Book Review – Halo: Glasslands

Being an avid (make that rabid) fan of the Halo universe, I am constantly scouring the internet for every scrap of information relating to the next release of the hit franchise.  In between game releases, I spend my time reading the expanded mythologies in the many books and graphic novels – the latest of these being Halo: Glasslands, by Karen Traviss.

The story begins in 2553, a few months after the events that took place in Halo 3 and the book, Ghosts of Onyx.  The Human-Covenant War has come to an end, and while the Humans and Sanghelli (known to humans as the Elites) struggle to pick up the pieces in the aftermath, ONI (Office of Naval Intelligence) Admiral Parangosky dispatches team Kilo-Five to ensure humanity’s safety by covertly supporting (and inciting) a Sanghelli resurrection against the Arbiter.  Meanwhile, somewhere in slipspace and trapped in a Micro Dyson Sphere, Doctor Katherine Halsey and Chief Petty Officer Mendez, travelling with a team of Spartan-IIs and IIIs looking for the means to survive their new environment, revive Team Katana (who were locked away in stasis during the events of Onyx) and find a way home.

Halo: Glasslands is the first of an expected series of books by Karen Traviss.  Readers who have become accustomed to Eric Nylund’s style of writing (author of the Fall of Reach, First Strike, and Ghosts of Onyx) will be in for an adjustment, as Traviss’ methods of story-telling are quite different than his.  Most notably, her use of internal dialogue to move the story forward changes the tone of the narrative from previous installments as she explores the conflicts between Dr. Halsey and CPO Mendez which stem from Mendez’s knowledge of the Spartan-III program (and subsequently not informing Halsey about it).  Halsey and Mendez’s conflict becomes apparent to the Spartan-IIs and IIIs who seem to take on the roles of children trapped in some sort of dysfunctional family with the doctor and Chief Petty Officer acting as a surrogate mother and father.

Glasslands also introduces two new Spartan-IIs not previously mentioned in other books: Serin Osman (Spartan-019), who washed out from the Spartan-II program as her body began rejecting the augmentations necessary to complete the program, and Naomi-010, a Spartan-II assigned to Osman’s Kilo-Five unit.  They, along with a handful of ODSTs (Orbital Drop Shock Troopers) and an AI known as Black Box, are brought together to sow the seeds of discontent in the Sanghelli ranks by covertly manipulating the Sanghelli factions that oppose the Arbiter’s policies.  As the group takes on various black flag operations to incite a civil war, the unit’s personalities are explored while the team members begin to bond with one another.  This is a good example where Traviss’ own military experience plays a large role in her style of writing.  Her familiarity with how soldiers create the bonds to form a cohesive unit brings a fresh take not quite seen in previous Halo novels, making character exploration more in-depth than we are used to; much like what we’ve seen in her Republic Commando novels.

Halo: Glasslands is a fresh take on the Halo universe as it delves into the characters more than previous installments.  While there is considerably more dialogue than action, it is for the most part a very entertaining read.  There are some snags that need to be addressed, such as Naomi-010’s accounting on Reach (as all of the Spartan-IIs – with the exception of Blue Team and John-117 – were killed during its fall) to cleanly fit into Halo canon; however, it ties up many of the loose ends left behind from Ghosts of Onyx.  If you’re looking for another Master Chief adventure, you’ll have to wait until Halo 4 releases later this year; but for those that enjoy more than just Chief’s story, this is a must-have for your collection.  I for one, am looking forward to seeing what Karen Traviss’ next Halo novel brings.

Editor’s Note: Macmillan Audio has been kind enough to send us an audio book version of Halo: Glasslands to giveaway with this review.  Simply head on over to our Facebook page and Like us to enter!  The winner will be announced by the end of the week! (This offer only good for Continental US and Canadian residents.)

Halo: Glasslands receives a 4.75/5.


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