Thursday, May 13, 2010

#19 Halo: Evolutions-Essential Tales of the Halo Universe

To really understand…or I guess even have a desire to read something like Halo: Evolutions-Essential Tales of the Halo Universe, you would probably have to be a fan of Halo to begin with. I’ve played all of the games: Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, and Halo: Reach (beta). I’ve also read several of the books, in fact, I think I may have read all of them (which I will get into later). So I guess you could call me a fan…shit, I was psyched when I heard that the guy who wrote 28 Days Later did the screenplay for the movie that is apparently stalled in developmental hell. Anyway, trying to figure out how to go about this review is a little difficult. Mainly because I can’t figure out how to really start…let me see if I can give you a general Halo-view.

The story of Halo takes place in the 2500’s. Man has colonized well outside of Earth creating a split between the Inner and Outer Colonies. The main military might is called the UNSC. While a small revolutionary battle is going on between the Inner and Outer Colonies a new enemy presents itself The Covenant. A conglomeration of alien species that are religious fanatics. They determine humans are against them, and wage a war. Now The Covenant are way more technologically advanced than we are, having technology from an ancient race they call the Forerunners. (The image is of all the species that make up the Covenant...the size of a human would be about in the middle)Scientists, in an effort to counteract the technologically and physically superior enemies create the Spartan II’s. Hence where Master Chief comes from…the main character in the games. The Spartans are raised in combat, genetically modified (think Captain America…only…bigger), and stuffed in special armor that basically makes them walking tanks. Their main equivalent in the Covenant are the Elites (or Sangheili). So…they both find these things created by the Forerunners dubbed the Halo Rings. While fighting it out they unleash an entity called The Flood. Think of them, or it, like the Borg from Star Trek only way grosser. During all this shit they figure out that the Halo rings were created to wipe out every living thing in the entire universe…it was the only feasible way the Forerunners could figure out to eliminate the Flood. Anything else? Now that you’re totally lost? Lets get to the book.

The book is a collection of short stories that take on many different characters and aspects of the Halo series.

Beyond by Jonathan Goff
Jon Goff works for the studio behind the games, 343 Industries. This is the first poem of the book.

Pariah by B.K. Evenson
Evenson has written an Aliens book as well as a Dead Space book. When the Spartan II’s were created not all of them made it through the transformation process unscathed. This is the story of one of them.

Stomping on the Heels of a Fuss by Eric Raab
Raab was the editor for Ghost of Onyx, Contact Harvest, and The Cole Protocol. In this story we follow an ONI (think…ummm military intelligence) officer who is sent to study a Covenant tribe of Brutes (Elites but bigger and dumber) to see if he can learn how the enemy ticks.

Midnight in the Heart of Midlothian by Frank O’Connor
Frank O'Connor has been working in the Halo world for years. This story, which is one of my favorite in the series, follows an ODST (You may have heard of a H.A.L.O. jump in the military, a high altitude, low orbit jump…these guys do it from outer space. Think the most badass natural human soldier) soldier as he goes through a ship overrun by Covenant forces, alone.
(The image is of an ODST soldier. Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, and Alan Tudyk all contributed as voices in the game)

Dirt by Tobias S. Buckell
Tobias S. Buckell wrote the book Halo: The Cole Protocol. Another story that follows an ODST soldier. This is about a dying soldier as he tells his history to a rookie.

Acheron-VII by Jonathan Goff
Another poem. Looking back on these you really can’t understand them if you haven’t played the games.

Headhunters by Jonathan Goff
Another one of my favorites in the series. This one tells the story of two elite Spartan III’s (the next, not as good, generation of Spartans after the Spartan II’s) on a mission. They are part of a two man team of assassins. The reason why its awesome in the world of Halo is because the Spartan III’s were mainly used for suicide missions, these guys keep surviving.

Blunt Instruments by Fred Van Lente
Fred Van Lente is a comic book writer who wrote a short series about Spartan: Black. The story follows Spartan: Black, his characters from the comic series. The Spartan: Blacks are the Spartan equivalent of Ninja’s. An elite covert team.

The Mona Lisa by Jeff VanderMeer and Tessa Kum
I couldn’t find much on Kum, but VanderMeer wrote a Predator novel. This is a story about The Flood. In particular a group of Marines (who have no idea what the Flood is) deserted and practically left for dead on a prison ship.

Icon by Jonathan Goff
Not a poem this time. This one is more of a epitaph.

Palace Hotel by Robt McLees
Robt McLees was the weapons designer for the Halo 2 and writer for Halo 3.The only story of the series that deals with Master Chief himself. The story takes place when his relationship with Cortana is just beginning (Cortana is a unique A.I. that travels along with Master Chief…in essence she is a computer with feelings that projects herself in the form of a human. the picture is of the two of them). Not only do we get to see the start of their relationship, but we get to see the Chief through the eyes of some Marines, and learn a little of his past before the Spartan II program.

Human Weakness by Karen Traviss
Karen Traviss is a Star Wars writer who also wrote two Gears of War books and is the writer for the game Gears of War 3. This story is taken from the 9th campaign in the Halo 3 game. Ok…how to explain. In the game Cortana is “captured” by the flood who tries to assimilate her and gain her knowledge. You catch bits and pieces of her dialogue while playing. You mission is to rescue her. The story is told from Cortana’s standpoint, whereas in the game you obviously play from Master Chief’s standpoint.

Connectivity by Jonathan Goff
The last poem in the book which is about the relationship between Cortana and Master Chief.

The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole by Eric Nylund
Eric Nylund has written Halo: The Fall of Reach, Halo: First Strike,and Halo: Ghosts of Onyx. Admiral Cole is probably one of the greatest “human” characters in the Halo series. Known for being one of the best leaders, creating the “Cole Protocol” which is a repeat aspect in the series, and one of the most feared enemies of the Covenant. This story basically gives us his life history.

The Return by Kevin Grace
(the image is of an Elite)
Kevin Grace was the editor on Halo 3 and Halo 3: ODST. The story follows an Elite leader as he tries to make sense of life after the war. He basically goes on a spiritual journey on a planet he personally destroyed.

Several of the stories seem to go on too long (Dirt, The Mona Lisa). While others don’t last long enough (for me it was Headhunters). What is the best part of the series though is that you can tell they were written by fans. If the writers haven’t contributed in fiction before they’ve worked on the games themselves. Another thing that caught my attention was two separate odes to Isaac Asimov. In Midnight in the Heart of Midlothian “Asimov’s First Law of Robotics” is mentioned and actually plays a significant part of the story. The other comes in The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole when a building is mentioned at the USNC academy called the “Asimov Center.” I thought that was nice of the authors to give a shout out to the godfather of science fiction.

If you’re a fan of Halo certainly pick this up. If you have no idea what Halo is, its likely not for you. I mentioned earlier the Halo books I’ve read. I’ll toss those at you now:

Eric Nylund: Halo: The Fall of Reach, Halo: First Strike, Halo: Ghosts of Onyx
Tobias S. Buckell: Halo: The Cole Protocol
William C. Dietz: Halo: The Flood
Joseph Staten: Halo: Contact Harvest

1 comment:

  1. Dammit, now I want to play Halo again! Sadly, all I have is I & II, as I don't own a 360. Screw it, I'll start over again on I and see if the 360 is affordable by the time I'm done both.