Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Halo: The Fall of Reach Book Review

by The World Weary

Author: Eric Nylund
Publisher: Del Rey
Genre: Military Science Fiction, Video Game
Series: Halo Novel Book One
Pages: 352 

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Halo: Episode One: The Phantom Menace

Halo: The Fall of Reach is a lovingly detailed, and beautifully written book. Not only will the reader get insight into the birth of the Master Chief, but other major characters like Cortana, Dr. Halsey, and Captain Keyes. The space battles are some of the most epic and tense scenes I’ve ever read in science fiction. Overall, Nylund strikes gold and creates a book that gives full fledged service to fans as well as painting an amazing portrait of the Halo universe for newcomers.

Halo: Combat Evolved took the video game world by storm with its release on Xbox. People had never played a story driven shooter that gave them so much freedom, and featured so much diversity in everything from weapons, to vehicles, to enemies. On top of the amazing gameplay was a fantastic story, that was often compared to Aliens, that created a fascinating universe for the events of the game to take place in. Wishing to expand upon this universe, Bungie and Microsoft struck a deal with Ballantine Books and Del Rey to produce a series of books that would further flesh out the Master Chief’s story. The first of these books was to be a prequel called Halo: The Fall of Reach.

The year is 2517, and mankind has spread to other planets and systems. the fragile peace between the planets is threatened when a group of rebellious separatists begins to threaten the order that the United Nations Space Command has established. In response to this threat Dr. Catherine Halsey is tasked with a top secret mission to breed a squad of genetically advanced super soldiers to turn the tide of battle. She selects several children as her candidates and removes them from their homes.

Soon, in a military training base on the planet Reach, the children are forged into hardened killers, and on child in particular, a child designated Spartan 117, stands out from the rest. The Spartans take the fight to the rebels, but suddenly a new threat emerges. A coalition of alien races known as The Covenant begins “glassing” human planets with advanced weaponry. The Spartans are equipped with special suits of armor, known as MJOLNIR, and are launched headlong into a bloody and seemingly hopeless fight to prevent the Covenant from finding Reach, which would then lead the aliens to Earth.

As far as prequels to hit science fiction properties go, this is the best one ever. The buildup to the events of Halo: Combat Evolved (or William Dietz’s novelization of the game, depending on how you look at it) is a fantastically woven space epic. You get major insight into many of the Halo series’ primary characters as well as epic action worthy of the Halo universe. the space battles truly stand out as some of the most riveting sequences in the book. Nylund has found the perfect balance of tension building and character to make the Covenant versus UNSC smackdowns more than just spaceships shooting each other. Captain Keyes’ fights are some of the best moments in modern science fiction. The ground engagements are nothing to wave off however, as each battle is a personal struggle for the Master Chief and those under his command, and each is more explosive than the last.

It’s always been hard to identify with Spartan 117 in the games, as you’re never allowed a glance at his face and he usually spits out one liners that have less heart than an inanimate carbon rod. However, here Nylund is allowed to get inside the head of the most legendary (no pun intended) super soldier of all time. The Chief’s thoughts behind his gruff commands are what truly humanizes him throughout the book and makes him into a character you can understand. With his brutal upbringing, it’s easy to see why he rarely speaks. Every single character is treated this way, which adds a richness to the entire Halo universe that was absent if you played the games alone.

Keyes is probably my favorite character, as he has the most complete arc. He begins as a young Naval officer who is selected by Dr. Halsey to help find subjects for her SPARTAN program. His conflicted conscience and nervousness is soon replaced by a strong sense of leadership and will as he becomes a famous Captain and strategist. His evolution makes for great reading, and a moment he shares with a fully grown Master Chief is both touching and heartbreaking at the same time.

Halo fans should rejoice. This is a wonderfully written book from a truly talented writer. Nylund has made not only a roaring page turner filled with action, emotion, and fun, but he has also created a piece of Halo history and boosted the wonder of an entire universe. If you’re a fan of the series this is a must read. If you’ve never played a Halo game, then before you do, start here, as what you learn in these pages will make every second of Halo and it’s sequels totally wonderful.

Score: 9.0

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