Halo: Shadows of Reach reviewed

Halo: Shadows of Reach

Troy Denning

Titan Books

Review: Lauren O’Connor-May

The Halo franchise, which started with a game where super-soldiers battle bear and bird-like aliens, spans several media including movies, graphic novels and more than a dozen books.

The aim of the books and movies was to expand the gaming universe and give it substance and background.

In Shadows of Reach, the Spartan super-soldiers, who have been enhanced with all sorts of tech, return to Reach, their former home planet on a secret mission.

The planet has been glassed − nuked to the point that the surface has melted into thick layers of glass.

Their mission is to retrieve an “asset” from a secret underground facility.

The asset is needed to destroy Cortana, a rogue AI which is wreaking havoc in the universe.

From the beginning though it is clear that things are not going to be simple.

There are enemy aliens on the planet that should not be there.

The Spartans are not sure what they are up to but avoiding them becomes a priority.

To complicate matters further, the rehabilitation pioneers on the planet are overjoyed that the Spartans have finally been sent to save them from the invading aliens and promptly plan to declare war − and they’re not taking no for an answer.

Halo is a war game, which I have never played. Shadows of Reach is therefore a war book, which comprises of 95% battles and battle strategy.

There are a few flashbacks to give some background, a hinted-at twist that may be brought to fruition in later novels, 0.000002% romance and not much else.

The characters are badly developed; I learnt only that Fred has a sense of humour, Linda is a sniper, Chapov is cocky but talented and Kelly is a meditation nut.

I remember very little about the other main characters because the story is thin and gory with not much substance.

The only thread that intrigued me was whether Dr Halsey, the mastermind of the Spartans and Cortana, is playing a double game again.

The book reveals that she has been caught doing it before, and there are subtle clues that she might be doing it again but the thread is not resolved in this novel.

I think only fans of the franchise might enjoy this book because, with so many novels in the series, it must have an audience somewhere.