Monday, October 11, 2010

Review:The Fall of Reach by Eric Nylund

Del Rey Books
Published: October 2001
ISBN: 9780345451323

*Note: This was originally published in 2001, but as Halo: Reach is now out, this is a good time to cover this!

As the bloody Human-Covenant War rages on Halo, the fate of humankind may rest with one warrior, the lone SPARTAN survivor of another legendary battle . . . the desperate, take-no-prisoners struggle that led humanity to Halo--the fall of the planet Reach. Now, brought to life for the first time, here is the full story of that glorious, doomed conflict.
While the brutal Covenant juggernaut sweeps inexorably through space, intent on wiping out humankind, only one stronghold remains--the planet Reach. Practically on Earth's doorstep, it is the last military fortress to defy the onslaught. But the personnel here have another, higher priority: to prevent the Covenant from discovering the location of Earth.
Outnumbered and outgunned, the soldiers seem to have little chance against the Covenant, but Reach holds a closely guarded secret. It is the training ground for the very first "super soldiers." Code-named SPARTANs, these highly advanced warriors, specially bioengineered and technologically augmented, are the best in the universe--quiet, professional, and deadly.
Now, as the ferocious Covenant attack begins, a handful of SPARTANs stand ready to wage ultimate war. They will kill, they will be destroyed, but they will never surrender. And at least one of them--the SPARTAN known as Master Chief--will live to fight another day on a mysterious and ancient, artificial world called Halo. . . .

I've never read any of the tie in novels for HALO until this one. With the release of Halo: Reach I asked a buddy and was recommended this novel. I picked it up and I was very impressed by the quality of the story, the detail of the narrative and the overall skill of the writer.

I'm a former infantryman and I have to admit, Eric Nylund tells a very good story. The action scenes, including naval combat were stellar.

My initial fears about the Halo series were that if the story included Master Chief, John 117 then he'd be a Mary Sue. He's perfect. We know he survives the video we know how the story goes already. He's the ultra badass: seven foot, 400 pounds of killy death. So how do you challenge him? How do you hurt him?

This is where a novel trumps a video game almost every time. We get an internal monologue we don't hear in the game. Nice! Also, if he can't really hurt, kill, maim John does the author make the character sympathetic? Without spoiling anything, Mr. Nylund does a fine job of making that happen.

The plot is good. It's great to dig in to the backstory of the SPARTAN II program. I would have liked to have a bit more characterization for some of the secondary characters, but I realize there is only so much a writer can do with limited word count and the target demographic is more interested (largely) in seeing Master Chief kick ass.

There is plenty of action to satisfy the folks interested in seeing SPARTANs in action, and enough characterization and plot to satisfy those looking for a bit more depth. I really enjoyed Mr. Nylund's no-frills, direct style of writing. maybe it was just how he wrote the characters, but it seemed very lean writing. Tight. Like a lot of the excess frilly description was left out and all that was left was the meat. I like that. Don't get me wrong, it's very descriptive. There are some authors that kind of go overboard in painting the canvas of a story and it ends up being very pretty, but the story, the drive is kind of lost. This is a very lean and direct story with just the right balance of description to set the scene and action/ dialogue to keep the story moving forward at a quick pace. You almost get the feel of trying to keep up with SPARTANs on a run. Very nicely done Mr. Nylund!

One final note: I really enjoyed that the characters seemed to be very human. The plans were made, then broken and everyone needed to adapt in order to survive. People die. This novel is pretty much a blood bath. The whole thing reeks of the UNSC and humanity as a whole getting the crap beat out of them. Winning seems impossible and survival is the only hope. It gives the reader a bit of tension which makes the story really pop. Even with Mary Sue characters like John 117 and Cortana, Keys and Halsey they all take a beating in one way or another and only by the barest margin survive the fall of Reach.

For Fans of the Halo series this is a must read novel, especially now that Halo:Reach is out. Even if you're not that in to Halo, it's a damn fine action novel with good characterization and solid plot. I'm on the look out for more Eric Nylund novels!

4 out of 5 Stars.

1 comment:

spaceinthecrowd said...


And perhaps you don't give 5 of 5 ratings, which I can understand as a matter of principle, but personally all of Eric's work that I've read so far are at least 4.5's. If you read Mortal Coils and especially it's sequel All That Lives Must Die you'll see what I mean.