Bellaire, TX, United States
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3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-18-12

This is a very different kind of Halo book

This was a surprisingly different experience from the other Halo novels. Much like the games, most of the previous installments have been fairly action-packed and event oriented. Large sections of this book (and I do mean LARGE) consist solely of conversations and internal monologue. If you ever thought Star Trek The Next Generation was kind of boring given that it was a show about staff meetings, this book will be even more difficult. Since the book primarily follows the activities of intelligence agents, the lack of action shouldn't be a total shock. That's not to say that nothing happens, it's just that it's about as far from the novelization of a first person shooter as you could possibly get.

The book is also a lot more linear than many previous novels. Those early books have to go back and establish a lot of backstory. By this point a lot of that has more or less been established in the author was able to focus on a specific store in a fairly condensed period of time.

The author also explores some areas I honestly didn't consider before. A lot of the mundane detail about life in the Spartan armor is discussed for the benefit of the reader. The content also has a much more distinct psychological overtone which adds depth to both existing and new characters. I found that to be a plus, though it was difficult at times because of the positions taken. A lot of angst is expressed over the actions which led to the creation of the Spartan program. You certainly could make a war crimes argument over most of that. But I did get a little tired of worrying about 70 children when billions or trillions of humans were killed along the way. No one in this book has clean hands, it just seemed a little bit overbearing for some of the characters to pass judgment on others.

I was also a little bothered by the physics of the book. Early in the Halo universe (just a few years ago according to the book's own chronology), humans were crawling across the vastness of space in cryo tubes. Getting anywhere seemed like a real hassle. Likewise, communication between different planets functioned more like an intergalactic pony express.

In this book the universe seems no larger than a modern-day big city. The main characters pop back and forth between planets with relative ease. They also have real-time communication spanning galactic distances, even though sending one-way communications over huge distances was portrayed as slow and prohibitively expensive in the previous novels. Granted, these characters would have the absolute best technology available, and probably access to some wonderful covenant toys. But if all of that was available to the covenant, the war never would've taken 28 days, much less 28 years. Having such a rapid switch in communication and travel limitations is pretty jarring.

One last criticism is about the type of story. I could probably shoehorn this thing into the traditional three act story format used by 95% of fiction novels. But that would be a real stretch. This book would've comfortably fit within an anthology format comprised of multiple short stories. The only overall story arc (outside of the one provided by the larger Halo universe) is that humanity consists of the bunch of jerks. Over the course of the trilogy I have no doubt a larger story will take place. The author is clearly talented enough to pull that off. But this didn't feel like a self-contained novel to me.

I did enjoy many of the references to previous books and games. Dr. Halsey's journal for example was mentioned quite heavily (a highly recommended buy on Amazon if you didn't get hold of it with your copy of Halo: Reach). It was also interesting to see the Halo universe from a more "grownup" perspective.

I think the narration is also something of a mixed bag. He does a pretty good job of many of the characters native accents and he doesn't do that appalling falsetto voice for the women. Given how many female characters this book has, that would've been unbearable. But sometimes the reading is a bit jarring when perspective shifts back and forth between places and characters. And although I like his take on most of the new characters, some of the voices/accents don't really fit with the existing cast.

Overall, I wouldn't put this in my top three Halo book list. It's slightly above average as far as they go, but not my favorite. I really hope this doesn't become required reading for players of Halo 4. I suspect they will create a standalone story for the game, because I can't see the typical first-person shooter fan sitting through 16 hours of this kind of book. Get it if you feel compelled to consume everything Halo related, there are certainly wonderful gems to be found. But if you are a casual fan of the games, spend your time and money somewhere else.

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8 of 10 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-13-12

It's a novelization... But a decent one at least.

When the action is following John (Master Chief) as the point of view character, the narrative generally breaks down into "the Master Chief does this.... the Master Chief does that" with much less of the inner monologue normally associated with novels. There is some which sheds some interesting light on his motivation; but there really isn't much. That part is actually pretty frustrating, constantly making me want to pause the book and just go play back through the game's campaign. Eventually, that's what I ended up doing. I would listen to a section and play to about that point in the game. It was far from an exact science because about half of the book involves John and Cortana, and the rest focuses on other characters.

The narrative for the other characters is much more interesting. Even the poor schlep up in the control booth when the Chief is first brought out of chryo sleep gets a passable backstory before the covenant puts him on ice. Considering the straitjacket put on the plot because this is a novelization, the author really does a pretty good job here. It takes a decent amount of skill to write a novelization of game or a movie, and this guy seems to do a pretty good job under those constraints. The author even utilizes a few events such as the elevator ambush at the very end to work in stories of characters who aren't actually in the game. I was really hoping one of the grants would end up being the "thirsty grunt" Easter egg, but no such luck. The author also seems to know a little bit more about Navy jargon then some of the other Halo authors. Or maybe he just utilizes it more freely.

There are a few things I probably would consider major errors. For one thing, the author appears to be misinformed about the true nature of hunters. Even the graphics of the original version of Combat Evolved made it pretty clear they are actually a collection of individual worms. The average player probably doesn't notice, but the author of one of the canon books really should.

The author also really poorly handles Elite society. Some of the Elites behave extremely uncharacteristically based on how their honor code and society is portrayed in the other books and subsequent games.

As for the UNSC characters, the author also doesn't mention Linda. At this point, John thinks she's pretty much dead, but he did put her in the chryo tube hoping she could be saved. Given how much downtime character has in the book, I would've expected him to at least spare a thought for her. I also wish the author had taken the opportunity to tell more of Avery Johnson's story. They awkwardly reference that in the next book. But since it had already been established that he survived by the time this book was written, I really wish they had built that in to the story.

The book does do a good job of explaining some of the logistics of the game. it always bothered me that they went from a few ragtag escape pods to suddenly having a force capable of fielding scorpion tanks and healthy supply of warthogs. The logistics of that makes perfect sense in the book. There is also an interesting bit done on Spartan racism. Given a bunch of humans scared about their potential genocide, I could totally see that happen.

The narrator from several of the other Halo books makes a return for this book. As usual, he does a really good job with the Chief's voice, but a lot of the other characters sort of run together. I will say this though, he doesn't try to do a creepy falsetto for the female characters; he just works some subtle feminine inflections into the narration. I'll take that any day over a man squeaking his way through a woman's lines... The audio version of the uncanny valley.

One issue I do have with the narration is probably more of a production/engineering problem. The action flows quite quickly from section to section within the chapters. With most books, including all the other Halo novels, the narrator gives enough of a pause between sections to give the listener some idea perspective is about to shift. In this book, the narration simply jumps to the next point of view character rather abruptly. That can be a bit jarring and confusing. There were times when I had to rewind because we were suddenly seeing the action from another character's eyes who was also present at the previous scene.

Overall, I'm definitely pleased I listened to the book. I'm not sure how much of that was a pleasure about the new parts, or the excuse to play through combat evolved anniversary's campaign again. Should people get it? I definitely wouldn't make this my first Halo book. Most of the others are much better from a novel standpoint. But, if you've played all the games and read/listened to several of the other books, you'll probably get your money's worth out of this one.

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1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-05-12

A GREAT book. TERRIBLE abridgement/performance.

I read the dead tree version of this book back in the late 90s. It takes an alternate view of the founding of both the federation and warp drive. Also, the fist cross over between the TNG and TOS crews. It is sort of a alternate version of the TNG movies "Generations" and "First Contact." Really, I think the book does a better job of both of those event than the movies. I LOVED the book.

Here's the rub though, I HATED this audio book. The worst part was the abridgment. I normally steer clear of abridged books and this is a great example of why. Whoever made the cuts didn't stop when he hit bone. Things feel rushed and don't make much since after the abridgment. Also, the production is horrible. They try to do some sound effects. If they were done well, that might help the book along. In this case, they just sound cheesy and cheep. They accomplish nothing but periodically remind you that you are listening to a book. It is like an annoying person poking you every once in a while to take you out of the moment (what few the abridgment author decided to leave in).

Overall, this version is a major pass for me. If Audible ever releases an unabridged version with toned down production, I'll be all over it. But this version is really worse than not having the story at all. Skip!

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3 of 4 people found this review helpful

2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-05-12

I wish I had passed, but I could see some people r

I tend to really enjoy this type of book all the way around. I like alternative histories, and I like collections of short stories by different authors with a similar theme or universe. But this really disappointed me. Maybe it would have liked it more if I hadn't had high expectations. But none of the stories really stuck with me. Some were just so implausible they really didn't feel like alternative histories any more than Alice in Wonderland. I didn't find the narration notable either, but it was far from the worst. I wouldn't hesitate to listen to more books by these two, but I wouldn't seek them out either. Overall, just sort of there. Pick it up if you have strong interest in one of the historical figures. If not, pass.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-05-12

Geek content solid, action content even better.

First of all, this is the second book of two in the series. If you haven't read Demon, go back and read that one first. The whole series is fantastic and you really need to get them in order. This book takes off a bit more in terms of sci-fi. The first was just about 100% possible from a computer/tech security standpoint. Since this one is in the future of that one, it is by necessity more speculative. But that doesn't blunt its impact in the least. Without giving too much away, it really turns your perceptions from the first book on their heads. That happens very credibly, the author clearly had a two-book story arc in mind.

The characters are quite compelling, as is the imaginative storyline. The attention to detail is fascinating as well. For example, the scenes describing real life places like Houston from the first book are accurate enough to please a Houstonian like me. The descriptions of southern California and DC also fit well with reality. I do think the author gets a bit politically preachy... very Occupy Wall Street (even though this book proceeded that movement by years). I happen to agree with that political philosophy, but my more conservative leanings weren't offended either.

I still have a hard time adjusting to the reader. I swear this guy must come up with movie stars or pop culture characters as models for every voice (tell me the head detective isn't Batman!). Based on his most natural accents, he is clearly very familiar with California. His voices are almost too distinctive. But in the end, I wouldn't change it. It serves the narrative well, especially with the international scope.

I without question recommend this book for anyone with any interest in technology and action. It handles the geek stuff credibly (In my opinion very rare for Hollywood or mainstream books) but doesn't skimp on the action at all.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-14-11

A VERY pleasant surprise!

I found this book very challenging to wrap my head around. But I thought that challenge was worthwhile. Each story section was very different from one another. Every time it switched I found myself sad to see the last set of characters go, but soon forgot about it. To me that is a sign of a good book!

I did find the rapidly shifting style and settings off-putting at first. But it really helped fill out a full universe within which to tell a story. I guess that is just something you live with when you read an anthology.

The performances were top-notch. It helps if you already know the actors from their BSG roles. But even the newcomers were very well done. Each were quite well cast, I was stunned by how much I enjoyed the section read by Alessandro Juliani (Felix Gaeta on BSG). I would very happily listen to whole series read by him.

The ideas were also very interesting. Everything from riffing on Blackwater to augmented reality were imaginably utilized. I think some of the concepts are still very much plausible even after a few years of rapid technology improvement in the real world.

I recommend this one without reservation.

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2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-14-11

I'm a sucker for alt histories... this one, meh.

What would have made The Man in the High Castle better?

I like Philip K Dick, but I had a really hard time sticking with this book. I guess after all this time the narrative seems a bit hard to believe. I struggled to find a

How could the performance have been better?

I also found the narration jarring. I know that was consistent with the book, but it was not pleasant to listen to.

Any additional comments?

If you are a hardcore fan of the author, you'll like or even love this one. But I found it very forgettable and not worth my time or money.

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