Author: Eric Nylund
Publisher: Microsoft Corporation, 2010; Originally published by Del Rey, The Random House Publishing Group
Rating: 5/5 stars
Amazon Price: $7.99 – $13.99
Planet Reach—humanity’s largest occupied planet aside from Earth and home of the UNSC military force (United Nations Space Command) was the most beloved human occupied planet aside from Earth, and its loss left a dark mark upon humanity’s motivation to defeat the biggest threat humanity has ever faced: the menagerie of religious fanatic alien species who call themselves the Covenant. Every Halo gamer is familiar with Reach. They know it was a highly important planet and it was home to SPARTAN-117 Master Chief Petty Officer John and many of his fellow Spartans. Gamers only get a glimpse of this story from Bungie’s game, Halo: Reach. In fact, the game isn’t even from the perspective of the Master Chief but a group of Spartan-IIIs—a Spartan programme completely separate from the one the Master Chief and his Spartans were raised in. In this book, Nylund captures the whole story of the Master Chief’s involuntary recruitment into the Spartan programme directed by Dr. Catherine Halsey, the Spartans’ original mission to defeat the rebel Insurrectionists, their eventual beginning combat against a new threat called the Covenant, and their first failed mission: protecting Reach (not a spoiler, because the title of the book spoils it for you anyway). In this book, Eric Nylund tells an enlightening story of the Master Chief’s beginning and development of the Halo universe’s most valuable, and luckiest, soldier.
The Master Chief’s (John’s) Childhood
Nylund spends a significant portion of the book telling the story of John’s involuntary recruitment into the SPARTAN-II programme. The entire book isn’t told from John’s perspective. It switches from Dr. Halsey’s, to Captain Keyes’, John’s, and several other key characters. The difficulty about writing this review is not spoiling too much. What I will say is that the reader gets some extra insight into John’s personality that we don’t get from playing the games. Sure, we get a little bit after playing the first trilogy, but that’s only scratching the surface. In the book, the reader learns how John becomes the leader we know him to be in the games. The gamer knows the Master Chief as being a team player, especially when it comes to his Spartans (and also disregarding his understandable insubordination to Captain Del Rio in Halo 4). However, John wasn’t always a team player. The reader discovers that as a kid, John was merely concerned with always winning no matter the outcome, even if that means disregarding the welfare of his teammates. During his training, he learns the vitality of teamwork and working as a unit in order to achieve the greatest outcome for the benefit of not only his team, but also humanity; and he rises to become one of the greatest leaders of the entire Spartan team. The reader also games additional insight into the motif of John’s insurmountable luck first introduced in Halo 3. Reading through his training and thought processes as he becomes a leader enables the reader/gamer to further respect his philosophy on always protecting fellow Spartans and marines and civilians, even at the greatest cost.
The Fall of Reach
After spending several chapters going through some of the Spartans’ missions against the rebel Insurrectionists, the reader gets an outside perspective of how the Spartans first come across the Covenant. I won’t say how exactly they found out, so you’ll have to read the book for yourself, but the insight gained from it certainly adds to a further understanding of the entire Halo lore. The reader gains a deeper understanding of humanity’s arduous struggle against the Covenant’s technology, even the Spartan’s struggle. This new technology challenged humanity’s armour systems, even for the Spartans that Dr. Halsey eventually developed the famous shield recovery system in their MJOLNIR armour. The technology also forced UNSC Naval captains to abandon traditional naval space strategies, being forced to improvise just to survive. In fact, Captain Keyes uses the strategy of ramming his freighter into a Covenant ship just after barely lowering its shields enough. The reader gains a deeper sympathy for humanity’s deep struggle for survival, something we don’t get from the games too much.
Aside from Halo 3: ODST, I consider the Halo: Reach game to be one of the most emotional Halo games in the entire series, especially with Martin O’Donnell’s brilliant and beautiful music to add to the overall mood of the game. For a deep lover of the Halo series like myself, this book might make you a little emotional during the chapters of Reach’s fall. That might sound ridiculous since it’s a fictional book and a fictional game, but if we’re not personally influenced by what we spend time reading or playing, what’s the point? If readers can get emotional over a certain influential character’s death in Harry Potter, I can get emotional over the millions of deaths in The Fall of Reach, the deaths of John’s fellow Spartans who are essentially his family, and the sadness the survivors had to deal with. Overall, Halo: The Fall of Reach is an especially well written novel as an exposition to the Master Chief’s story not just as a Spartan, but also as a becoming leader and soldier throughout the decades as he battles against humanity’s biggest threat. Of course, as the gamer well knows, the Covenant aren’t the only threat to humanity’s existence.