Beckett: Review – Halo: The Forerunner Saga

The Didact
The Didact (Ur-Didact)

Who is the Didact? What is his relationship to the Librarian? Why is he evil? Above all, what happened to the Forerunners 100,000 years ago? The Forerunner trilogy gives us these answers, and they are essential to understanding the Halo story as a whole. The Covenant worshipped them as gods, assuming they transcended into godhood as the reason to their disappearance. Little did they know the cause of their disappearance was actually due to a civil war and an insidious, ancient enemy known simply as the Flood. Instead of doing individual reviews on each book in the saga, I will be compiling them all together with a short review for each.

Halo: Cryptum

cryptumAuthor: Greg Bear
Publisher: Tor Books, 2011
Rating: 4/5 stars
Amazon Price: $8.32 – $16.99

Throughout all three books the prominent character is an average Forerunner called Bornstellar Makes Eternal Lasting, or Bornstellar for short. This first book is really where we learn the most about Forerunner civilisation and religion. In this book we learn of the Forerunner caste system. From highest to lowest they are Builders, Miners, Lifeworkers, Warrior-Servants, Juridicals, and Theoreticals. Builders are responsible for the construction of Forerunner architecture, which leads the reader to rightly assume they were largely responsible for building the Halo Array. Bornstellar’s father was a Builder. The highest ranking Builder, the Master Builder, was Faber, who becomes an essential part of the story.

The Librarian
The Librarian

Miners were responsible for acquiring the materials the Builders needed for building their architecture. Lifeworkers specialised in biology and medicine, especially with (ethically) experimenting on different alien species. The highest ranking Lifeworker, the Lifeshaper, was the Librarian, whom we come across in Halo 4. Engineers were the lowest in the caste system, who were responsible for creating and maintaining infrastructure and machinery. Juridicals were eminent, who were essentially lawyers who particularly presided over cases that had to do with violating the Mantle, which was the Forerunner’s religious creed in being responsible for all forms of life in the entire galaxy. Lastly, the Theoreticals were scientists who were eventually assimilated into the Builder caste. Not much is given about these castes except for their roles as being scientists and historians.

At the start of Cryptum, Bornstellar is a Manipular, which is the Forerunner equivalent to adolescence. His father’s desire is for him to follow his footsteps as a Builder, but Bornstellar refuses. The cause of his refusal is his ancilla (much like the artificial intelligences of the UNSC) who inspires him to search for artifacts left behind by an unknown species the Forerunners called the Precursors, thus named because they were the precursors to the Forerunners. So, Bornstellar embarks on his quest to a planet called Erde-Tyrene, which is later called Earth. This is the world the humans remained after losing their war against the Forerunners. Bornstellar comes across two unlikely humans—Chakas and Riser, who help him on his search for Precursor artifacts. They come across what’s called a cryptum, which we learn is a type of crypt (in 2016 human terms) that keeps a warrior-servant inside, guarded by war sphinxes.

War Sphinx from Halo 5 trailer.
War Sphinx from Halo 5 trailer.

The Cryptum holds a long kept Forerunner secret and becomes a serious threat: the Didact. As the events unfold, a once imprisoned Precursor is nowhere to be found, the purpose of the Halo rings are discussed, the prominent Forerunner AI called Mendicant Bias goes rogue, and Bornstellar becomes the new Didact, no longer an adolescent but now one of the most powerful and well-respected ranks of the Warrior-Servant caste. These events are only the beginning of what is to come next.

At the time I read this book, the last two had not come out yet. At first, reading it was confusing because I was so used to reading the books that take place around or during the Human-Covenant war. In these books we enter a completely different world. The same species exist, but there is no Covenant, no UNSC, and there is a whole new alien culture and language to get used to. It wasn’t until my second read through all the books that I finally understood everything that was going on. If you read this book and you’re totally confused as to what’s going on, you might have to read it a second time. Hopefully after reading this review, you’ll have a better idea of what’s going on. This confusion is the reason why I gave it 4 over 5 stars.

Halo: Primordium

primordiumAuthor: Greg Bear
Publisher: Tor Books, 2012
Rating: 4/5 stars
Amazon Price: $12.49 – $17.67

Greg Bear starts this book with an interesting perspective. He begins in the “present” as ONI is interrogating a damaged Forerunner monitor. ONI is seeking to find answers about the Didact and the Forerunners’ past relationship with humans. The monitor begins with describing Chakas’ childhood and how he met his friend, Riser, and gives an overview of the events that took place during Halo: Cryptum from Chakas’ perspective. After Mendicant Bias’ attack on the Forerunner Citadel in Cryptum, we don’t know what happens to Chakas and Riser. The AI tells that story, which Chakas and Riser find themselves on a Halo installation and discover other humans they’ve never seen before on it. As the events play out, they come across a large device called the Composer, which the Halo 5 gamer is all too familiar with. Upon finding the Composer, they also run into the rogue AI Mendicant Bias, who uploads their personalities into monitors by using the Composer. Having become a monitor, Chakas is put into the Halo installation’s Silent Cartographer to move it.

Eventually, Bornstellar, the new Didact (the old one is still alive) comes into the picture and disables Mendicant Bias. Bornstellar enters the Silent Cartographer and demands it be moved to the Ark for repairs. While Chakas is still undergoing his process of conversion into a monitor, Bornstellar brings him to the Primordial, a mysterious entity that is imprisoned. Who is this Primordial and why is he dangerous? Its existence is highly significant for the entire Halo story, so I won’t tell you who—or rather, what—it is. Spoiler: At the end of the book, we return to the “present day” where we learn the monitor Chakas was turned into is 343 Guilty Spark, who is being interrogated by ONI. End spoiler.

Reading this book gives us a lot more detail on the Flood and the origin story of 343 Guilty Spark, who becomes a prominent antagonist in the Halo games. This book is not nearly as confusing as Cryptum, especially if you read the trilogy in order. If you read Cryptum first, which you should and I don’t know why you wouldn’t, you’re used to the Forerunner culture and language by now. The only thing that becomes slightly confusing is when Chakas and Riser are on the Halo installation and the imagery Greg Bear tries to use. I understand they were literally on an alien world, but the imagery Bear used was just too alien for the reader to get an idea of what he’s describing. As humans, we can only describe and imagine alien things in human terms and images, but Bear, I think, tries too hard to give the imagery in alien ways that it becomes too alien for the reader to easily imagine what the alien world looks like. He does the same thing in Cryptum.

Halo: Silentium

silentiumAuthor: Greg Bear
Publisher: Tor Books, 2013
Rating: 5/5 stars
Amazon Price: $12.49 – $15.99

This is the end of Forerunner civilisation. What in the world happened to them? How did this seemingly superior alien civilisation collapse? We find out why and how here. Just like Primordium, Silentium starts off with ONI as they are investigating a series of Forerunner logs. A new character is introduced, a Forerunner called Catalog, whose task is to investigate the Battle of the Citadel when the rogue Mendicant Bias attacked. He demands to record a testimony from the Librarian and Bornstellar Didact (Iso-Didact). However, a new threat emerges: the Flood, forcing Bornstellar to leave and fight. So, Catalog accompanies the Librarian, who reveals to him how she became Lifeshaper and the cause of the split between her and the original Didact (Ur-Didact), her husband, which was from their differing views on humanity. The Ur-Didact wanted to commit genocide of the humans, but the Librarian wanted to save them, particularly from the Flood by preserving them on the Ark and have them be the reclaimers of their technology (the word “reclaimer” should be familiar to Halo gamers). The Ur-Didact’s preference was to use the Composer to subjugate them as his soldiers.

In this book we discover the fate of the Librarian, the Iso-Didact, and the Ur-Didact. What happened to the Ur-Didact that led to his eventual release in Halo 4? How did he get stuck on Requiem? What happened to the Iso-Didact that he wasn’t around during the Ur-Didact’s genocide in Halo 4? What happened to the Librarian? Finally, we find all these answers at the conclusion of this brilliant saga, and the Halo fan’s curiosity of the Forerunner story is finally sated.

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