Monday, January 9, 2012

Review: Halo: Cryptum

Title: Halo: Cryptum
Author: Greg Bear
Pages: 342
ISBN: 9780330545624
Series: The Forerunner Saga #1
Publisher: Tor
Published: 2011
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Review copy from publisher

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100,000 years ago, the galaxy was populated by a great variety of beings. But one species - eons beyond all others in both technology and knowledge - achieved dominance. They ruled in peace but met opposition with quick and brutal effectiveness. They were the Forerunners - the keepers of the Mantle, the next stage of life in the Universe’s Living Time. And then they vanished. This is their story.

On a Lifeworker's experimental planet a young Forerunner's rebellious course crosses the paths of two humans, and the long lifeline of a great military leader, forever changing his destiny... and the fate of the entire galaxy.

This is a tale of life, death, intergalactic horror, exile, and maturity. It is a story of overwhelming change - and of human origins. For the mantle of shepherds and caretakers of all life many not lie upon the shoulders of Forerunners forever.
I’m always weary when it comes to tie-in novels especially when I’m not too familiar with the franchise. Aside from a vague memory of playing (and enjoying) the first Halo game when it was ported to the PC in 2003 I’m a complete neophyte when it comes to the Halo universe. I didn’t quite know what to expect from Halo: Cryptum the first book in the Forerunner Saga which is set approximately 100,000 years before the events in the game.

Halo: Cryptum tells the story of the Forerunners and reveals the origins of the Halo structures as well as a surprising connection between the human race and the Forerunners. The story is told from the perspective of a young Forerunner named Bornstellar Makes Eternal Lasting (Born for short) and revolves around his journey into adulthood while he gets entangled in the events that will eventually lead to the disappearance of the entire Forerunner race.

Halo: Cryptum is a character-driven story that relies more on narrative than action to explore life in Forerunner society as their race reaches a turning point while having to face their greatest peril. I enjoyed the coming of age story of Bornstellar as he is forced to grow up. His journey is not an easy one, but he still faces it with courage and a distinctive determination. There is one very poignant moment when he finally comprehends the impact of what the Forerunners had done to ensure their dominance in the galaxy. At that moment he realizes that his life is forever altered and that he can never return to his childhood innocence no matter how strongly he yearns for it. Bornstellar’s two human companions, Chakas and Riser, also undergo tremendous personal changes especially when they are faced with the reality of what has been done to them and what their race has lost at the hands of the Forerunners.

Since this is the first novel in the Forerunner saga it’s largely used to lay the groundwork for the rest of the novels. Things started off quite slowly, but the pace picks up nicely as the story progresses. There are lots of startling revelations along the way and the twist at the end caught me entirely by surprise. I can’t wait to get my hands on Halo: Primordium to see what happens next.

The Verdict:
I enjoyed Halo: Cryptum far more than I expected. The writing is well done and the Halo universe makes for a vibrant and captivating setting. This would be a great starting point for newcomers since it’s essentially the story of how it all began. Long-time Halo fans won’t be disappointed either and will finally get some answers to lots of burning questions. Definitely recommended!

The Rating: 7.5/10 (Very Good)

Thanks to Kelly from Pan Macmillan S.A. for providing the review copy.

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