Halo: Glasslands by Karen Traviss Review

Karen Traviss is a name that is held with both derision and admiration. Her’s is a name that has the power to divide fans over the world, her books are never necessarily bad, but they often feature elements that can be interpreted as non canon, offensive, and generally idiotic. The first book I ever read by Traviss was Star Wars: Republic Commando: Hard Contact, and I rather enjoyed it. It was a refreshing change of pace from other Star Wars novels, it introduced a great new cast of characters, and actually made the prequel era worth paying attention to. As the series went on the books became better and better, but as I would later learn later there was a great divide in Star Wars fanon centered around Traviss’s work. There were some that felt Traviss had tried to hard to make the normally mercenary Mandalorians heroic, and that she actively tried to demonize the Jedi.

Whatever the case may be, the Republic Commando series was the first time that fans lashed out against her. The Halo video game series is a first person shooter set in a military science fiction setting, the stories for the game while compelling are rather generic in that you the player character must defeat the enemy in whatever form they may or may not take. There is little real character development and the story itself is mostly subsumed by the gameplay. There is a rather well written military science fiction novel series based both on and around the Halo game series. The first novel, Fall of Reach, written by Eric Nylund, presented us with a fairly rich background in which the games take place, the novel actually presented a fairly plausible future and fleshed out the characters seen in the video game Halo: Combat Evolved.  Many of the novels in the series were of the same quality as Fall of Reach, but unfortunately as more Halo games were released the canon of the series was constantly changed or altered so that it incorporated the new weapons and enemies introduced in the games.  The most recent Halo game, Halo Reach, completely changes the events surrounding the Fall of Reach so much so that the entire Fall of Reach book has been completely invalidated. So with constantly changing canon writing any novel in the Halo series is rather difficult to say the least.

Despite the inherent difficulty in writing a novel in such a convoluted series, one had cause to be hopeful that Karen Traviss could turn out a fairly decent novel, but alas that was not to be. First and foremost Halo Glasslands is not a book for the uninitiated, because despite Traviss’s statement that this not would not be a sequel “as you know it” it is. The novel follows directly from Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, and requires that you be well initiated in Halo lore.  The book takes place immediately after the events seen in Halo 3,  which means if you have not played it or the games preceding it you will not know who many of the major players are. The novel itself is actually one of the more bland Halo books not a great deal happens, especially since it takes place immediately after the denouement. There are two things that I would like to point out that the book just flat out gets wrong. First, it seems that everyone hates Dr. Halsey, once again if you haven’t read the earlier books you wont really know who she is. Essentially, characters hate and despise her for what she did in the Human-Covenant War, despite the fact that earlier in the series many characters either liked her or admired her.

The second thing I would like to point out is the fact that the book gets the iconic MJLONIR Armor wrong, in the earlier books it was said that putting on the MJLONIR Armor was rather difficult, but the armor was put on. In this book however, the MJLONIR armor is built around the wearer via an Iron Man style rig replete with numerous robotic arms. In the end, the novel is bland and for the uninitiated, hard to follow.

For the fans it is infuriating to see how badly the characters have been altered, and for non fans the book is annoying in that it expects you to know what is going on going in. I personally don’t recommend this book for either Halo fans or fans of military science fiction, as this novel has elements in it that will annoy both.


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