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Halo: Glasslands Hardcover – October 25, 2011
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“Halo: Glasslands is a fantastic addition to the Halo universe, and is a stand-out military science fiction novel in and of itself.” ―SF Signal
“Karen Traviss does an excellent job writing for the Halo universe, she creates believable human and alien characters.” ―Jay Cormier, Examiner.com
About the Author
#1 New York Times best-selling novelist, screenwriter and comics author KAREN TRAVISS has received critical acclaim for her award-nominated Wess'har series, as well as regularly hitting the bestseller lists with her Star Wars, Gears of War, and Halo work. She was also lead writer on the 2011 blockbuster game Gears of War 3. A former defense correspondent and TV and newspaper journalist, she lives in Wiltshire, England.
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Others have written about the flaws of this book, but here are a few points I have to get off my chest.
Halsey is basically the devil incarnate in this novel series. I understand Halsey did morally outrageous acts. However, she is made with such a lack of dimension in this book; she comes across as a comic book villain. Nothing is really said about the fact that she did actually care about her Spartan-IIs. To an extent at which someone like her could. In real life extremely smart people often have problems relating to others, especially those with less intelligence. I, for instance, am not extremely intelligent, but smart enough that when I see people doing stupid things all around me it gets on my nerves. So, I can almost relate. I just take my annoyances and multiply them, a lot.
Even Chief Mendez turns on Halsey. When Halsey fires back about the Spartan-IIIs, he defends himself by saying they were volunteers and that basically wins the argument. Nothing is said about how the Spartan-IIIs were created for suicide missions and that they were culled from orphans. Also the fact that they were very young, which means even if the "volunteered" they were still just children, Another fact is that the augmentations for Spartan-IIs wouldn't have worked well with ordinary people, that is why they chose the people with the best genes. It was only later that the procedures were improved which lead to higher success rates and they probably wouldn't have been able to improve them if Halsey hadn't created the Spartan-IIs in the first place. Finally, the Spartan-IIIs were given increased aggression that could interfere with rational though if not kept in check, Mendez was an intelligent soldier. He maybe haunted by his actions, but based on the previous novels I believe that he would have known he had no moral high ground to stand on. If he had even been moved to blame Halsey anyway. However, Traviss apparently decided that these points were unimportant and she just needed yet another character to bash Halsey with.
I liked Lucy in Ghosts of Onyx, but in this story she became yet another victim of the idea that everyone must hate Halsey. She ends up punching Halsey and freeing herself of her psychological muteness, because Halsey was badgering an Engineer? How does this make sense? I doubt Halsey would have be so abrasive with it. Sure she can be abrasive, but the scenario just felt like it was written just so Lucy would attack her. As I was reading it I remember thinking, Halsey wouldn't be acting like this and Lucy probably wouldn't be getting so angry either.
I don't know how anyone can actually care about Kilo-Five. The ODSTs came off as idiots. Osman is a washed out Spartan-II who has been brainwashed by Parangosky, who is nothing better than a personal enemy of Halsey. In fact, she new everything about the Spartan-II project, because it was an ONI project. She also has no moral high ground, but is quick to dispense judgement. Osman is the same, because she was trained by Parangosky to hate Halsey, even though Kilo-Five's entire mission is a deplorable atrocity. Instead of helping their number one supporter Thel 'Vadam, they help his opponents. Apparently, they want the Elites to remain in chaos, but they basically enable the anti-humanist faction and maybe even instigated the next war between Humans and Elites. I doubt Jul 'Mdama would have been able to come to power over the Elite splinter factions and cause so much chaos later.
Traviss doesn't seem to know the definition of Top Secret, Classified information, or need to know basis. She has Osman tell the ODSTs everything about the Spartan-II program. Well, almost everything, since it is all a manipulation on Traviss' part to make the characters hate Halsey. The ODSTs did not need to know about any of it to accomplish they mission. I don't care if Osman wanted to create a bond with her team or some such thing, that wouldn't have happened. That's all I have to say about that.
Traviss' seems to grasp the concept of black ops enough to try to write a book about a black ops team. However, a key point bought up to make Halsey look even more devious was the flash cloning of the Spartan-II children. Supposedly, Halsey authorized this herself without permission, which is doubtful to begin with. Somehow, this was an unnecessary evil, because the parents thought their kids had died when the clone deteriorated. It was a calculated maneuver, not some personal whim Halsey tacked on to her highly detailed, Top Secret program. By making clones, there isn't going to be 75 missing children investigations. If someone manages to see a Spartan-II and recognize them as the child, they are more likely to dismiss them as just looking similar, because they "know" that child is dead. These are just two very good reasons for the flash clones. THe book indicates one person suspecting the flash clone not being his child. That is better than seventy-five entire families looking for their loved ones. Frankly, I view Parangosky as an idiot if she is head of the most secretive department in human civilization and not realizing this.
Traviss even has Parangosky rub in the fact to Halsey that Colonel Ackerson died a hero. I'm glad he did something redeemable. However, he tried to kill John-117 and Cortana in the training ground just to prove Halsey wrong. Also, he started the suicidal Spartan-III program largely as Halsey's rival. He had few redeeming qualities, but of course Traviss tries to make him look better than Halsey.
Halsey did some very terrible actions, but she did them because many people thought there was going to be a massive war between Humans. She was authorized by ONI. She made smart, calculated, if cold decisions. However she is far from Mengele, as Traviss heavily tried to point out. Mengele did experiments because he could and didn't care if they succeeded or the patients survived as long as he got information from them. He wanted to further the German race as he viewed it. Halsey had a purpose for her experiments and tried to make sure they were successful with minimum casualties and she thought she was furthering the entire Human race. Considering this idea of augmenting Humans was still in it's infancy, she did rather well and paved the way for Spartan-IIIs, Spartan-IVs, and perhaps eventually all of humanity.
Karen Traviss does manage to get details right, but she glosses over them if they don't fit here overall scheme. So this book was a huge disappointment. I was looking forward to seeing the post war galaxy, but it was drowned out by Traviss' own agenda, blatant disregard of previous character's personalities, and dislike of certain characters.
The first and biggest, was having Sangheili use human expressions. Even one who despises EVERYTHING about humans and wants to 'eradicate the vermin', suddenly uses "as the humans say". This absolutely destroyed any immersion I had in the book, and was never able to get pulled back into it.
The second was not specific, but just how horrible written the rational of the characters were. I never found myself understanding any of the ONI crew. It was all just explanation of why the author HATES the idea of Spartans.
The Third and final is the piss poor job of writing about Smart AI. When you read the forward and jacket, you think there is going to be some great detail about a Smart AI's life, like in Contact Harvest. Instead there is only 2 pages that have any actual detail, and the rest of the time the "AI" is just there to crack jokes.
I really wish this book could be redacted from Halo cannon, since it appears the sole purpose is to vent the hatred the author has at the idea of the spartans, and how horrible people we are for liking the story and game about them.