Halo: Glasslands by Karen Traviss

Rating 8.5/10
Halo: Glasslands was a great introduction for me into the Halo series.

The Covenant has collapsed after a long, brutal war that saw billions slaughtered on Earth and her colonies. For the first time in decades, however, peace finally seems possible. But though the fighting's stopped, the war is far from over: it's just gone underground. The UNSC's feared and secretive Office of Naval Intelligence recruits Kilo-Five, a team of ODSTs, a Spartan, and a diabolical AI to accelerate the Sangheili insurrection. Meanwhile, the Arbiter, the defector turned leader of a broken Covenant, struggles to stave off civil war among his divided people.

Across the galaxy, a woman thought to have died on Reach is actually very much alive. Chief scientist Dr. Catherine Halsey broke every law in the book to create the Spartans, and now she's broken some more to save them. Marooned with Chief Mendez and a Spartan team in a Forerunner slipspace bubble hidden in the destroyed planet Onyx, she finds that the shield world has been guarding an ancient secret - a treasure trove of Forerunner technology that will change everything for the UNSC and mankind.

As Kilo-Five joins the hunt for Halsey, humanity’s violent past begins to catch up with all of them as disgruntled colony Venezia has been biding its time to strike at Earth, and its most dangerous terrorist has an old, painful link with both Halsey and Kilo-Five that will test everyone’s loyalty to the limit.

Halo: Glasslands is the first book in the popular Halo series (but the eighth in the Halo franchise) written by Karen Traviss. She has written books in both the Star Wars and Gears of War series. Ever since playing the first Halo game on the Xbox, the franchise has stuck on me, I have been looking for a way into the Halo series. As soon as I found out that Halo: Glasslands is the first in a new trilogy I just had to jump to the chance. I haven’t read any other Halo book nor played the recent games so this review is solely based on how I perceived Halo: Glasslands.

When I started reading in Halo: Glasslands, it took me a while to adjust to the whole setting. This was not caused by the writing style of Karen Traviss, which is actually pretty pacey. But I had to adjust to all the shortenings and other terms used in the book. I knew what the Covenant was but the specifics eluded me so I had to look up the world wide web what the terms like ODST, ONI, Sangheili and Jiralhanae meant. After I knew most of the terms the reading became a lot easier for me.

Glasslands starts in the aftermath of the “ending” of the war between the Covenant and the humans. But there are still some loose ties that need to be fastened. The “ending” of the war is not as concrete but there is a cease-fire between the current Arbiter of Covenant and the humans. From the beginning the storyline is divided into a few perspectives. That of Catherine Halsey, who was presumed dead after the Covenant attack on Reach, is now being sought to be brought to justice for what she has done in order to make the perfect fighters “Spartans”. The second is viewed from a Sangheili (or Elite) group The Servants of the Abiding Truth and the last being from Serin Osman who is the leader of Kilo-Five.

With this being the eighth book in the series I did have some reservations about how the storyline would begin, but I was very pleased that the build-up was done as just a first book (despite the terms). Glasslands picks up at a rather slow but steady pace and gave a feeling for me that Karen Traviss intended to first introduce the reader to the world that she wanted to create, a world still in the ruins of the last Covenant attack but slowly gathering up and starting to rise again. Using this world combined with all three storylines was done rather neatly. They all made logical sense from many viewpoints, trying to tie up the loose ends that there still are and then only moving forward.

In the storyline of Dr. Catherine Hasley you meet up with her and some of the Spartans which she created in a pretty grim manner. Spartans are genetically and physically altered humans created to exceed in battlefield tactics. She and her crew are stranded in a Dyson Sphere, a place in slipspace (another dimension). Their base is on a Forerunner location, the Forerunner as the name might imply are the ancestors and created some pretty advanced technology. It is in this sphere that Hasley is completely blocked from the outside world, but engaged in her research she tries to unravel the Forerunners technology. I could not glimpse that much of her character in her storyline other that she is quite devoted for her cause and that she had made some sacrifices in her past and that she is somehow trying to make amends with some of her flaws in make Spartans. Ultimately there are two paragraphs, one being with Chief Mendez in the Sphere and the other with Margret Parangosky that actually packed quite some emotion behind both sides but showing a good elaboration on Hasley’s part.

The storyline of Serin Osman is more divided and she and her crew is doing some more things. Look at her and her crew their voices are more heard throughout the book. Osman, being a spartan herself, and having Noami, also a spartan on her crew have a certain hatred for Dr. Hasley. Which after the revelation in the end is more than justified. That aside, Osman is a pretty strong female character which is probably attributed to her Spartan side, but as the story progresses you see her going back to her history quite a few times in where she wants to know what happened and who her parents were but somehow she cant come to terms with herself to get it done.

The last storyline is followed on ‘Telmat a Sangheili who is not quite agreeing with the cease-fire between the Covenant Arbiter and the humans. Even though this is my first Halo book I could directly get the hostility between the Covenant and the humans. ‘Telmat is part of the organization Servants of the Abiding Truth, in the chapter that centre around him there is just this dark setting about what they are planning, especially after the peace and that most of the Covenant have agreed upon this, kind of a terrorist hint to it. Especially the ending of the book places nicely into this where everything is now going sour...

Glasslands shows next to the good storyline a nice feature of action and technology. Take the Spartans alone, having their genes altered to being super soldiers and after they have grown into adulthood, there skeletons reinforced to take on the “Mjolnir armour”, when they fight there are almost invulnerable. There were a few scenes depicting Noami battling against the Covenant which showed the Spartan concept quite neatly. Added to this was the AI Black-Box, uploaded in Noami’s Mjolnir armour he had in my opinion too much fun... It is with these types of scenes that I get my reservations whether to start distrusting AI... Next to what the humans devised gear wise and enhancement wise, there is also the Forerunner technology which still remains somewhat obscure but now there are some of the Engineers that descended from the Forerunner helping the humans. The Engineers are a very cool concept, part organic, part machine they can virtually repair and improve and create anything. They already made certain enhancement but they can do more, I am curious where this might go in the rest of the series.

Halo: Glasslands was a great introduction for me into the Halo series, though I did have some knowledge of the franchise prior to reading the book, there were still a few terms that I had to catch up with. After doing that the book picked up pretty fast. There is great combination between the storylines and the action in all three of them. Karen Traviss introduced a great ending that will possibly see the universe at the brink of war again. But added to this.. Dr. Catherine Hasley is now presumed dead… there is still a lot plotting going on also from the good guy perspective...

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Halo: Glasslands reader reviews

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10-stars

It took me a while to get into it. But it's well paced and the characters are interesting. The plot is good taking place at the end of Halo 3 and has some good twists. For people who have played the games, it is worth reading, it answers some questions and ties up some loose ends. Even if your new to the series it's a good place to start, it might take a while to learn the jargon for it. But overall it's a enjoyable read.

9.3/10 from 2 reviews

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