Quick Review: LOW LIVES by Denny Flowers (Black Library)

FlowersD-BLN2-9-LowLivesAn excellent Necromunda novella featuring a great pair of protagonists

Even in the nightmare depths of the underhive, there are heroes… or at least those who’d like to be heroes. Caleb Cursebound is one such soul, but pursued by bounty hunters and desperately outgunned, can he even survive, let alone prove his worth?

Caleb Cursebound, the Underhive’s ninth-most-dangerous man, and his ratskin partner Iktomi are in hiding, having deposed the tyrannical lord of a Necromundan noble house. Pursued by relentless bounty hunters, the pair descend to the remote mining settlement of Hope’s End, the last place anyone would think to look. They soon learn, however, that all is not well in Hope’s End; the people are being terrorised by a powerful Orlock gang, and in desperate need of a hero. Caleb cannot resist the opportunity to prove himself, but there are those who would see his reputation forever tarnished…

I’m very happy that GW decided to re-launch Necromunda — it was the game that most caught my attention and imagination when I was in my teens. With the recent re-launch of the game, there has been a welcome return to the setting in BL fiction. Denny Flowers is just one of the authors writing about life in the Underhive, but he has quickly become one to watch. I very much enjoyed this novella.

I loved the smaller-scale action, more character-focused narratives. I eagerly devoured all of the Necromunda fiction Black Library published first time around — the Kal Jerico comic and novels were particular favourites, and the handful of other novels were equally entertaining and engaging. (Josh Reynolds is the most recent author to handle that character, and I’m very much looking forward to Sinner’s Bounty.)

Inferno-Vol04Denny Flowers’s Caleb Cursebound is stamped from a similar mould to Kal Jerico — he’s irreverent, very sure of himself, spectacularly incompetent on occasion, but also quite gifted in rather specific and special ways. He also has a companion — in this case, Iktomi — who spends a lot of time fixing Caleb’s messes. The two characters were introduced in a short story in Inferno! Volume 4 — “Hand of Harrow”. That story serves as a great introduction to the pair, and while it is not essential to read that in order to enjoy Low Lives, I would nevertheless recommend it because it is an excellent short story.

‘And you waived half our fee as a gesture of solidarity.’

He swore. ‘Oh great. So how much are we making on this?’

‘You are making nothing.’

The two characters have a wonderful rapport. Caleb is rather rash, often running headlong into situations without enough forethought. Iktomi, who follows Caleb because he saved her life after the massacre of her tribe, takes his safety quite seriously. Thankfully, though, she also doesn’t take any of his shit and quietly pokes fun of him on many occasion. In Low Lives, they find themselves attached to a campaign against an Orlock gang that is keeping Hope’s End down. Meanwhile, someone is stalking Caleb, with an altogether separate, deadly agenda of their own… It’s going to be a dangerous sojourn into the mining regions of Hope’s End/Necromunda, and a mission that Caleb and Iktomi will have to draw on all of their wiles and skills in order to survive.

I am very much looking forward to more stories featuring these two. And I’m very glad that the Necromunda setting is getting more attention. Low Lives is a fun, gritty sci-fi romp in a nightmare, heavily polluted hive city.

Flowers is a very good writer, and his story is character focused without skimping on action, and sprinkled with a light humour that makes this a great read.


Low Lives by Denny Flowers is out now, published by Black Library, as part of their second novellas series. Inferno! Volume 4 is also out now, published by Black Library.

Follow the Author: Goodreads

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