Culling the Horde by Steve Parker. A Warhammer 40K Crimson Fists short story, originally published by The Black Library, February, 2014. Approx. 12 pages.
Steve Parker's Rynn's World (the first book reviewed here!) told the story of one of the most infamous battles in the Warhammer 40K universe, the decimation of the doughty Crimson Fists. And where that tragic tale ends, it leaves the door open to more stories featuring them. Stories focusing on the arduous task of rebuilding, stories that convey the mindset of a Chapter so devastated. Culling the Horde is one such follow-up tale. And such a well-written short story as this featuring a popular Chapter is a much-welcomed treat.
It has been approximately one year since the events on Rynn's World. A full year, and yet the purge still continues. The purge to cleanse the world of its orkish taint. No easy task to be sure. Not only are all the civilian reaches thoroughly infested with the creatures, but the wind carries their spores, which will breed more greenskinned filth. And so, the cleansing continues, with the remaining Fists motivated by the knowledge that rebuilding cannot happen until the slate is clean.
Culling the Horde focuses on a small team of Fists engaged in purge activities. Four Marines (headed by Sgt. Huron Grimm, one of the best characters from Rynn's World), and one scout make up this kill team. In Horde, the group finds themselves cleaning out a farm that shows signs of recent ork activity. The events that take place here; what they see, what they do, how they feel, all perfectly encapsulate what the Chapter endures day in and day out on the slow road to recovery.
Point blank: this is an excellent story. Parker constructs a tale that brings his skills to full bear. The first thing is that he writes best when he focuses on small specialist groups. This is demonstrated in his Deathwatch novel (which has gotten unanimously positive reviews. I haven't read it but I loved the first short story, Headhunted), as well as with the tank crew in Gunheads. One thing I had harped on in the final act of Rynn's World was how it devoted too much time to Kantor's group; even though that portion was well written, it took away from the Gargant assault at the city. Here, in Horde, the team is the backbone of the story. Parker writes well for these supersoldiers; he captures their sense of fraternity, and the Chapter's feelings of loss, anger, and exasperation. He crafts excellent action scenes and puts them to paper very well.
What else works well in Horde? The orks. One thing that I have always loved about Parker's writing: he doesn't do funny orks. I love funny orks as well, and no one does talky greenskins better than Guy Haley, but Parker does orks with a primal ferocity. He realizes their attributes; savagery, cunning, and malice. And he knows that they are not dumb. These are huge, feral beasts that pose a firm match even for battle-hardened brothers.
Culling the Horde is one of the slimmest short stories I have seen from The Black Library, coming in at 12 pages. But do not lament the length of the tale; Parker has trimmed all the fat and nonsense and presents a lean cut of action and emotion. And, as an added bonus, we get an update on the status and whereabouts of firebrand Captain Alessio Cortez.
Here's what it is:
Culling the Horde is as good a short story as you will find from the Black Library. Steve Parker is in top form here, and shows that he is one of the few writers who can capture the mentality of a Space Marine well. Excellent action scenes and well-rendered orks make this an all-around great experience, even if it is a short one.
Another excellent Crimson Fists cover by Kevin Chin. I'm guessing that between this cover, and the one for The Few, these are pictures recycled from Codices or other publications. But they are nice touches for these stories. Again, the biggest mistake is in centering the text. Put it at the bottom so it doesn't take away from all the detail in the middle!
Cover Final Score: