Halo: Fractures – Extraordinary Tales from the Halo Canon
With 13 stories, Halo: Fractures has a variety of adventures written by different authors to suit every reader’s interest. For Star Wars fans like me, there are quite a few recognizable names, which is what led me to the book. Fans of the game will also find a lot to enjoy as the various tales explore everything from the Forerunners to the Spartans and the Sangheili. There’s combat, space battles, spy missions, encounters with the Flood, and pieces of backstory revealing more about the core characters of the franchise. There’s a little bit of everything.
All that said, the book was a slow starter for me. It opens with “Lessons Learned” by Matt Forbeck, which wasn’t all that great and suffered a lot from not being a self-contained story. It stars two Spartans named Tom and Lucy who have a hard to believe adventure in the void of space without suits to save a fellow Spartan. They learn about another Spartan’s betrayal, get shipped out to Onyx, and everyone exhibits extreme, testrone blitzed behavior that makes the characters seem more like animals than humans. Following that is “What Remains” by Morgan Lockhart, which was a little better. It takes place on a glassed world called Meridian and follows a group of survivors who get a strange message. But the story ends there without feeling complete. Both stories feel like partial building blocks for something larger, or perhaps teases for readers who have read the author’s previous works. I’ve only read a couple Halo books, so both of the stories felt incomplete to me and unsatisfying.
However, the third story in the anthology turns things around. “Breaking Strain” by James Swallow features good characters and good writing. A group of Stranded marines and one Spartan wind up on a remote world in a fishing colony and have to deal with crises of fear and anger. Going up against the locals becomes a worsening conflict that made even more complicated with the impending arrival of a Covenant ship. It’s a nice setup and plays out well.
Next up is “Promises to Keep” by Christie Golden. Christie changes things up by diving way into the past to tell a story about the Forerunners. It explores their thoughts, motivations and the challenges they came up against. Yet most notably, one of the Forerunners featured in the story is the one who actually activated the Halo. But the story isn’t about the destruction. Rather, it focuses on them bringing back life and finding lives for themselves. It’s an intriguing tale about discovery, origins and mystery.
Then there is “Shadow of Intent” by Joseph Staten. I really liked this one as it gives a lot of attention to both the good guys and the bad guys. It shows the two sides of the Covenant, the different alien species, and fleshes out the complexities of the participants on both sides. There’s a lot of investment in the characters that by the end of the story, you don’t know who to root for. With a moving ending and a compelling story, it was one of the highlights of the book.
Afterwards is an oddball. “The Ballad of Hamish Beamish” by Frank O’Connor is actually a ballad. The whole story is done as a song. Yet as odd as it is, it’s kind of amusing.
“Defender of the Storm” by John Jackson Miller brings things back on track as John tells a story about a below average Forerunner in a forgotten corner of the galaxy who deals with the boredom and struggles of his life. Of course wishing for interesting times can backfire, and when things get interesting, the main character has to rise to the occasion or accept death. Tackling things like duty, boredom, life, dejection and hope, it’s a good story.
“A Necessary Truth” by Troy Denning follows up on several of the characters from his Halo novel Last Light. Last Light is one of the few Halo novels I’ve read, so it was fun to see these characters pop up again. This story is set after the events of the book and follows Veta Lopis and the Spartans Ash, Mark and Olivia as they’re now working for the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI). The story dives deep into the world of espionage and shows the usefulness of Spartans in other roles. It’s definitely not your typical Halo story, but it’s fun.
“Into the Fire” by Kelly Gay also takes a step away from the usual as it follows a team of salvagers who make money off wreckage from the war. With great writing and characterization, it gets you hooked and wanting more when the story suddenly comes to a stop. This one has the feel of being a primer for a bigger story. Thankfully, we will be getting the rest, I think, as Kelly has an eBook scheduled for release in November called Halo: Smoke and Shadow which has connections to “Into the Fire.”
Stepping back into the oddness, Frank O’Connor has another story called “Saint’s Testimony.” It’s about an AI who is on trial. Since the AI’s only get seven years to live, this one tries to plead for an extension. Yet it gets weird, and doesn’t make the most sense. This one is probably geared toward readers who are better versed in the lore of Halo or previous stories as I wasn’t overly familiar with the AI’s they mentioned.
“Rossbach’s World” by Brian Reed is an odd story about Serin Osman, an AI named BB, and includes a lot of references to Cortana. Sadly this story is more narrative than actually storytelling and it’s mostly a fill in the blanks kind of story that doesn’t feel very complete.
“Oasis” by Tobias Buckell injects a boost of energy into the anthology as it follows a young settler who is forced to reach beyond their means and their prejudices. It highlights human and alien alike, and focuses on the divide between them. It’s a good story. Like “Into the Fire,” this one will be getting a follow up, but Buckell will be writing a full novel called Halo: Envoy which will be out in April 2017.
“Anarosa” by Kevin Grace is the last story listed in the anthology and is kind of a weird one. It’s about a human and an AI who try to recruit people to be templates for future AI’s. It’s an okay story, but not as good as some of the others in the anthology.
The book then goes to Acknowledgements and is seemingly over. There’s a little section on the authors, and then, very casually without any title, setup or description, the book has another story. Or at least a follow up to a story. It’s not credited, but it’s a continuation of Christie Golden’s story and shows what happens to her Forerunner characters following their escape. I have to admit, this little story saved the book as it ended things on a very positive, enjoyable note. When you’re ready the book, make sure you don’t skip it, as it would be easy to miss.
Overall, for casual Halo fans or readers new to the franchise, Halo: Fractures provides a nice overview of the universe and the stories and characters that can be explored. While not all of the stories are great, there are a lot of good ones and it makes the book worthwhile. I give it a four and a half out of five metal bikinis and highly recommend checking it out if you’re a fan of Halo or the authors.
Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.