Review: Halo – Ghosts of Onyx

Author: Eric Nylund
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, 2006
Rating: 3/5 stars
Amazon Price: $9.88

Bottom Line

If the reader is familiar with Halo: Reach the game, he or she may be aware that Noble team consisted of SPARTAN-IIIs. If the gamer hasn’t read any of the Halo books, this may be confusing to him. Suddenly, out of nowhere, there are SPARTAN-IIIs. Where did the SPARTAN-III project originate? Ghosts of Onyx gives us the answer, which was written four years before the release of Halo: Reach. Overall, Ghosts of Onyx is a satisfying read. We come across Blue Team again, Dr. Catherine Halsey falls back into the story, and an old, familiar character returns: Chief Mendez, the man who trained the SPARTAN-IIs. While this is a fun read, there are a lot of spelling and grammatical errors in the book, which has actually been indicative of every Halo book Nylund has written. This is interesting because the short story he wrote in Halo Evolutions was devoid of such errors, which leads me to believe this is an editor error, not entirely Nylund’s fault. Nonetheless, because of these incessant, annoying errors and its anticlimactic ending, I couldn’t help but give the book three out of five stars. Nylund’s books aren’t the only Halo books that have spelling and grammatical errors—it seems to be the hallmark of Tom Doherty Associates—but Nylund’s books appear to have the most errors. Anyway, if you’re at all intrigued with the origin story of the SPARTAN-III project, I recommend this book as a read.

Review

Ghosts of Onyx takes place during the Halo 3 timeline. While the Master Chief is defending Earth, Blue Team, Dr. Halsey, Chief Mendez, and a small group of SPARTAN-IIIs attempt to acquire Forerunner technology on a Forerunner shield world called Onyx. At first, the Forerunner secrets lying underneath Onyx are not known. The original intent of being on Onyx was for a super secret section of the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) called Section Three to use it for the training of new Spartans: the SPARTAN-IIIs. Approximately the first quarter of the book tells us the story of how the SPARTAN-III project originated kept ultra secret even from Dr. Halsey for many years. The purpose of the SPARTAN-IIIs? To go on high-risk, suicidal missions that would otherwise never be attempted even by SPARTAN-IIs.

After going through several generations of training SPARTAN-IIIs, most of whom died save two, SPARTAN-051 Kurt—the SPARTAN-II in command of training the SPARTAN-IIIs—has the SPARTAN-III Gamma Company on their last training exercise. During this exercise, events begin to turn dramatically. Forerunner Sentinels suddenly awaken. Meanwhile, Dr. Halsey somehow finds out about the SPARTAN-III project after the destruction of Installation 04 and travels to Onyx to try and “save” the Spartans—to give them a choice that her SPARTAN-IIs did not have. As she finds Kurt and the Spartans, however, they find their way into an ancient Forerunner city. What technological Forerunner secrets lie here? Whatever they are, it could certainly turn the tide of the Human-Covenant War and even the war against the Flood.

It is left unclear what happens at the end of the book. I read this book when it first came out and I was confused, and I’m still confused after reading it a second time. The rest of the book made sense the second time around since I’m older and smarter, but the ending seems anticlimactic to me. As you’re nearing the end of the book, your heart starts beating faster at all the action happening and you start to read faster as your adrenaline pumps, and then it ends without ever solving anything. It ends with Dr. Halsey explaining what happened, who isn’t exactly the best explainer of things, so you’re left confused. It seems like there needs to be another chapter or two to truly end the story. In Halo 4 and 5, we know that Blue Team and Dr. Halsey obviously survive this ordeal, but how do they get off Onyx? The book doesn’t tell us; it just leaves us in the dark. This anticlimactic ending is another reason why I gave the book four out of five stars. You just don’t end a book that way unless there’s a sequel that continues the story, but there is no sequel to this book. So you’re just left with no answers as to how the story actually ends and how everyone gets off Onyx.

Regardless of the annoying spelling errors and the anticlimactic ending, I still recommend this book because of its SPARTAN-III origin story as well as some Halo lore regarding the Forerunners. Particularly: what are these “shield worlds” and what did the Forerunners intend to use them for? These two lore stories are the only reasons for reading the book. I certainly wouldn’t read it just for the story of it since the story isn’t exactly resolved. 

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