Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Book Review - Halo: Last Light

Inline image 1By Troy Denning

Publisher: Titan Books

Review by Richard Williams

'An original novel set in the Halo Universe and based on the New York Times bestselling video game series!

It is 2553, and the three-decade long Covenant War that defined a generation has suddenly drawn to a close. Yet, in the remotest parts of human space, tensions remain that threaten to overflow into another full-scale conflict. Beneath the surface of the planet Gao lies a vast cavern system renowned for its therapeutic effects and rumored miraculous cures. But now Gao natives are turning up brutally murdered down there—violent acts that happen to coincide with the recent arrival of a UNSC research battalion protected by Spartan Blue Team, led by the renowned Spartan-II Fred-104.

Maverick detective Veta Lopis of the Gao Ministry of Protection is only trying to do her job as the Special Inspector assigned to catch a serial killer—one who is possibly hiding within the Spartan ranks—but she never anticipates the situation spiraling out of control into an all-out crisis. When Gao is revealed to harbor ancient Forerunner technology that could solidify the UNSC’s military supremacy for centuries to come, Insurrection loyalists within the planetary government will do anything—even align with a vicious faction of what remains of the Covenant—to ensure that never happens…'

I tend to approach Halo books with a fair amount of trepidation. Being a Halo fan I get very annoyed by the stories that I think aren't up to scratch and because I'm such a picky bugger that tends to be a lot of them. However, with Last Light, I have found myself pleasantly surprised and enjoyed what I feel is a well plotted, fast paced and authentic Halo story.

Once again the action takes place on a Human colony world and once again the population are straining at Earth's leash with some people working in the shadows to engineer all the reasons the colony would need to declare independence. Thrown into this scenario is a UNSC team working to extract information and a vital artefact from a Forerunner site buried deep beneath the surface. Included in the team are a group of Spartans because it would be commercial suicide not to include them.This could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how much you like settings to mix things up but I think it's safe to say that most Halo fans want some Spartan action. So if you are such a fan then breath a sigh of relief because there is plenty of it and very convincingly written.

There are some familiar faces for long time readers of Halo fiction (which you would expect, I suppose, given the fate of most Spartans prior to the Spartan IV program) and we once again follow Fred-104 and his team as last seen in Halo: Ghosts of Onyx. The other major character being introduced in this book is Veta Lopis who is described on the back of the book as a 'maverick detective'. This was one of the things that led me to believe that I wasn't going to enjoy the book because if there's one character stereo-type that I'm sick to death of it's the maverick detective. I never thought I would long for a plain old goes by the book, wears a suit and carries a standard issue sidearm police procedural kind of character but God help me I do. Why do they always need to carry a gun that isn't regulation? I'm guessing Dirty Harry is to blame but maybe it started before then I'm just not old enough to remember. Anyway, I had my concerns about the maverick detective Veta Lopis. Thankfully she is not even half as annoying a character as I was expecting and by the end even a bit likeable.

There are a couple of things that I didn't like about the book. Firstly this book has clearly been written post-Halo 4 and makes significant and important references to things that I'm pretty sure people wouldn't know about until the events of that game. I'm speaking in relation to knowledge regarding the Forerunners and their terminology for technology and philosophy. More hardcore fans of the series might disagree with me here but I've almost everything Halo and I thought it seemed like it didn't belong in this book.

Also there has been the reusing of characters from other books, as previously mentioned, but sometimes they don't come across how their original authors and creators wrote them and, given the minimal impact these particular characters have on the events of this story, I think Denning might as well have created some bog standard place fillers.

The descriptions of the Halo technology and universe feel right to me and the action is well written so, with those two boxes ticked, I'd think it very hard not to recommend this book to a Halo fan. A fun and enjoyable read that looks set to be part of an ongoing series.

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