Book Review: Junktion By Matthew Farrer

Having re-entered the world of Necromunda through, apparently, the wrong door with Outlander by Matt Keefe and, with over half a dozen other stories still waiting in line, I thought I really should find some sort of correct order. Google turned up nothing, an email to the Black Library customer service was little help either but, I realised, the zip file the omnibus downloads as had differing modification dates for each title and, while based on no actual truth or logic, it was all I had to go on. So, with that as my guide, I turned to the oldest modified book: Junktion by Matthew Farrer and started reading.

Instantly, I was taken away from the expansive sand dunes that had plagued my enjoyment of Outlander and instead, placed into a shanty town of corrugated metal and rationed utilities which again, didn’t quite live up to the mental image of the tough underground world I so desperately wanted, but it was much, much closer than I’d previously found.

The story, however, couldn’t have been further away. Necromunda is a game about rival gangs, fighting for territory, survival and respect. Instead, Junktion looks at one man, with no loyalty to any gang, who is being hunted by an unknown enemy; not because of who he is but rather, because of what he is. As a plot it was totally unexpected, a clever sidestep away from the obvious path of gangland warfare you’d expect with something carrying the Necromunda label to delve into the little thought of side street that contains all those sub-characters that are never given a second glance, but arguably, hold greater power and greater narrative potential. After all, for all the posturing and bravado of a front-line gang, somebody must keep the lights on when you all live underground!

Sadly though, the book never gets beyond that clever idea. It really should have been a thrilling cat and mouse tale beset with suspense and tension that took you, without predictable direction, on any journey it wished. Instead, it descends into an implausible mess as one man develops skills beyond his experience in the name of saving his backside. The characters and story drifting away from anything that feels even remotely connected to the crude and recycled existence you first met them in.

Then, when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, Farrer decides it time to earn the Necromunda title his novel will carry. Rival gangs appear without warning, expanding the environment in a way that feels like it’s ripped apart the myopic clarity that set Junktion apart from other Necromunda stories. This may be overly simplistic, but the best way I can think of describing it, is that it feels like the book goes from looking through the eyes of the first person to that of the third. Suddenly the inner monologue of the man character, that has dragged us through his struggles so far, is lost into a sea of noise and rival events as too many strands are brought to bear in attempt to add pace and tension to a story you feel is struggling to find a natural conclusion.

For every fault in the plot and development of Junktion, Matthew Farrer’s writing is monosyllabic enough to never once leave your mind pondering on an unknown word, yet descriptive enough to bring his ill-fitting world to life with a clearness that is rich and full. He also manages to keep a rhythm and fluency to the pace of the book that allows the passage of time within to feel natural and in keeping with the unfolding events. Whether that event was believable or not, I never felt I was being rushed through a situation or held back from where I felt I wanted to be.

Don’t overlook Junktion, it’s written to the standard you’d expect from a Black Library novel and is definitely more interesting, imaginative and enjoyable than Matt Keefe’s Outlander. It’s just that, what should have been a clever, innovative and interesting story, slanting of the gang world of Necromunda, leaving you gripped and unable to put it down, turned out to be an a wonderful idea that was badly lost into a world of poorly handled tones.

Posted on by 5WC in Book First Edition

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