With the launch of Halo 4 coming in November, we’ve seen questions crop up recently along the lines of “Do I need to read any of the Halo novels and if so, which ones should I read?” We’ve put together this all too brief and spoiler-free column of our suggestions of which of the Halo novels you should read and why.
Obviously, these suggestions are not going to apply to everyone as you may have already ready some or all of the Halo books released so far. So, we are going to write this under the assumption that whoever is reading this has not touched a Halo book yet and those that have can adjust from there. We’re also going to give suggestions on which books it wouldn’t hurt to avoid or probably not even bother with. And yes, we are big nerds who have read them all.
The Halo Universe Primer
While not absolutely necessary for Halo 4, Halo: The Fall of Reach by Eric Nylud is essentially the primer for the Halo universe writ large. It gives the origins of how and why Master Chief was picked for the Spartan II program plus the details of the start of the Human-Covenant War. Fall of Reach was also adapted into a Marvel comic series that is currently sold as three separate hardcovers – “Bootcamp”, “Covenant” and “Invasion”. The best price we’ve seen them is at Amazon if you’re interested in those.
It’s not critical that you read Halo: Fall of Reach for Halo 4 but it is pretty much the root of the Halo tree so take that into consideration.
And no, Halo: Fall of Reach is not the same story as the Halo: Reach Xbox 360 game. Halo: Reach is more of a sidestory to the Master Chief mainline story leading into Halo: Combat Evolved.
Essential for Halo 4
Halo: Cryptum by Greg Bear launches the Forerunner Trilogy of novels and is absolutely necessary if you want to expand your knowledge of the ancient and mysterious race of beings that created not only the Halo rings but also the dyson sphere Requiem where much of Halo 4 takes place.
We also put Cryptum’s sequel, Halo: Primordium, in the necessary column as Bear continues to expand our knowledge on the Forerunners and sets up their demise. There’s also a huge cliffhanger toward the end of the Primordium as a familiar and well-known character asserts his presence. Parts of it can be ponderous at times but it all pays off in the end.
Unfortunately, the final novel in the Forerunner saga, Halo: Silentium, will not be released until January as it contains some heavy spoilers according to what 343 Industries Franchise Director Frank O’Connor said at a Comic-Con panel.
Of course, while we say that Cryptum and Primordium are necessary, 343 Industries has explained that there will be plenty of explanation about the Forerunners in Halo 4 so that players won’t feel lost. These two novels like our next suggestions will help a great deal though.
Not necessary but really helps with some Halo 4 details
Halo: Ghosts of Onyx really expanded the Halo universe as Eric Nylund took on the challenge of explaining what happened after the Spartan II program ended and then took it even further by adding a dangerous confrontation with Forerunner relics and the Covenant.
The story started in Ghosts of Onyx continues with Halo: Glasslands and writer Karen Traviss again expands the universe as more characters from the UNSC are introduced including a couple of ODSTs and other characters from the troubled origins of the Spartan II program. It is set during the aftermath of Halo 3 and the Humans along with what’s left of the Covenant are under a very tenuous cease fire with neither side trusting the other. Glasslands, along with the Halo: The Thursday War follow-up due out in October, will help explain why Master Chief is still fighting Elites, Jackals and Grunts in Halo 4.
Ghosts of Onyx, Glasslands and The Thursday War are all very much setup by the start of the Spartan II program in Halo: The Fall of Reach which is why we suggest reading that book if you’re going to read these as well.
Read when you have the time or feel like it
The following are stand-alone novels that delve into other parts of the Halo universe but are not directly tied to Halo 4. Read them if you’re up to it but don’t feel bad at all if you skip them.
Halo: First Strike, written by Eric Nylund, takes place between Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 and gives us a glimpse at some of the shenanigans that Master Chief was up to between the two games. Interesting for no other reason than it really gives us a look into how Cortana thinks and operates.
Halo: Contact Harvest sees Bungie employee Joseph Staten detail the first contact between humans and Covenant on the planet called Harvest. Sergeant Avery Johnson pulls lead duties in this book as we also find out a little bit more of some of the other recurring Covenant characters in the game – Brute Chieftan Tartarus and the three Covenant Prophets, Truth, Mercy and Regret.
Halo: The Cole Protocol from Tobias S. Buckell showcases UNSC Jacob Keyes, the ill-fated captain of the Pillar of Autumn in Halo: Combat Evolved, along with the Spartan Grey Team as the humans hide and fight for survival during the early days of the Human-Covenant War.
We hate to be mean but Halo: The Flood should be tossed off a cliff like a car from the old TV series CHiPs where it should hopefully explode into flames. The book is a novelization of Halo: Combat Evolved and other than some extra details about the Flood and the Covenant, it is really not worth your time. We don’t blame author William C. Dietz in any way as he was given the unenviable task of translating a game into a book and that rarely works. Microsoft and Bungie smartly stuck to using novels and other media to grow the Halo universe after The Flood was released versus simply retelling the games.