing review. Needless to say, I'm glad I did.

 

First of all, characters, ever the most important thing to me in a story. Zeke is very likable, a sort of Commissar Cain played for Drama. He's competent, true, but he's also constantly getting injured and proven wrong. You understand his reasoning for everything he does and most importantly he just comes across as very human. The supporting cast and bit parts are all memorable as well, with the Delaque Cholls being the obvious standout. There's even a Squat. I have to give special props to the antagonist though. Black Library is very good at writing memorable villains, they're just usually protagonists. Infernus though, you're cheering for his death in a way you aren't for most system-ravaging Chaos Lords. The children Zeke is out to rescue get a surprising amount of development as well, and it helps build some very effective tension for the climax.

 

The plot is straightforward, but it's an effective vehicle for the cast and the setting. I learned a lot about Necromunda without it feeling like Brooks was ticking off a list. Zeke's development borders on the suspiciously convenient, but never crosses that line for me. Everything is appropriately small scale, and it captures the fragility of human existence in 40k very well. It also gets very, very dark, which is an extreme I'm always hoping to push when reading Black Library. You'd think the ending was a bit abrupt, but once I realized what Brooks was doing I thought it was very well done, more in the spirit of 40k than most in all honesty.

 

The pacing is excellent, I can't think of a single scene that overstays its welcome. The writing too is strong, mostly in the character stuff.

 

I will give a bit of criticism to Brooks' handling of violence, while thankfully brief and effectively bloody, I had a bit of trouble following a few of the action scenes. He also occasionally forgets to describe the environment, a lot of my favourite scenes occur in a bit of a void. A certain reveal was also a bit obvious, though I appreciated how it resolved greatly.

 

Queer representation is important and I'm glad Brooks is leading by example. I'll admit for a while I couldn't wrap my head around the most nightmarish regime short of a Chaos Empire wouldn't crack down on it like they do most personal freedoms, but I've settled on a headcanon that it's a carry-over from the more enlightened empire pre-Age of Strife. Not that I didn't want to see more of it, but the Imperium of Man isn't good, it's hard to imagine it being enlightened about anything. On the other hand, it's important to feature queer characters in narratives not centered around adversity, so I think Brooks has the right approach in making it the norm.

 

Must Read, especially if you want to get into Necromunda stories

ANR: 8.5/10


Edited by Roomsky, 08 May 2020 - 02:07 AM.

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#16
aa.logan

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Also loved (though not sure I should make this a thing by even discussing it) how Mike Brooks has characters with different sexualities just there, no biggie, just naturally part of the story, ie he doesn’t make their sexuality a thing it just is. And as such it works just fine - excellently executed.

The ONLY thing I didn’t like was the cover. Agree with @roomsky - that was not a “judge the book by the cover” situation!


Since we are going ‘there’, and with regard also to the points raised by Roomsky (who I’m very glad to hear enjoyed the book)... (spoilered because it is kind of one...)

Spoiler


I’m giving the cover the benefit of the doubt. Is it deliberately ‘bad’ like a pulp western novel? I have the ebook, so I’m not in the best position to judge.
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#17
DukeLeto69

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Ok an opinion, FWIW, on sexuality (etc) in 40k...

Spoiler

Edited by DukeLeto69, 08 May 2020 - 12:30 PM.

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#18
Lord_Caerolion

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There was
Spoiler

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#19
Lord_Caerolion

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Ok, apologies for the double-post, but I've just finished this book, and I have to rescind my earlier criticism of it. It's certainly still a factor for the first half of the book or so, but definitely progresses beyond that. Basically, I completely agree with everything posted by Roomsky above.


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#20
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Avoiding the spoilers, the very positive response to this book has convinced me to buy it. Finally downloaded and excited to delve in (although it *is* competing with The Mirror and the Light, which has been absolutely wonderful and I highly recommend Wolf Hall and it's sequels both as a late medieval historian and a warhammer fan - it has such resonance with our fictional world!).
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Cinema itself is a trick of time — still pictures passed through a focused beam of light at 24 frames per second. We are reminded of that in La Jetée...

#21
aa.logan

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https://www.warhamme...mepage-post-3/'> https://www.warhamme...omepage-post-3/

Slightly disappointing but still notable Warhammer Community article- would be even better had they tied it in with examples from stories, but that’s a pretty big ask, I suppose.

#22
Roomsky

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As this has become the Necromunda General as well:

 

Underhive

 

This is definitely one of Black Library’s stronger anthologies, nothing here is worse than mediocre, and most are quite good:

 

Wanted: Dead is absolutely the standout entry here, benefitting from being a novella of course. Brooks has a knack for Necromunda, and much as I really enjoy Rites of Passage as well, I think Hive Primus is where his real strengths lie. The story is full of personality and is paced exceptionally well. My only complaint is the denouement, which came across as a tad convenient.

 

Of the remainder, Dirty Dealings, Death’s Hand, A Common Ground, and surprisingly to me, Emp-Rah’s Eye are the standouts. Reynolds, Brooks, and Harrison come as no surprise, but Haley’s look at the Ratlings is compellingly plotted and a very interesting look into how they think. For all the issues I have with his books, Haley’s shorts remain generally excellent.

 

Red Salvage is the meatiest short story here, and Reynolds dismissed any indecision I had about grabbing Sinner’s Bounty once the paperback lands. I haven’t read the old Kal Jerico stories, but he quickly introduces a newcomer very naturally. It’s full of twists and turns for something only about 50 pages, and ends right when it needs to, quality stuff.

 

Overall, a great read for anyone looking to get into the setting. Highly Recommended.

ANR: 8/10

 

All that said, I have a new over-used expression to add to my list of pet-peeves:

“X made Y noise… I realized they were laughing”

“Burst like an over-ripe fruit”

“He was the largest Goliath I had ever seen”


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