Book Review: Salvation by C.S. Goto

It was with tentative trepidation that, once again, I re-entered the Underhive; continuing my journey through the “Tales of the Underhive” omnibus of Necromunda novels. I had slipped down the slope of expectation with both Outlander by Matt Keefe and Junktion by Matthew Farrer and, therefore, taken some time away, to cleanse my mind of the disappointment it had felt, before stepping back in.

I think the reason I’ve been so disappointed, however, is entirely due to the image of Necromunda I hold in my head. A few days ago, I was discussing the age-old argument of “book versus film”, saying that I was worried about the upcoming release of Ready Player One onto the big screen. It is arguably the best book I’ve ever read, but worryingly, the film trailer is leaving me very cold. I’m fearful of what’s to come and I think I’m now having the same problem with these stories. I want the world I picture, not the world as interpreted by others, and it’s clouding my expectations and enjoyment as a result.

However, as each book is a stand-alone story, simply set in the same world, each one has its own chance at redemption. Just because all that has gone before failed, doesn’t mean this time also. With no idea of what was to come, I uploaded the next book in the sequence to my tablet, opened the digital cover as it were and sighed as my heart sank – it was Salvation by C.S. Goto.

Having just said that, my enjoyment of the Necromunda series is being ruined by pre-existing prejudices, to find that I was about to be taken back there by C.S Goto felt like compounding that misery. I’ve read his Eldar novel Prophecy, and while I don’t hate it as much as some do, I found it a story shoehorned into a world, rather than born from it. He’d borrowed too much imagery and technicality from the traditional samurai and martial arts worlds of the far east; draping the world he truly wanted to write about with a facade of Eldar pretence. Creating a story that while enjoyable, was slow, wordy and ultimately, focused too much on the small, minute details to really keep you interested. I feared he was about to repeat that deception and sadly, was proved right.

Salvation isn’t a story that feels like it’s truly part of the Necromunda world and it doesn’t suffer the destruction of pace and imagery that pains Prophecy. The world and characters Goto creates are easy to picture, and he moves the story forward with a rhythm and pace that feels real, true and engaging. It’s just, the crux of that story, the central idea onto which every else hangs, feels completely disconnected to the world of Necromunda. It feels like Goto has just repositioned an existing idea for a generic story without ever stopping to think how it would fit into the wider picture.

I think this problem is highlighted fully by the fact the book exists within the internal dialogue of its main characters. It’s too focused on thoughts and opinions to really stop and breathe and develop the world around them; or explain the reasonings for their actions. It felt like the journey was simply told under the spotlight of a single lamp that jumps from point to point, never illuminating its surrounding. It expects you to know the environment in which it treads and so doesn’t bother to fill in the gaps. Which would be fine, if those gaps felt like they were truly part of the world you currently inhabited, but they don’t.

Equally, there is no back story to justify that story or its unfolding events. The book raises question after question with regards the history of each character or gang, and the relationships, opinions and prejudices they hold, but Goto is so focused on getting the story from his point A to his point B that he never once meanders into the character development needed to provide a stable foundation.

Worse of all, though, is that Salvation never feels like it’s mortally dangerous – which, for a story set in the world of Necromunda is a prerequisite! Yes, there are gangs and guns, danger and death. People die, kill and maim each other, but you never really feel it, you never sense that any character is ever really in trouble. The language is too stale and the pace too monotonous. When you want the book to build tension, and have you on the edge of seat with worry, nothing arrives. When you want the language to paint vivid imagery in your head, that’s rich and visceral, the words just fall flat.

Ultimately, Salvation is just weak and bland and for me, worse of all, misjudges the minimum requirements you’d expect from it by a long way. It’s just too generic and too insular with it’s creation and direction to really hold much in favour to recommend it. Again, I’ve entered the world of Necromunda, and again, I’ve fallen a long way short of finding the characters, stories and imagery that befit the tough, dangerous, gang based hunt for survival I so desperately expect.

Posted on by 5WC in Book First Edition

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