Author: William C. Dietz
Publisher: Microsoft Corporation, 2010; Originally published by Del Rey, The Random House Publishing Group
Rating: 4/5 stars
Amazon Price: $9.09 – $11.99
Common critiques on this book are that the narrative is too close to the first game in the franchise, Halo: Combat Evolved—as if the author just played through the game and wrote down the game dialogue in the book. This critique is understandable and has some truth to it, but the dialogue from the game that’s incorporated into the book is not entirely the same; there are some variances. On the other end of the spectrum, if Dietz left out the game dialogues entirely, then a new set of critics would have risen and instead complained about the lack of game dialogue. Yes, it exists, as if the reader is re-experiencing the game content, but it’s not entirely the same and doesn’t take away from enjoying the book. There’s plenty of extra material. If Dietz had neglected the game dialogue that’s an integral part of the Halo story, then the reader would be left to question the legitimacy of the game as part of the Halo lore. The dialogue from the game are necessary inclusions in the book so that the extra story material Dietz did add doesn’t completely overshadow what the reader experienced in the game (assuming he or she has played the game). Dietz, I believe, does a great job of adding other story material to fill in the blanks where the gamer doesn’t know what happened.
The Pillar of Autumn coming across Halo Installation 04 was not a planned endeavour; it happened by sheer dumb luck thanks to Cortana’s calculations because of a pattern she recognised. Upon discovering the ring world, everything else was utter chaos after that, from escaping the Pillar of Autumn with as many survivors as possible, Captain Keyes manoeuvring the UNSC frigate without the assistance of an AI to land on the ring world, and the surviving UNSC forces fighting for survival through chaotic attempts to regroup. In the game, by the time the gamer starts the mission called “The Silent Cartographer,” suddenly you’re part of an organised force. But how in the world did they manage to reorganise? The gamer doesn’t know. In the book, Dietz does a remarkable job of filling in those blanks with how they became organised—through the command of Major Silva, Lieutenant McKay, and the unified efforts of the Marines and Helljumpers with the Master Chief’s military expertise and supremacy. Thanks to Dietz, the gamer now knows how the surviving personnel of the Pillar of Autumn became organised.
(SPOILER AHEAD. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK: Additionally, with knowledge coming only from the game, the gamer assumes the Marine forces were wiped out from the Flood. However, we find out they actually died honourably aboard the Covenant frigate Truth and Reconciliation as Lt. McKay chose to sacrifice the Marines, Helljumpers, Major Silva, and herself so as to not risk bringing the Flood to Earth. Instead of sating Silva’s ego to get the biggest promotion in his career and give the speech he’s somehow had time to prepare, McKay felt it was her duty to save the billions of lives on Earth rather than risk unleashing the Flood on Earth with their captured specimens on the whims of Silva’s ego. If the Major wasn’t more concerned with his promotion and big speech than he was about getting the Marines home and exterminating the Flood on the Truth and Reconciliation, then perhaps there would’ve been survivors of this chaotic event. END SPOILER.)
Another example that filled in the blanks was how Captain Keyes got captured by the Covenant. In the game, the gamer moves from one mission to the next where suddenly the mission is to rescue Captain Keyes. But how did he get captured in the first place? Dietz answers this question for the gamer. The reader also games additional insight into the Covenant and Captain Keyes’ last remaining moments as his mind is being overtaken by the Flood, gaining also a deeper understanding of how the Flood functions as a formidable parasite, which is not found in the game. The reader also gains additional insight into the Master Chief’s mind during the events of the game—what he must’ve been thinking at this or that point in the game; whereas in the game, he just appears as an unbeatable, emotionless automaton—a locomotive soldier. The reader also discovers the Master Chief actually has a great sense of humour.
Yes, the reader may experience redundancy in reading the book if they played the game first, but without the game dialogue it becomes an entirely different story from the game when in actuality it’s the same story (and was intended to be). Being the same story, there’s necessary similar dialogue with supplemented details that couldn’t be included in the game, such as the Master Chief at Alpha Base just before deploying to the Silent Cartographer mission (which is where we get a sense of the Marine organisation in the book). No one complained when the characters in The Walking Dead show used the same lines from the comic, as well as the same lines from the Harry Potter books into the movies because the lines in the books are integral to the story and would’ve taken away from the movies and TV show. Likewise, it is necessary to keep the game dialogue from the game in the book. Dietz provides other information to gain a better understanding of the events that developed throughout the game in order to have a better understanding of the Halo lore as a whole. All this being said, with very few parts of the game being skipped and spelling/grammatical errors unaccounted for (at the fault of the editor), I have given the book 4 out of 5 stars.