Halo: The Fall of Reach – The Book

Title   Halo: The Fall of Reach – The book
Developer  Author - Eric S. Nylund
Publisher  Orbit
Platform  Gaming tie-in novel, Xbox
Genre  Gaming tie-in novel
Release Date  7th February, 2005

When you think of Halo, understandably the first thing that comes into your head are the games, whether it’s the original trilogy, ODST, Reach or even the often forgotten about Halo Wars RTS game.  However, what you don’t immediately think about is the series of books that have been written to accompany the Halo canon.  I recently stumbled across one of these while nosing around in WH Smiths: it was titled ‘The Fall of Reach’ and, according to the back of the book, it followed the life of the SPARTAN known as Master Chief – you may have heard of him – up until the beginning of the first game. Now, I’m not a massive Halo fan, I brought the first one for the PC before Bungie were swallowed whole by Microsoft. I didn’t play the second one due to not owning an original Xbox, I thought the third was OK, I thought ODST was a bit meh, and I’ve not played Reach yet, but I was immediately drawn to the book so I brought it. I later learned that a whole series of them have been published since this one but I hadn’t about of any of them before.

Now, I know this is a gaming website and I’m about to talk about a book, but I’ve done some research and in my opinion the amount of effort gone into creating these books makes it worthy to appear on these pages.  Written in 2001 by Eric Nylund, the book starts off with Dr. Halsey, the woman responsible for creating the SPARTANS, being escorted by a young Lieutenant Jacob Keyes, the future Captain of the Pillar of Autumn, on a visit to a planet where a potential SPARTAN candidate lives. The candidate is obviously John, the future Master Chief, but interestingly he is only six years old at this point. John is later ‘selected’ and taken away along with 149 other children to a secret training facility on Reach, while back home he is replaced by a clone so not to arouse any suspicion with his disappearance.

The Fall of Reach takes us through John’s training and we find out about the friends he makes along the way; we also learn that the SPARTAN project was initially frowned upon by the rest of the military. Master Chief himself has a couple of run-ins with the ODST, and it’s only really when the Covenant show up that the SPARTANs gain the respect they deserve.  Towards the middle to back end of the book, Cortana is introduced to us which I found extremely interesting; her origins especially intrigued me as we learn that a clone of Dr. Halsey’s brain was used to create her. There are also lots of other nice little bits of information that fill in areas which the games didn’t have the scope to cover. For example, I now know how Jacob Keyes became a Captain and why he was selected as Captain for the Pillar of Autumn; I know about the origins of the MJOLNIR combat armour, and I know why Cortana jumped the Pillar of Autumn to the ring world Halo in the first place. Sergeant Johnson even makes a very brief cameo when the Master Chief saves him and his squad during the assault on Reach. It is details like these that seriously make this book worth reading, especially if you’re a Halo fanboi. *Cough* Lee *Cough*

Stepping back from the plot a second, it was unsurprising to find out that the series of books was Microsoft’s idea but, more interestingly, when Bungie found out about the planned book they respectfully insisted on being a part of the process. Bungie was worried that the books would completely contradict the stories that they were trying to tell within their games. Basically they didn’t want the series to become a joke and an obvious cash in. As a result, Nylund would submit drafts to Bungie who would proof-read and make appropriate changes; the result, I feel, is an excellent title which ties in brilliantly with the games.

The only gripe I have is that we are told very little about the Covenant; there is no explanation of why they want to wipe out Humanity. The only time the author goes into any real detail about them is when describing some of their ships during the space battles and, on one mission, where the SPARTANS find an artifact on a planet.  Fight sequences between the SPARTANS and the Covenant are few and far between and I found the lack of action with them a little disappointing.

This minor issue aside, you have probably guessed by now that I enjoyed Fall of Reach and, since reading the first one, I have brought two more in the series: ‘Contact Harvest’ and ‘The Cole Protocol’. ‘Contact Harvest’ tells the story of Sergeant Johnson who, after a bodged op, gets reassigned to a human colony on the planet Harvest which is the first planet the Covenant come into contact with; ‘The Cole Protocol’ on the other hand is set during the start of the war with the Covenant. I’ve not finished reading these two yet but if they’re half as good as The Fall of Reach I’ll be very happy indeed.

  • Has a wealth of interesting Halo background information
  • Fills in large gaps of Master Chief’s life and origin story
  • Excellent overall plot
  • The author worked very closely with Bungie for added authenticity
  • Doesn’t really reveal much information about the Covenant
  • Not that much SPARTAN vs Covenant action

To wrap this up if you like a good read or fancy expanding upon your Halo canon, I highly recommend the Fall of Reach. It doesn’t even matter if you’re not a big Halo fan like me, as the solid sci fi plot itself will keep you more than occupied. I’m even going to stick my neck out and recommend the whole series. What I’ve read of Contact Harvest so far is just as good if not better than Fall of Reach. That I know of, it’s very rare for the original franchise creators to get this involved with a tie in and this involvement really shows in the book.

Last five articles by Ste



  1. FC360 says:

    I think there are 2 books that talk more about the covenant ,Halo The Flood and First strike. Because I dislike reading I haven’t actually read any of the halo books but I have read about the plots on websites :) I might get 1 out from library when I pay of my fines one day

  2. Ste says:

    Shit, didnt know this was going up today. Nice surprise for a Monday morning.

    @FC360 – Since reading this I’ve read the next two books which strangely enough are set before the events of this book but whatever. They both go into a lot more detail about the Covenant and you even get to know some Covenant characters which I thought were nice touches. They were Contact Harvest and The Cole Protocol, both good books but no sign of the Master Chief in either of them.

  3. Stu says:

    Interesting, I’m the guy that ignores collectors editions if the ‘added content’ is an art book, a story, a statue or anythign that isn’t in game bonuses. Likewise I don’t tend to hoover up any and all books, comics, or anything relating to a game or its world. Nor do I take to the forums to argue the nuances of a characters actions or bicker over inconsistences between original and sequel. But recently I read the first Karen Traviss authored Gears of War books, and swallowed the follow-ups whole. Ignorant as I was, I didn’t really ever consider an ‘outsider’ would be able to bring the world I spent, literally, tens of hours in to life the same way as playing the game did. I was wrong. Very wrong, actually (in fact Epic has Karen heavily involved with Gears of War 3′s storyline).

    My Gears of War experience and yours, Ste, although for different games sound very similar. My usual annual reading basically consists of yet another read through of Lord of the Rings or Hitchikers Guide plus whatever the new Pratchett release was (a guaranteed chrimbo present, like socks and pants). This now decade old tradition is being tumbled by the temptation to read up on the Halo, Starcraft, Mass Effect universes, etc. Whilst unlikely to splash an extra £30 on a game for a collectors edition I am probably going to lose a bit of gaming time to that most ancient of past-times: reading.

  4. Ben Ben says:

    I love novels based around games that I have a particular fondness for. I’ve got a dozen or so books on Warcraft which I’ve enjoyed en mass. Thing is though, my appreciation for the game itself has increased because of the books, character seem more alive and perhaps more importantly – any gaps in the narrative are filled.

    Next on my to read list is the Mass Effect books which I’m hoping to get done before the third in the series is released. Very tempted by the Diablo and Starcraft books too.

    Need a book club :D

  5. Lee says:

    Oh no not more books, I’ve got loads I haven’t read but now I’m gonna have to get this one too.
    Thanks for cluttering my coffee table Ste :P

  6. Ste says:

    @Stu – I’m with you on this one. I don’t really care much for special additions and what not. And dont usually both reading up on lore or backstory but I’m glad I took a punt on this book. It has made me appreciate the games alot more.

    @Ben – there are mass effect books?! Wow. I may have to check them out. I very nearly let mass effect pass me by. I only picked them both up in the steam sale last summer. Needless to say I loved them and couldnt put them done for a while. Thanks for letting me know about the books.

    @Lee – Sorry dude. Just so you know this book doesn’t have pictures in it. You may need an adult to help you. :)

    Thanks for the comments guys.

  7. Lorna Lorna says:

    I love anything which expands upon the universe and characters of something that I enjoy, though only if they don’t dick around with the source material and characters. The Alan Wake Files which came with the Collector’s Edition Alan Wake set were fantastic and a very clever way of adding even more layers into the story. That was more of an investigative piece though, but the short story and ‘excerpt’ from Wake’s book were great touches and allowed the reader to spot some emerging themes which gave hints as to things in the game itself.

    I have been meaning to pick up the Assassin’s Creed books for some time, though I don’t currently know of any other game which has tie in novels that I may be keen on grabbing. Perhaps when I get around to playing The Witcher, I will pick up the original book which inspired the game.

  8. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I’ve never even so much as looked at any extension of a game before, regardless of how much I like it. When the Fallout app came out for iPhone/iPod and had the comic strip or whatever it was, a lot of my friends rushed to get it but it just passed me by with more apathy than you can shake a dead weasel at. I’m just not THAT much into games where I want to know what else could be happening with the characters or the various set pieces discovered en route to the endgame. Back stories don’t interest me unless they come in the game, and even then it’s only if they’re done in such a way that I genuinely want to read them.

    I suppose I’m a bit of a charlatan that way, but I don’t game like a lot of others do… it’s not about racking up 100% completions, or the gamerscore, or even completing every game in a series… it’s just “Awesome, I have an hour to myself tonight… I’ll go shoot some shit up in Borderlands” and then when I know I have something else to do or it’s just time to call it a night, I shut the game and the console/PC down. Granted, I have some Fallout 3 promo merchandise… but that’s because it looks awesome, and nothing more.

    Maybe if they bring out something great for one of my much loved games then I’ll consider getting it just to see what they do with the characters… to be nosey, if you like. I do think it’s great for fans when there are various extensions out there to add to the longevity of the gaming experience though, it’s just not for me. Yet!

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