Quick View: A compelling story and characters brings the Halo universe to life in this first book in the series.
Publisher’s Summary: Legends are not simply born…they are willed into existence. Humanity has expanded beyond the Sol System. There are hundreds of planets we now call “home.” The United Nations Space Command now struggles to control this vast empire. After exhausting all strategies to keep seething insurrections from exploding into interplanetary civil war, the UNSC has one last hope.
At the Office of Naval Intelligence, Dr. Catherine Halsey has been hard at work on a top secret program that could bring an end to all this conflict…and it starts with seventy-five children, among them a six year old boy named John. Halsey never guessed that this little boy would become humanity’s final hope against a vast alien force hell-bent on wiping us out. This is the story of John, Spartan-117…the Master Chief, and of the battles that brought humanity face to face with its possible extinction.
Full Review: The Halo Novels are arguably some of the best scifi novels written based off of a game. This is probably due to the fact that unlike most novels based off of video games, this book came first. Eric Nylund was commissioned by Microsoft and Bungie to write The Fall of Reach in order to give their new game a good backstory.
The novel released in october of 2001, a month before the Halo: Combat Evolved launched on the Xbox. After the release of the game, Nylund wrote two more novels, creating a very well written and emotionally driven trilogy giving a great deal of conviction behind the protagonist and his comrades.
The Fall of Reach follows the story of a man named John117, starting all the way at his childhood, when Doctor Catherine Halsey talks to a young John after a game of king of the Hill, then to him at orientation with 75 other children being told they would never see their parents again and that they were now military property, to their training to become the ultimate super soldiers, and of course, their augmentation.
Throughout this story we see all of the pain and anguish John and his friends go through to meet the demands of the Office of Naval Intelligence, and we see insight in the strength of will it takes to serve a higher purpose at the cost of your own free choice.
Let’s start with the character development. With this story, written to give background the protagonist of a Triple A Video Game, we could expect going in to see a lot of world building and character development. We get to see John as a child, and his story as he grows through the challenges he faces. We see his character react to the world around him in a very human and realistic way.
His friends each have their own unique personality and grow based on their own experience and reactions. They all experience the hardships of training, the pain of losing a friend, and the fear and concentration seen in battle. They each cope with the augmentation process differently, dealing with the biological enhancement in their own time.
Overall, Nylund does a great job giving these character who were taught to hide and hold back their emotions a way to express themselves. The attention he gives to their reactions, body movements and vocal tones really helps to give the characters the emotional depth they need.
When it comes to world building, that’s really where the book meets a dilemma. Being commissioned to build the world of the halo universe, Nylund had to split writing a good story with creating the terminology and situation in which the game took place. While creating characters the reader could feel an attachment too,
Nylund also had to squeeze in a terribly large amount of backstory about the Human Covenant War, the UNSC, the Spartans, and the forerunners. Because of this, the story gets interrupted quite a bit by the needed exposition through side stories and time skips.
With all this said and done, The overall book was well written. Despite the forced exposition in the book, the readers can tell it wasn’t due to writing but due to Nylund’s mandate. The story is compelling, the characters are compelling, and the book does a great job setting up for its sequels in the trilogy by giving them that room to breathe exposition wise.
At the end of the day, it is the necessary starting point that opens the readers up to the Halo universe and the many novels, games, comics and movies that it encompasses.
Written by Jeo