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Impressive "fleshing out" of a wonderful game series
on October 14, 2004
I've gone on record in the past of having disliked the first book in this series. I take it back. After having played the original Halo through to the end more than 10 times now, I now find these books irresistable.
Halo Book One - The Fall of Reach
The first book of this trilogy details the formation of the Spartan II/Mjolinar program, including the origination of the characters Master Chief, Captain Keyes and Cortana. "Fall of Reach" fleshes out the backstory. How did the Covenent happen upon humanity in the first place? What were our first encounters with the Covenent like? What does "glassing a planet" entail? And what is it that the Covenent is after?
The last question isn't answered completely, but this first volume does provide some tantalizing details that might give you a clue. You do, however, find out exactly what the Pillar of Autumn was up to prior to ending up in orbit around Halo.
Eric Nylund does a great job of injecting some humanity into the Spartans (yes, there's more than one) and some drama and strategy into fight scenes with the Covenent. If you find yourself liking this book, you may want to pick up Nylund's "Signal to Noise" or "A Signal Shattered". No matter how good Nylund's military sci-fi is, his hard sci-fi is better.
Halo Book Two - The Flood
Normally, I'd say "skip this" if you've already played the game. And if you have played through the game, then the plot points in this novel won't lend you any surprises. It is, however, a testament to William Dietz's prowess as an author that even Halo veterans such as myself can pick up this book and still be interested in the subject matter. As with "Fall of Reach", "The Flood" fleshes out the Halo universe even further. Not only do you follow Master Chief as he combats the Covenent, the Flood and Guilty Spark 243 on the Jovian-orbiting ringworld of Halo, but you get up close and personal with some of the ODSTs (Helljumpers, who will play a large part in Halo 2), marines and non-coms who are aiding Master Chief in the fight. You even get to see the fight from the Covenant point of view.
William Dietz was a fine choice for creating this novelization. Already an excellent military sci-fi author, he does great work here in turning a potentially lackluster novelization into something interesting and special.
Halo Book Three - First Strike
I don't really want to ruin this one for Halo fans. The most important thing about this book is this - it acts as a bridge between the events of first Halo game and Halo 2. "First Strike", again by Eric Nylund, picks up right where first game ended - with Master Chief and Cortana stuck in a non-FTL bomber in the dead space surrounding the remains of Halo. I won't give away anymore except to say that Halo 2 is set-up perfectly here.
The most impressive thing about the Halo books is this - the amount of backstory created for the Halo universe is stunning. If you've read anything about the new Halo 2 release and have read these novels, you'll understand what I mean. Plot points and military types from the first novel are being incorporated into or mentioned in Halo 2, ie - the aforementioned ODSTs. I have no idea WHERE this backstory came from - either from the imaginations of Dietz and Nylund or the impressive minds working at Bungie. It doesn't matter. Reading these books and playing these games, you become intimate with a well thought-out alternate universe. And its a great one to spend time in.
November 9th can't come soon enough!
Hopefully William Dietz is on the business end of that Halo 2 novelization, and this set will include four books in the future.