Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Halo: Box Set

Halo: The Fall of Reach / The Flood / First Strike
by Nylund, Eric S. / Dietz, William C.

When Halo launched with the Xbox way back in 2001, it changed the way that gamers thought about FPS (first person shooters). Halo brought to the fore the notion that an action game could have a deeply involving story, instead of being just a series of enemy encounters. In a market oversaturated with no-brainer shoot-em-ups, Halo's epic tale of an alien Covenant, sworn to wipe out humanity, and the discovery of a massive object in space, the eponymous Halo, an object that may just be the path to salvation, staggered players with its scope, and had them demanding more. Thankfully Eric Nylund had already spotted the potential of Halo's story and, with the careful collaboration of the studio behind the game, soon the first of many novels based on the franchise was published.

The Fall of Reach, by Eric S. Nylund, tells the tale of the Spartan II program, a combined physical training, biological, chemical and cybernetic enhancement regime designed to create the ultimate soldiers. The group of recruits, taken at the age of 6 and put through the rigorous and sometimes fatal program are gradually honed into the most elite unit in the United Nations Space Command. But the surviving Spartan IIs are faced by a previously unimaginable threat, an advanced alien race on a religious crusade: to scourge mankind from the face of the galaxy. Nylund really nails the highs and lows of what mankind will do in the face of adversity, not to his enemies, but to himself.

The Flood, by William C. Dietz, closely follows the events of the game Halo, with both Halo and the Flood following on directly from Fall of Reach. Rather than being merely a direct novelisation of Halo, The Flood covers many of the events of the game from the point of view of secondary characters and events. While the game portrays the hero, John 117, a graduate of the Spartan II program, as a one man army singlehandedly saving humanity from ruthless alien aggression, Dietz uses his real military experience to bring to life the struggles of the other survivors who have crashed on the alien construct known as Halo. Dietz brings real pathos to the men and women fighting an impossible battle against terrible odds in a situation most of us couldn't truly comprehend: trying to save our entire species from extinction. With the true purpose of the Halo revealed, and an ancient horror unleashed, the clock is ticking for humankind.

First Strike, by Eric S. Nylund, follows the two preceding books with two concurrent plot arcs. One following the survivors of the Battle of Reach, as they descend deep into a classified stronghold to escape the scouring plasma of the victorious alien fleet. The other arc follows the few survivors of the Pillar of Autumn, the ship that escaped Reach only to crash land on the Halo. When its discovered that the Covenant have discovered the location of Earth, its up to the few survivors to band together to buy humanity time to prepare for one last stand, by warning Earth, and by taking the fight to the enemy. An engaging story that bridges the gap between Halo and Halo 2, First Strike was also the first book in the series to make it onto the New York Times bestsellers list.

These three books are available as a box set of three, or individually. They are a must have for any fan of the Halo series, and I think that anyone who marches to the snare drum of military sci-fi should have a look too.

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