Publisher: Black Library (Audiobook – 8 August 2020)
Series: Warhammer Crime
Length: 1 hour and 1 minute
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Prepare to dive into the dark and fun world of the Warhammer Crime subseries with the short but incredible hilarious audio drama, Dredge Runners by Alec Worley.
Fans of this blog will be well aware of my current obsession with all things Warhammer fiction, as I have been making an effort to try out a range of their recently released books, all of which have been highly entertaining reads. One of the main things that I love about the tie-in fiction that surrounds the Warhammer tabletop games is the sheer range of different stories that can be told, especially as the various authors associated with this franchise often go out of their way to blend it with other genres and story types. As a result, there are several great Warhammer sub-series out there at the moment, including the Warhammer Crime books, which dive into the criminal underbelly of the Warhammer 40,000 universe and presents the readers with some intriguing and unique adventures.
I have been meaning to check out some Warhammer Crime novels for a while, especially as there are some quite fascinating sounding books already part of it. I love the idea of the grim and gothic Warhammer universe blending with a more traditional crime fiction read, and I know I am going to have a lot of fun with all of them. As such, when I saw that a new Warhammer Crime book, The Wraithbone Phoenix by Alec Worley, was coming out, I thought that it would be a good entry point to the wider Warhammer Crime sub-series. However, I noticed that The Wraithbone Phoenix was actually a follow-up to a previous short story by Worley, Dredge Runners, which was released in 2020 as a full-cast audio drama. Well, I am a reviewer who likes the get the complete picture and considering that Dredge Runners was just over an hour long I figured I would listen to it quickly to get some context before diving into The Wraithbone Phoenix. As such, I listened to the whole of Dredge Runners in one go this morning, and it proved to be quite an amazing and amusing listen.
A Warhammer Crime Audio Drama
Baggit the ratling and Clodde the ogryn fight to survive on the mean streets of Varangantua as powerful enemies close in from all sides.
LISTEN TO IT BECAUSE
Experience the sounds of a crime-ridden city and enjoy the twists and turns of a tale starring some of the more unusual inhabitants of the Imperium of Man.
Baggit is a fast-talking ratling sniper with a greedy eye and loose morals. Clodde is an ogryn, a brute with a core of decency and a desire for a better life. Two abhuman deserters turned thieves, at large in the monolithic city of Varangantua, where only the tough or the ruthless survive. Having landed in debt to a savage crime lord, Baggit and Clodde end up in the crosshairs of the meanest, most puritanical sanctioner in the city. Caught between two powerful enemies, and with innocent lives at stake, the unlikely companions must think fast and hustle hard before death points a las-pistol in their direction…
Unsurprisingly, Dredge Runners turned out to be just as amusing and fantastic as the plot synopsis suggested. I loved the idea of two abhumans, in this case a ratling (a futuristic halfling sniper) and an ogryn (ogre), getting involved in a series of disastrous criminal enterprises after getting caught between the city’s biggest crime lord and a puritanical sanctioner (law enforcement official). Despite its short runtime, Worley achieves a lot with Dredge Runners, perfectly introducing his excellent protagonists and taking them on a wild science fiction thriller adventure that includes hilarious exchanges, failed undercover operations and explosive heists.
Told completely through dialogue (with some sound effects giving off extra context), Dredge Runners’ story draws you in within the first few minutes as the author blends the more outrageous elements of the Warhammer 40,000 universe with a dark but amusing crime fiction narrative. Due to the length, you do not often get the full story of the events taking place, but the subsequent reaction by the characters allows you to imagine the full destructive scope of their actions, and it often proves funnier this way. There is a real focus on humour in this short production, and I was constantly left in stiches at some of the fantastic antics that the main characters get up to as a chaotic team. However, the story also has some real heart to it, especially towards the end when the protagonists are forced to make some tough decisions about their future, and they find their greed crashing up against their moral responsibility to other abhumans. Throw in some memorable and deeply cynical propaganda messages from the city authorities that shows just how corrupt and repressive the entirety of Imperial culture is in the Warhammer 40,000 universe (the one that concluded the story had me laughing hard), and this proves to be an outstanding Warhammer production that I had an absolute blast getting through.
One of the main things that Worley achieved with Dredge Runners is the successful introduction of protagonists Baggit and Clodde, who serve as a fantastic central duo. On the surface, Baggit is a thieving rattling who serves as the team’s leader and plan maker, while Clodde is the muscle, going along with Baggit’s plans and often messing them up by not understanding them. However, there is a lot more to both of them. Baggit is desperate to escape the dark life they currently have in Varagantua and feels a responsibility to Clodde due to their connected past. Clodde, on the other hand, is a rather unique and amusing ogryn character, who has an unusual intellectual side after getting shot in the head (by Baggit). As such, Clodde comes off as surprisingly deep and philosophical, and he is way smarter than he appears, especially when it comes to Baggit’s antics. These two play off each other perfectly, especially with Clodde acting as the group’s conscious, and their eventual attempts to get justice and do the right thing, paints them in a much different light that makes them even more likeable.
I really need to highlight the outstanding way that this audio drama was presented, as the fantastic production melded well with Worley’s great script. Acted out by a full cast of talented voice actors and narrators who tell the entire story through dialogue, this was a really fun Warhammer presentation to listen to, especially as the dialogue was also enhanced by some great sound effects and small bits of music. I was particularly impressed by the voice actors, as each of them gave it their all when it came to their specific character/characters, moulding their voices to fit their distinctive traits and personalities. The cast was led by Jon Rand (Baggit) and Paul Putner (Clodde), who I previously deeply enjoyed in Ghazghkull Thraka: Prophet of the Waaagh!. These two actors did an outstanding job with their abhuman characters in Dredge Runners, and they play these two humorous figures perfectly, showcasing their different natures while also slowly revealing their outstanding hidden hearts. These two are expertly matched by Emma Noakes and Kelly Hotten, who play the antagonistic crime lord and sanctioner respectively. Noakes and Hotten both bring some outstanding menace to their roles, and I loved hearing these more serious characters attempt to deal with the chaotic main characters. The voice cast is rounded out by veteran narrators, David Seddon and Andrew James Spooner, who narrate some of the fun supporting characters, and I loved some of the unique and compelling voices they brought to the table. This entire audio drama comes together extremely smoothly, and listeners are constantly aware of all the actions going on in the story, especially with the fantastic cacophony of explosions, gunshots and screams that often happen around Baggit and Clodde. I had a wonderful time listening to Dredge Runners in one go, and you will not be disappointed with this excellent audio production.
Overall, Dredge Runners was an awesome and highly impressive Warhammer 40,000 short, that is well worth checking out. Not only did Alec Worley come up with a captivating and deeply hilarious narrative and script for this production but it features an outstanding and talented voice cast who perfectly perform it. As such, Dredge Runners was a particularly epic introduction to the Warhammer Crime sub-series, and I had an outstanding time seeing just how amazing and unique crime fiction in the Warhammer 40,000 universe can be. I am really glad that I chose to check out Dredge Runners first, and I honestly was surprised at just how perfectly entertaining this short audio drama turned out to be. As such, I am giving it a five-star review and I am now extremely excited to see how the next adventure of Baggit and Clodde turns out in The Wraithbone Phoenix.