Monday, February 13, 2012

Book Review: Halo: Glasslands by Karen Traviss

After a long time of fighting, the UNSC and Covenant are finally at a point where peace is now an option. As this is in the works, however, a more subtle war is still being fought behind the scenes, and Dr. Halsey – thought to be dead outside of the Forerunner slipspace bubble she fled into with her few Spartans – stumbles across a huge technological breakthrough from a long lost race.

In retrospect, it was a terrible idea for me to read Glasslands with Fall of Reach being my only prior experience as far as Halo books go. In my defense, however, Karen Traviss (the author herself!) did say that this novel was only an unofficial sequel to Ghosts of Onyx and it wouldn't be a continuation of the same story with the same cast. Add that to the fact that this is technically the first book in a separate series of Halo novels than the main novels are part of, this one centering more on the post-war events following Halo 3 and, well, it sounds like this would be a fine Halo book to pretty much start with, right?

Ha. You silly, silly reader, operating on the assumption that the logical route would be taken, and that the author was right about her own book. As if.

In reality, at least as far as Dr. Halsey's story goes, Glasslands takes place immediately after the events of Onyx; I'm pretty sure it was literally five minutes after the last page of that book. The first roughly fifty pages of this novel are spent wondering what the hell went on in Ghosts of Onyx if you're lame like me and didn't read that prior to this, wishing beyond all hope that we would get some slight exposition. Of course, this is Karen Traviss we're talking about here, usually a fantastic writer in all respects, so that isn't to say we go the entire book that way, we just have to play the total guessing game early on. Considering how consistently annoyed I got with this, however, that alone makes me recommend you at least read Ghosts of Onyx before Glasslands – save yourself the utter confusion (confusion? Confusion! Oh, it's been too long since I've used you, Confusion meme. I missed you so).

The other plots in the novel, however, were pretty independent from any Ghosts of Onyx storylines. The main one, of course, is the one featuring Serin Osman and her Kilo-Five team. I guess this is mainly where Traviss got her whole, “This isn't a sequel as you would know it” thing, even if she also had to make this one slightly confusing by starting off with two characters mourning someone who we've never seen and will never be mentioned again even though with the way it was written it seemed like it happened an hour before. But anyway.

Osman's plot was solid, but really, the same could be said for every story in Glasslands. Some of them can be a bit slow occasionally, but overall, ones like the Sangheili story are very solid. You may think a plotline centering solely on a Spartan who can't even speak any words sounds boring, and like I said... it's slow. But it's actually pulled off fairly well despite not having much to work with in the way of dialogue.

This is also because of how Traviss writes certain characters and internal monologues. It usually succeeds at keeping your attention, even if I've heard that in this particular case it's not the most accurate characterization in the world. Like I said, the only book I've read before this is Fall of Reach, so keep that in mind while I say this, but you really get the impression that Halsey is the scum of the universe that everyone despises. I mean, damn. The hate was endless. I've heard from certain people that that's far from the case in the other Halo books, but I definitely wouldn't have been able to guess that from reading Glasslands alone, so that's just another reason to make sure this isn't the first Halo book you read, or even the second like myself (unless the first happens to be Ghosts of Onyx).

Would I recommend Glasslands? Well, that's not such a simple question, because it really depends on the reader. If you're a fan of the Halo books and have read them all up to this one – I've said it before and I'll say it again, at LEAST Ghosts of Onyx – then sure, because it really was solid and worth reading. I'd give even more of a recommendation if you meet that prerequisite and are already a fan of Traviss's work. But if you're neither of those things – if you've never touched a Halo novel in your life and have no idea who Karen Traviss is, or, worse yet, hate her after, oh I don't know, something like KILLING MARA JADE. Ahem. But I'm getting off topic – then do yourself the favor and don't waste the time it'll take to read this fairly lengthy book. For an irritating amount of time you'll have no clue as to what the hell is going on, and you'll just find yourself ticked off at the shameless sequel bait that is the ending with no real conclusion to any of the plotlines. No, for that, you'll have to shell out $15 once the sequel comes out, folks.

You can see more of guest reviewer Opal Skoien's content at

No comments: