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HALO: New Blood Paperback – March 15, 2016
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About the Author
Matt Forbeck is an award-winning and New York Times bestselling author and game designer. He has more than thirty novels and countless games published to date. His latest work includes Dungeonlogy, the Star Wars: Rogue One junior novel, the last two editions of The Marvel Encyclopedia, his Monster Academy YA fantasy novels, and the upcoming Shotguns & Sorcery roleplaying game based on his novels. He lives in Beloit, WI, with his wife and five children, including a set of quadruplets. For more about him and his work, visit Forbeck.com.
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The narrative structure here is written in the first person, from the perspective of Edward Buck, a former Orbital Drop Shock Trooper. He recounts his journey to joining the Spartan-IV program, making stops throughout his life to highlight what he sees as key moments and experiences. Avoiding spoilers, these sections are rather variable; some feel slightly irrelevant while others are extremely important storywise, and one extended section is more or less a straightforward rehash of ODST's campaign, similar to the novel "Halo: The Flood" by William Dietz. The narrative frequently feels jumbled, there are some severe issues with the "stories within stories within stories" structure that the book follows, as I frequently found myself losing track of where I was at in Buck's story timewise.
However, the fact remains that the characters here are excellently portrayed, considering the limitations the novel's length imposes as a matter of necessity. Many emotional and tense moments are engagingly written, the plot never spirals into overly slow sections, and most importantly of all, the Spartan-IVs are humanized far better than Halo 4, Spartan Ops, and the entirety of Halo Escalations ever managed.
This move is pure genius: By looking at the S-IV program through the eyes of pre-established characters who fans have already grown attached to, we are given a strong look inside the psyche of ordinary soldiers who've suddenly become superhuman. Excellently written in that respect.
There are plenty of clever nods to preexisting lore here, as well: Sadie, the girl from a series of Easter eggs in ODST, Jun (who many fans will remember from Halo: Reach), Sgt. Avery Johnson (In a flashback to ODST's campaign), and more are featured to varying degrees, and will tickle many a lore nut's funny bone.
In conclusion, I'd say this is an enjoyable book. It provides an unexpectedly emotional and powerful sendoff of sorts to the cast of ODST, and this element enables it to get past its uneven pacing and other slight issues.
A must own for Halo fans, even if it isn't perfect.
I will get this off my chest right away. New Blood is the story we needed before Halo 4. Not the Traviss novels. Not the comics. This.
New Blood actually gave us the foundation and gateway into the SPARTAN-IV program that has been needed since 4's release. When most of our post-4 stories have protagonists who originate from said group and the comic that explored its origins barely lay the foundation and their very first appearance is as a background appearance in a novel's story, you have a problem. How can you relate to a group you barely understand? Thankfully, New Blood fixes that.
Following that, lets talk about the characters. Buck feels like Buck. For the most part, I can hear Nathan Fillion's voice when I read Buck's words. The same is true with Dutch in relation to Baldwin. The same can't be said with Mickey and Romeo. They tend to be hit or miss in relation to previous portrayals. Though I guess you can say that, with Mickey, it can be said that he has grown a little and is suffering survivor's guilt, affecting his personality.
The Rookie, well, the Rookie is a blank state. He had no future. I will say this, the Rookie's fate is probably the best thing 343 could do. It is the Rookie that causes Dutch to retire and the other three to join the S-IVs. Really, his fate is the best they could of done, a fate that would push the others on to the next level of their development.
Following my view on the characters, I would like to talk about one of my favorite things about this story: continuity! We get mention of Dutch's wife and her sidelining injury, Dutch's want to be with her, Romeo resenting Dutch for breaking their pact they made at the end of Halo: Helljumper to retire and be with Gretchen, Mickey's parents being Insurrectionists who were killed, Buck being from Draco III and being unable to be there when the Covenant attacked and slaughtered the populace, the effects of the massacre being the reason Buck met Dare, Buck being helped by Noble Six on Reach, Vergil and Sadie showing up, etc.
However, this also presents a problem. New Blood gives the impression that Mickey was a member of Alpha-Nine during the Fall of Reach even though it has been said in the first ViDoc for ODST that he has never seen a glassing, which he would had saw a lot of if he was on Reach with Buck, Dutch, and Romeo. Vergil and Sadie's reappearance felt more like window dressing than a needed addition. Forbeck could had replaced them with someone else and still not make a difference. It is also said that the S-IVs have trackers in their throats, even though neural interfaces being implanted in UNSC troops heads have been a thing since the beginning of the Halo verse. It feel like it was only included to have an excuse to have someone's throat torn out. Plus, the flashback to the events in New Mombasa dragged on for a little too long and didn't really expanded on said events.
Overall, I have to say that New Blood is a nice addition to the Halo verse. It expands on old characters and treated them with dignity and hints at things to come with its ending.
This book is well written. You won't be hard pressed to follow the dialogue and understand what people are saying. However, the timeline does jump around a bit, which might get confusing between reads, if you're picking up after a couple of days.
If you played Halo 3 ODST, definitely pick this up. You get to find out the characters backstory and there are a few surprises as the story progresses, regarding what happens to the characters. Mostly, this is Buck's story and you get better insight into who he is, why he acts the way he does, and how he ended up as a Spartan IV in Halo 5.