We all know that Halo has an enormous story universe which can seem daunting to somebody who has only played the games. Well, I’ve selected 5 pieces of content out of the over 15 fiction books/novels, 10 comics, and 3 encyclopedias that will help you get clued up with Halo fiction as quickly and painlessly as possible, in my opinion.
This list is ordered by my personal preference, but broadly speaking, each of these five are equally as good as the next, in their own ways…
1. Dr. Halsey’s Journal
Whilst it may not be available as a standalone buy, it’s not impossible to find copies on eBay or as part of the somewhat readily-available Halo: Reach Limited Edition, and for what it is, it’s well worth the money.
Dr. Halsey’s personal Journal is a personal look at the infamous scientist known for creating the SPARTAN-II Program and the A.I. Cortana, following her from her 18-year-old ONI-protege self right up until that fateful day in 2552 where NOBLE Team arrived at Sword Base to take possession of the Cortana fragment.
Not only a physical masterpiece, feeling as authentic and genuine as possible, Halsey’s journal is packed with juicy canon content, from the intricate details behind the SPARTAN augmentations to the influences and drives behind launching the “unethical” program. Halsey’s journal was not a simple one, nor were the ethical divisions ever fully visible, and this piece of work highlights that by literally putting the reader inside her head.
If you like little in-fiction bits, the journal has that too, packaged into a super-secret looking ONI bubblewrap envelope and including little sketches, photographs, newsprint clippings and scientific charts tucked inside.
Other than the accessibility of the journal, there is literally nothing I can fault it for – it’s lengthy, packed with story details, understandable even for a newbie and simply a pleasure to own. If you haven’t at least read this, make sure to fix that!
2. Halo Encyclopedia
Whilst its age means the content only goes as far as Reach (or ODST, if you happen to get the original edition), this book is a fantastic reference guide and an ideal “who’s who” for somebody new to the series.
Detailing an enormous range of entries from ships to factions, worlds to weapons, heroes to villains, the Encyclopedia is perfect for filling gaps in your knowledge, gaining further story details beyond what you saw in the games or simply reading for pleasure.
Albeit not always best formatted, the Encyclopedia is packed with pictures and beautiful pieces of artwork from the games which make this book a great all-rounder for any Halo fan.
(Honorable mentions: Halo Series & Halo 4 Essential Visual Guides – Smaller books, but packed with just as much detail, covering areas where the Encyclopedia could not. Also, as the name would suggest, they’re also filled with excellent imagery, renders and more from within the games!)
3. Ghosts of Onyx
Eric Nylund’s “Ghosts of Onyx” is heralded as one of the best Halo novels ever written, and with good reason.
Ghosts of Onyx tells something of an origin story for the Spartan-III’s, the next wave of Spartan supersoldiers most will be familiar with through the story of several III’s in Reach’s NOBLE Team.
Not only is it a solid piece of storytelling, but the novel also covers a very classified period of ONI operations, as readers are given a very detailed glimpse into the secretive and questionable procedures and actions employed in creating the successor to the Spartan-II’s. Including characters new and old, Ghosts of Onyx also introduces readers to a whole new world, and all the technology & threats that reside there.
Ghosts of Onyx is not just a standalone story, either. The recent-concluded Kilo-Five novel trilogy from Karen Traviss serves as a direct follow-on to Ghosts of Onyx, detailing the aftermath of the novel whilst smoothly connecting the events to the “present-day” story period being told in Halo 4 & beyond.
If you need a thrilling read that is both an excellent way to broaden your knowledge and enhance the story of more recent games, Ghosts of Onyx should be your first stop.
(Honorable mentions: Fall of Reach & First Strike – Both tell equally gripping stories of less-explored areas of the fiction, the former linking into Halo: Reach whilst the latter bridges the gap between Halo: CE & Halo 2. However, these are more historic stories and whilst are definitely both worth the read, they won’t necessarily bring readers up to date with events surrounding more recent games.)
4. Halo: Cryptum (Forerunner Trilogy)
Whilst sometimes criticized for being slow reads, Greg Bears Forerunner trilogy is more relevant to the Halo fiction now than ever.
With Halo 4 pushing the characters of the Librarian and the Didact to the forefront of Halo’s story, and Halo 5 appearing to head even deeper into Forerunner territory, the Forerunners as a species are beginning to gain more and more exposure in the games. Prior to these games, the only knowledge players had of the Forerunners was that of their legacy, the Halo rings, Monitors, Sentinels and their final enemy – the Flood.
The Forerunner Trilogy engrosses the reader into the culture, traditions, technology and history of the Forerunners, and tells the stories of some of the most influential Forerunners of the time, as well as their inevitable fall.
If you want to familiarize yourself with the Forerunners, this trilogy is by far the best vessel. Though a little weak on pace, there is genuinely an excellent story contained within, and definitely worth your time.
5. Halo: Broken Circle
We’ve had novels about humanity’s part in Halo, we’ve had a trilogy that explores the history of the Forerunners and the Flood, now for something new. Halo: Broken Circle, released just last year, puts readers deep behind enemy lines and covers two important eras in Covenant history.
Very rarely have Halo fans seen the Halo Universe from a Covenant perspective, Halo 2 being one such instance and smaller examples have cropped up in written content. Broken Circle details the events surrounding the formation of the Covenant, an event only briefly mentioned in other fiction, whilst the second half takes place during the Great Schism and introduces a new major player in its events.
Broken Circle is the first in a glorious onslaught of new novels to be released prior to & around the launch of Halo 5: Guardians – give Broken Circle a read and don’t miss any of this year’s upcoming releases!
What was your favourite piece of written Halo Content? Are you looking forward to any new releases this year?
Let us know in the comments!