Over Christmas break I had intended to read Josh Reynolds’ Dark Harvest. Instead, I finished Kal Jericho: Sinner’s Bounty and decided that I needed moar Necromunda, because reasons. I took a chance with the simply titled Underhive: A Necromunda Anthology, because it’s a murderers’ row of authors that I like.
If you’ve read this site or listed to the cast you may know that I’m not keen on anthologies by and large. In the past I purchased a few anthologies from Black Library that had one or two good stories and a lot of stuff I wished I could unread. That’s not necessarily a dig at the authors or Black Library but rather the concept itself. Anthologies need a lot of filler and sometimes it feels as though the author’s heart isn’t in the story. As such, I’m always hesitant to spend money on them.
I’m happy to report that Underhive was well worth the entry price. For a person who was looking for more adventures in the deepest, darkest recesses of a hive, Underhive was a great next step. If you’re already familiar with Necromunda, or aren’t super into it, it might be more hit or miss.
If I had to point to one thing about Necromunda that grabs me, it’s how wide open the hive world is. Because of the sheer size and insanity rooted in good ol’ fashioned mayhem, there is no set theme or style to the setting. Which means that you can have a story about an abhuman bounty hunter next to a story about a drug dealer in which both are considered the heroes of their stories. Excellent.
The setting also allows authors to stretch their styles. The story which stands out most to me is Nick Kyme’s “Scar Crossed.” Whether or not you enjoy this story will depend entirely on how much you enjoy a good campy romp. Watching an author apply Shakespearean romance to a WH40k story will never not amuse me; it’s my type of humor and charm. Ending the anthology with more Kal Jerico was also right up my alley.
Not all of the stories are as strong as others. If that sounds like mealy-mouthed praise it’s because I didn’t find any of the stories to be outright bad. I didn’t love all of them, but it was because several stories had the misfortune of sharing a book with some great stories. Without pointing to specific stories, I said “Well OK then” several times as I flipped the last page. It’s hard with short stories because ultimately they’re not moving toward a larger plot or set-up. Aside from the Kal Jerico story, most were written to stand entirely on their own. And they do, but that doesn’t necessarily make them compelling.
But look, if that’s the worst you can say about an anthology, you’re doing pretty well here. The most important thing, I think, is to not take it too seriously. Part of what I’m enjoying about Necromunda is turning my brain off and enjoying the ride. Yes, this is the same defense I use when discussing cinematic masterpieces such as Demolition Man and From Dusk ‘Til Dawn.
The Bottom Line
I came in looking for action and adventure and Underhive provided it. In fact, I ended up buying the book twice, so that I would have a physical copy to put on my shelf. In the end, that might be all you need to know about how much I enjoyed it. If you’re coming looking for something life-changing that’ll leave a profound impact upon your soul, maybe look elsewhere.