Review: ‘Halo: The Fall of Reach’

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Eric Nyuland’s Microsoft-commisioned novel, Halo: The Fall of Reach, is an excellent addition to the Halo canon. But as a sci-fi novel it is merely adequate. Nyuland proves himself a better writer than expected, but this is still a little hammy in places. The set pieces are spectacular — truly thrilling and cinematic throughout -– but the novel’s pace was undermined by its running time. At almost four hundred pages, and with the titular battle of Reach resigned to the last seventy (like an afterthought), this was far longer than it needed to be.

To Nyuland’s credit, though, main characters, Captain Jacob Keyes and John-117, are handled with a lot more depth and conviction than their handling in the sister stories of the video games. Each of the main characters had layered, believable motivations and – gasp! – feelings. (That’s right, Master Chief had opinions about war long before 343 Industries oiled his voice box.) Master Chief’s origins were particularly well-handled, and I also found the head of the Spartan Project, Dr Catherine Halsey, a necessarily complex individual.

At this point, with Halo: Reach and a slew of other expanded universe stories out there, one might question the relevance of Halo: The Fall of Reach. Effectively, this book serves as the immediate prequel to the first game, Halo: Combat Evolved, and, I think, its relevance holds after all these years. It’s one thing to have a loose understanding of the history of the Halo universe, but reading about it – involving yourself in the lives of these characters as the events happen – is another entirely. The Fall of Reach really coloured the events of Combat Evolved for me. It also gave the Human–Covenant war a greater resonance; a reader really feels what’s at stake for humanity, whereas, in the games, it’s just neat to blow stuff up.

For anyone with even a passing interest in the Halo universe, Halo: The Fall of Reach is essential reading. It could’ve been better, but it could’ve been a whole lot worse.

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5 thoughts on “Review: ‘Halo: The Fall of Reach’

  1. Very interesting review! I’ve been a Halo fan since Combat Evolved, but sadly haven’t gotten around to Fall of Reach(Though I’ve read The Flood and Ghosts of Onyx!). Its sitting on the shelf, taunting me! I’m glad that it still seems to hold its own as a definitive origin story. That means we’ll be spared from a reboot in the meantime.

    Did you play Halo 4?

    • Haha! You’re a Halo fan, too? That’s so awesome. ‘The Flood’ is the next book in my sights, although I’ve been warned that it isn’t that great. I don’t really care; Halo: CE had, I think, my favourite story in the series. Everything was so mysterious back then: the Covenant, the Flood, the Monitors and the ring world itself! Although I think Halo 2 (and onwards) expanded the series in interesting ways (Prophets, Covenant politics, Graveminds, etc), I think Halo: CE worked best because of its simplicity.

      Yeah, I played Halo 4. Still haven’t been able to work out how I feel about it! It was decent, I think. In some respects — such as the cinematics and character development — it was an improvement. However, the Prometheans were a lacklustre enemy class, and consequently I don’t often go back to it. With the absence of Firefight, it was also far too short.

      Anyway, I’m still a fan, and I think they have a myriad of exciting future directions in which to take the series. What did you think of Halo 4?

      • Yeah The Flood is basically just Halo:CE level for level. However you do get character thoughts and I can’t remember if this is the book where you’re introduced to Sargent McKay and crew. Her mini arc kind of deepened the marines for me.

        I agree with everything you’ve said about Halo 4. The cinematics alone were jaw dropping. I couldn’t believe my first gen 360 could run it so well, but it did. The game was short but I think the brevity helped the emotional punch at the end, any longer and we would have been deceived into thinking we can ‘save the day’. It was such a sad ending that Halo 4 is the first in the franchise where I haven’t replayed the campaign to death. Not because it’s not good, but because its so emotionally strong with everything leading up to it, that its too much for a long time fan to endure without bursting into tears.

        But the multiplayer is the first I’ve ever played for as long as I have, the gameplay is fantastic and the spartan ops mode is no firefight but it has an interesting enough story that it’s worth the time investment. Plus Halsey makes an appearance so that’s something. Anyways, looking forward to Halo 5, especially since that E3 trailer looked great.

      • I’m so freaking bummed I can’t play Spartan Ops. I don’t have LIVE, or any sort of home internet connection. I was kind of gutted that half the game was locked for online users. The fact that Halsey appears in that campaign is like rubbing salt in the wound, because it’s obviously important to the canon and not just a side-story. I was hoping, now that the entirety of Spartan Ops Season 1 is done, that they’d release it on the forthcoming Halo 4 GOTY edition so it could be played offline. But apparrently that isn’t going to to happen. The entire Spartan Ops campaign is ON THE DISC; the only reason they restricted it to LIVE users is so that they can dole it out in episodes. Frustrating.

        But, oh well! Halo 4’s still a cool game, for reasons discussed. So cool that you play it. I hardly know anyone who’s interested in it where I live!

  2. What? That really blows I would’ve loved to partner up for some online matches with you. 😦 yeah Halo is a big thing in my area, but like you, not many people around me care for it. I suppose that makes us the cool kids! 😀

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