Halo: Fall of Reach by Eric Nylund (2001)
A few weeks ago, my son, Benjamin insinuated that I needed to broaden my scope of science fiction. I’m not sure what prompted this, but being of open mind, I thought why not? First, he said that we need to get together and watch the Matrix trilogy. He and I watched the first of the three movies several years ago, but I never got around to watching the other two. Next, he suggested that we also watch a Halo movie, so he brought over Forward Unto Dawn. Unfortunately I didn’t really get what was going on in the film and don’t have a lot of memory about what took place in the film. He had also suggested that I read Fall of Reach. I don’t mind saying that I was a little apprehensive about having anything to do with Halo because I am not a gamer. Oh I enjoy the Wii we have once in a while, but I don’t have the tenacity or the patience to play games. I was aware that there was a lot of people who think that Halo is the greatest video game ever created, but have never played it, or watched it played.
The events of Fall of Reach take place 500 years in the future. The galaxy has been colonized thanks to humanity learning to travel vast distances through “slipspace,” which is another dimension in which the laws of physics do not apply. The galaxy is defended by the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) which is a Navy-like organization that operates various ships. The focus of the story is on a unit of elite warriors called Spartans.
Apparently, Fall of Reach is an origin story that explains how the Spartans come to be thanks to the efforts of Dr. Catherine Halsey. Her job is to create super-soldiers that can go into any situation, under any circumstances and carry out missions that regularly trained personnel might not be able to. In particular, the story follows the development of John-117, a boy of six at the beginning of the book. He and his companions begin undergoing intense military training as well as indoctrination to help them develop their genetically enhanced physical and mental skills to survive and achieve seemingly impossible goals. Another character that is prominent starts as Lt. Jacob Keyes, a pilot in the UNSC.
Along with the development of John-117 comes the development of their weapons and the Mjolnir armor that not only protects the Spartans, but also serves to further enhance their already uncanny abilities. Eventually, as the Spartans carry out several simulated and real missions, John-117 becomes a Master Chief Petty Officer, or the Master Chief that I have often heard referred to by those that enjoy playing the game. Further, Lt. Keyes demonstrates his skills of leadership and his ability to command vessels and is promoted to Captain.
The antagonist in the story is a faction called the Covenant, a society made up of several alien races that are organized in a caste system, and would also appear to be religious fanatics who are following the dictates of their gods that have declared that humanity is to be wiped out of existence.
While the war with the Covenant is not going in favor of the human defenders, the Spartans are given a mission to capture a Covenant leader alive in an effort to attempt to barter a truce that will lead to the end of the war. While the Spartans are attempting to complete this mission, a massive Covenant fleet attacks the planet Reach which contains an important USNC base. The Spartans are forced to abandon their mission and apparently, all the Spartans are killed in action, with the exception of the Master Chief. He and the ship he is assigned to discover the planet Halo.
I normally resist clichés to describe the books I read, but in this case, I have to say that I had a difficult time putting this book down. Author Nylund’s writing style keeps one wanting to read on and on. Not only is this a great Sci-Fi story, but I think that of any military genre would really enjoy this book. It reminds me of the Tom Clancy novels that I have read, as well as many of the Clive Cussler stories I have read over the years. Nylund writes in a clear and concise way and makes a complex story fun to read and understand. You DO NOT have to play the game to enjoy this book.
So, I am glad for Benjamin’s efforts to broaden my horizons, and am happy to say that he has been successful. I am also hoping to watch the Halo movie again, because I think I might get a little more out of it now that I understand the Halo universe a little better.
Well, there it is…