Mob Squad: Never Say Nether

Delilah S. Dawson takes the squad to a new dimension!

What does a Nether portal feel... or smell like? It’s an issue I’ve been pondering ever since I accidentally stepped into one for the first time thinking it was a futuristic micro home. That play session was cut very short by what I can only describe as a cacophony of aggressive squeals and panicked yelps.  

But now I can avoid the Nether forever uncover the answers I’ve been seeking and more, because the Mob Squad is going on a fiery adventure in Delilah S. Dawson’s much-anticipated novel, Never Say Nether! And we’re definitely getting all the terrifyingly hilarious details in this sequel. Don’t believe me? Luckily for both of us, I have proof: an excerpt from the novel, for your reading pleasure. Enjoy! 


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I step up to the portal, noting that it smells a little like sweet berries and fresh rain with a touch of . . . is that fire? Odd. I step up and poke the purple swirlies with my foot, and then it’s like I’m walking into a wall of wiggling violet water, except it doesn’t feel cold and wet, it feels warm and dry, almost like smoke, and then . . . 

I’m somewhere else.

I’m in the Nether.

It takes a moment for my eyes to focus and make sense of what’s around me. This place is . . . 


It’s like a giant cavern, the biggest cavern I’ve ever seen, but everything is in shades of burgundy and red and purple. There are stone blocks I’ve never seen before, fires and fungi and glowing things, all completely unfamiliar. I immediately want to start sketching, but the portal wavers and Chug steps out beside me, sword at the ready.

“Bad guys?” he growls.

“I haven’t seen anything move yet.”

His sword arm drops. “I thought we’d be walking into a villain party, but this place is just—a blood cave?”

The portal swirls again, and Jarro stumbles out.

“What the huh?” he murmurs, axe dangling from his fingertips like he’s forgotten it exists.

“Blood cave,” Chug says with authority. “You get used to it.”

The portal shimmers one more time as Mal comes through. We’ve all moved away to make room, and I have my bow and arrow ready, even if I haven’t needed it so far. This place is so hard to understand, the colors so similar and everything encased as if underground. There’s plenty of room between me and the ceiling, but there is most definitely a ceiling, no sign of sun or moon or sky. I don’t feel the usual comfort I feel in cool, cozy caves. I feel like this place . . . 

It wants to hurt me.

Maybe it’s the lava waterfall dripping on the edge of my vision, maybe it’s the randomly burning fires, maybe it’s the way everything seems more vertical than horizontal, but the Nether just feels malevolent, like being in the belly of a giant, angry beast.

“So this is the Nether,” Mal says wonderingly. “It’s . . . not what I expected.”

“Nice place for a vacation.” Chug jabs his sword at the ground. “If you wanted to vacation inside a place that looks like meat rock."

Mal mines a block of the red . . . stuff . . . and looks at it before shoving it in her pocket. “Huh. It’s pretty soft.”

Something moves toward us, and I nock an arrow and gesture at it silently. Mal follows my gaze and holds her pickaxe in a more threatening manner.

“What is that?” Jarro asks.

“We don’t know,” Chug whispers back. “We’ve never been here before, either.”

The figure approaching us reminds me a little of the villagers—it’s vertical and bipedal and seems to be going about its business, not really reacting to our presence. As it gets closer, it doesn’t charge us or yell at us, but it does make a curious sound.

“Did that guy just . . . snort?” Chug asks.

“Like a pig,” I reply.

“I’m going to go talk to it.” Chug has his sword in hand, but not up in a threatening position.

I can tell Mal wants to stop him, but . . . well, no one really knows what’s going on, so why not let the most dangerous one of us go talk to the first creature we see? When Mal gives me the look, I draw my arrow and aim, just in case things go badly.

“Hi,” Chug says, waving at the creature, which I can now see has a piglike face with tusks and a sword of their own. “My name is Chug. What’s your name?”

The pig man, who isn’t quite a pig or a man, snorts curiously. Their eyes seem drawn to Chug’s gold boots.

“You like the boots, huh? Yeah, my brother can make pretty much anything. Do you want some boots, too?” Chug reaches into his pocket and pulls out a pair of leather boots, but the pig man—well, let’s call them a piglin, since they don’t really seem to be male or female—the piglin seems uninterested.

“How about some food? I’ve got some nice apples.” Chug holds out a shiny red apple, but again, the piglin doesn’t really care. They just keep staring at Chug’s boots.

“Give them your boots,” Mal suggests.

But I feel like that’s a bad idea. If we give the piglin Chug’s boots, what if they expect us to give up all our armor? And what if the ground burns Chug’s exposed feet? “No, keep your boots on,” I say. “I think they just like gold. They keep looking at my helmet and Mal’s chest plate and Jarro’s leggings. Do you have any gold that you’re not currently wearing?”

“You just don’t want to smell my feet,” Chug murmurs as he digs in his pockets and produces a gold ingot, which we often use as money back home. “How about this? Do you want some yummy delicious gold?”

He tosses the ingot at the piglin, who catches it and just stares at it for a long moment, eyes shining. Then they toss something at Chug, and Chug turns to us, holding a shiny purple bottle of potion. He looks dumbfounded. “I’ve never seen this potion before. How’d this dude get a potion?”

“Who cares where they got it,” Jarro says. “Do more trading.”

Chug nods excitedly. “Yeah. Why not? I’ve got tons of gold ingots.” He throws another one to the piglin, and this time they gleefully toss me eight arrows. “This is like hitting a piñata. You never know what you’re going to get!”


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Mob Squad: Never Say Nether is out now.
Cristina Anderca
Written By
Cristina Anderca