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In early November last year I was walking through Waterstones heading for the bus station to come home from college. As I walked through, I spotted the first and fourth Halo novels, and having just been paid, I figured I may as well grab them since I'm a big fan of the series.
I was instantly enthralled and got the other three books in the series soon after and read them one by one before I would allow myself to move onto any other book series. Halo: Contact Harvest is the latest of these books, released last September, and I finished it in February.
The story revolves around a familiar character from the games - Sergeant Avery Johnson, a young staff sergeant who has been fighting in a human civil war called the Insurrection. After an accident partially due to him that caused the loss of many civilian lives, he is worn out and fed up.
So, he is moved to the planet Harvest - a world dedicated to farming resources, with a very low and concentrated population - to train civilians so they may also fight against the Insurrection.
it may not be the civil war he is training them for: an alien ship guns down a ship from Harvest and kills its crew. And after Johnson is sent to investigate and he opens fires on the aliens, the war is on.
Halo: Contact Harvest is perhaps the most descriptive in the series: there are long pages of it which slows down the action a bit unfortunately. However, the imagery is definitely good so the words aren't wasted.
Fans of the Halo book series will probably be most familiar with Eric Nylund and his style. Eric Nylund has a very readable style that is also very good, and after the fiasco that was Halo: The Flood, by William C. Dietz - which was viewed particularly poorly by fans due to its inferior writing - some may have been concerned on seeing that this latest novel was by another new author.
Thankfully, Joseph Staten has a couple of things going for him. Firstly, I found his writing pretty similar to Eric Nylund's. It's not exact, but it's similar enough to slip into the novel quickly and becomed immersed.
Secondly, Joseph Staten is one of the Bungie writers. He wrote the games and their backstory.
So, you know this guy knows what he's doing.
Obviously, the Halo novels are made for Halo fans, and while they could be picked up by a random reader easily enough, the book makes lots of references to species of the Covenant - the band of aliens warring against humankind - with little description, so mental images may fail at this point.
Thankfully, though, this book can act as a standalone, so reading the previous four releases isn't necessary to understand it, because it takes place 28 years before the majority of the series.
Halo: Contact Harvest is just about 400 pages long - making it the longest in the series, by about 15 pages. Unfortunately, the story takes a while to really get going. There is action and interesting stuff in the beginning, but for the avid Halo fanatics who are more interested in seeing just how the war actually started and what happened on Harvest will be itching to get onto that part of the story.
Halo: Contact Harvest has a very interesting storytelling mechanic which I also like: it tells a love story between two AI that are in charge of various systems on and around Harvest. It's a little odd at first but then when you really get into it, it's really cool. In fact, a part of the epilogue is devoted to this love story.
This book is also in a larger format than the others in the series, though I think this is because it was only just released. In fact, another paperback version is coming out in June this year which I assume will be the regular size version book.
Halo: Contact Harvest is a well-written and very informative book in the Halo series, delivering another fantastic chunk of backstory to allow us to further understand the games and what has led up to them. They're particularly for the avid Halo fanatic, but could be picked up by an everyday reader with ease - except the almost descriptionless references to Covenant species.
The current version of the book is only available from marketplace sellers on Amazon for upwards of £5.23, but the scaled-down version of the paperback is coming in June and is available for preorder on Amazon now for just £5.59.