In Blood Harvest, the latest Warhammer 40,000 short story release from Black Library, Conscript Mukta is hiding in a farming machine waiting to die, holding an old lasgun on an agri world being overrun by an unending horde of tyranids. With Richard Swan—a favourite author of mine from his Empire of the Wolf fantasy series and his brilliant The Art of War space opera series—as the latest big name fantasy author to join the Black Library stable, I was keen as mustard to get stuck into this tale.
Blood Harvest is a short story that I feel really embodies the short brutal lives of the stock standard soldier of the Imperium’s planetary defence forces. Not the men and women of the Astra Militarum being ferried from battlefield to battlefield, but home defence regiments who never leave their planets, maybe train on the weekends, and then are expected to stand tall against the nastiest things in the galaxy. Woefully inexperienced, underequipped, and laughably trained, in my mind they are usually meat for the grinder in the hope some piece of gristle in them gets caught in the enemy’s gears.
What Blood Harvest does well is show the sheer level of escalation in both the personal martial capabilities of the soldiers of the Imperium, and also the ridiculous scale at which battles are fought. With that scale comes scale of repercussions for mistakes, something that always made me think of battles from our world wars–just dialled up to eleven.
The ending of Blood Harvest didn’t land with the kind of punch I’d generally like to get from a short story, but it certainly left plenty of future page space for more stories of Mukta Lim, the Tempestus Scions, and the battle against the Tyranids. This short story is well worth your time, and retains the action packed nature of this military sci fantasy universe while delving into a colossal group of humanity’s defenders rarely delved into.