Book Review – Halo: Glasslands
Title: Halo: Glasslands
Author: Karen Traviss
Publisher: TOR Publishing
Tagline: More tales from the universe following Halo 3
Verdict: Only if you’re a big Halo fan
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Glasslands is the most recent Halo novel set within the current events of the universe told from Reach to Halo 4. This book is in no way for the uninitiated to Halo, even those that have followed all the games may not be able to keep up with one of the three storylines in this book. Following on from the events of Halo 3 and the novel Ghosts of Onyx, Karen Traviss attempts to fill in some the story before the fourth game launches.
Traviss may be best known to gamers as one of the major writers behind the Gears of War universe and the third game. What you may not know is that she also wrote, what I consider, the most important story in the universe as part of the Evolutions short stories collection. Her work on the short story, Human Weakness, was incredibly passionate and is a must read for every Halo fan – this same passion for building upon the universe is present throughout Glasslands. As she begins to tell each story they all feel well thought out and executed extremely well, even if everything has to be made within the confines of the universe.
Three stories are all told in this novel and eventually intertwine as they set up the next outing in print, Thursday War. You’re introduced to former Spartan II candidate and the next head of the Office of Naval Intelligence, Serin, with her rag tag black ops team consisting of a Spartan II, a trio of ODST’s and scientist specialising in the Sanghelli. Thier mission is simple – monitor the Sanghelli following the end of the Human-Covenant war and provide leverage in creating a new civil war amongst the population of Sanghelios. This groups story is the most complex and all the different layers that are built to set up the future of Halo really well – both for the books and games.
Jul ‘Mdama is the primary protagonist in the Sanghelios portion of the book where you’ll get a deeper insight to the once evil aliens. Following the return of the Arbiter asking for the population to start rebuilding their society all the while Jul attempts to lead a coup to overthrow him. He then soon finds himself in a chain of other Sanghelli all out for themselves – this will most likely be part of the universe that will be key to the shape of the games to come.
The third collection of stories is about a character that some people familiar to the series may know well – just be warned there are some spoilers ahead. Trapped inside the Forerunner shield world that was concealed by the planet Onyx – Doctor Halsey, Chief Mendez and a collection of Spartan II and III’s begin to learn how to survive and eventually come across a some important assets that will shape the Halo universe in the future.
For Halsey and members of the Spartan II program this becomes a journey of discovery. As we learn what they really have done with their lives, along with how this has shaped them today – be that defenders of Earth and all her colonies or perhaps just a monster worse than the genocidal Covenant. This is the first time that Halsey’s feelings have been delved into so deeply, though it’s not just her trying to make things right in her mind – Mendez also attempts to rationalise what he has done as part of the Spartan programme. The way Halsey is painted throughout is very damning, but in the end it gives the reader something to think about when it all wraps up. Deciding whether her means justified the end is something left with you when it’s all done.
For the most part Traviss nails the pacing of the story, however there are a few moments where there is a lull and when the book winds down it does it rather quickly. The last few pages then also just ramp up the action once more – mostly for the purpose of the sequel book. Anyone that has read a previous Halo novel also should be used to the way it jumps around the different story, I found this hard to follow when attempted in Ghost of Onyx, and while Glasslands can lose you sometimes for the most part it’s a lot better put together.
As I said, Glasslands is a fantastic entry into the Halo series, and also ties together a lot of stories from the universe while also preparing for the future of the franchise. While most people don’t acknowledge the vastness of Halo, others that want a bit more to the story will be pleased here. If you’re familiar with the novels The Fall of Reach and Ghosts of Onyx, then this is a must buy for you – if you’re a Halo fan looking for more from the universe I would recommend these first.
The Great Journey:
- Great ties with the rest of the series
- Very passionate writing again from Traviss
- More of the Halo history fans love
Your heresy will stay your feet!:
- Pacing can feel off at times
- Requires very good knowledge of the Halo universe
- The different stories can jump around a bit too much
This might seem a bit odd to include with a book but there are a few things I wanted to clear up. Halo as a game is quite mild in comparison – the game never features any really violent imagery, while the books do not shy away from the reality this future war at times. Obviously everything is limited by what you can imagine, I’m sure some of the more gory details won’t sit well with some readers.