Author: Peter David
Publisher: Gallery Books, 2015
Rating: 5/5 stars
Halo: Hunters in the Dark takes place between the games Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians. The Master Chief is still MIA, and there is both an old and a new threat: the Halo Array has been activated again and it is up to a team of an unlikely pair of Forerunner scientists, a handful of SPARTAN-IVs, Sangheili with interesting histories, and an unlikely Huragok to stop the Halo Array from firing and tackle an unforeseen threat.
A trait that makes this book so readable for Halo fans is that it introduces Olympia Vale, whom we first met in Halo 5: Guardians on SPARTAN Locke’s fireteam. This is before she is a SPARTAN-IV, and the book doesn’t get into how she became a SPARTAN, although it does tease you towards the end with her preliminary thoughts of becoming one.
Halo 3 fans also go on a nostalgia trip as they return to the Ark and other familiar places in this story, which is the locale of the Halo Array having been reactivated. There are a few cameo appearances as well, such as Admiral Hood, the Arbiter, and even Serin Osman from previous books (if you can’t remember, she became head of ONI after Margaret Parangosky’s resignation).
The new characters were enjoyable reads. Luther Mann, the main character and lead Forerunner scientist on the team, has a captivating backstory to his professional vocation and drive. The Sangheili N’tho has a neat backstory with SPARTAN Kodiak before he became a Spartan. The main antagonist was especially captivating, which I will not reveal here lest I spoil it (I did not see it coming, so I don’t want to ruin the experience for future readers).
However, the other Forerunner scientist, Henry Lamb, was a bit underwhelming. He was essentially the comic relief and I didn’t become too attached to him. He was a nice element to the team in the story, but he could’ve been developed better.
I also expected there to be a lot more deaths of leading characters and even a few insignificant ones. Aside from the deaths of a few nameless Marines, there was hardly any deaths that affect the reader.
A nice touch to the book was also the tensions between the Humans and the Sangheili. Halo 4 begins with the alliance between the Humans and the Sangheili and other races after the Covenant War. As this book takes places before the events of Halo 4, Hunters in the Dark takes a look at the tensions that take place between the Humans and Sangheili on both a collective and individual level after so many decades of war against each other. This tension is seen especially in the team that embarks on their perilous mission to the Ark.
Some say Hunters in the Dark works well as a standalone novel. I agree and I disagree. On the one hand, if you haven’t played a single Halo game or read a single Halo book, the plot will become especially lost on the reader as well as a few details of this book. There are references to previous books like Ghosts of Onyx and the Kilo Five trilogy, for example. When these come up in Hunters in the Dark, they’ll appear as insignificant or confusing to the reader when they actually play a vital role insofar as the continuity of lore is concerned.
On the other hand, if you have played Halo 3 through Halo 5, you will still get a good sense of what’s going on even if you haven’t read any other Halo book. Still, however, you won’t get the significance of some of the details of cameos and throwbacks to earlier books that are just too cool to pass up. It’s worth reading all the other books before getting to this one in the timeline.
Overall, I highly recommend the book for Halo fans who want to know more about the Halo lore, as I’ve recommended all the other Halo books I’ve reviewed so far. Again, the book doesn’t tell the story of how Olympia Vale becomes a SPARTAN-IV, so it would be nice to read a book that tells that story, even if she’s not the leading protagonist. If we get that story, this book would serve as a good prologue into that.