Aliens, Castaways, and Spartans REVIEWING Halo: Oblivion

Halo: Oblivion

Author: Troy Denning
Genre: Science Fiction
Year: 2019


2526. It has been more than a year since humanity first
encountered the hostile military alliance of alien races known as the Covenant, and several weeks after the United Nations Space Command's devastating counterattack of Operation: SILENT STORM was deemed an overwhelming success. The UNSC has put its faith in the hands of the Spartans, led by the legendary Master Chief, John-117: enhanced super-soldiers raised and trained from childhood via a clandestine black ops project to be living weapons. But the Covenant -- enraged and fearful of their enemy's unexpected strategies and prowess -- is not taking its recent defeat lightly, and is now fully determined to eradicate humanity from existence, brutally overrunning the ill-fated planets of the Outer Colonies faster than retreats can be ordered. 

If the UNSC has any chance of stemming the tide of the war, the Master Chief and Blue Team must drop onto an empty, hellish world in order to capture a disabled Covenant frigate filled with valuable technology. It has all the makings of a trap, but the bait is far too tempting to ignore -- and this tantalizing prize is being offered by a disgraced and vengeful Covenant fleetmaster, whose sole opportunity for redemption lies in extinguishing humanity's only hope of survival... 


As I mentioned on my Reading Round-Up, I won this book through a giveaway on Goodreads. I won it late last year and just now was able to read it. My experience with Halo is a light one. Many of my friends play it and I have read one other Halo book and a couple comics before this one. The only Halo game I've played fully through and beat was Halo: Fireteam Raven, the arcade shooter that Dave and Buster's revealed back in 2018. Back then, I went with my boyfriend to D&B's and we spent the afternoon playing through it, in one sitting. Took quite a few credits, but we did it, and I beat my first ever Halo game! Apart from that I've done a tiny bit of multiplayer on one of the older games, and I've read Halo: The Fall of Reach twice. I've read all three volumes of Escalation, Initiation, Helljumper, and one issue of Collateral Damage. So I have some sporadic knowledge of Halo, but not as good as that of several of my friends. Nevertheless I was excited for this book! 

So what do we exactly have here? Well, as the synopsis says, this follows Operation Silent Storm. The last Halo book Troy Denning wrote was called Silent Storm, so I'm assuming that the book happens before this one. This is not listed as being any particular number in a series, but I almost feel like it has to be, apart from just the Halo overhead branding. Silent Storm happened before and the ending to this one, doesn't quite wrap things up. I still have not had the chance to read or find a copy of Silent Storm,...but eventually I'm sure I will! 

This novel takes place in the earlier days of the Halo storyline. John, Kelly, Linda and Fred are initially in the middle of a mission on a planet called Mesra, before being pulled out for a different and special mission. They are dropped on a desolate planet called Netherop, with some other folks, to try to recover a Covenant ship that has crashed, but not been taken or destroyed by the aliens yet. Immediately, John and company think it is a blatant trap, but with Covenant technology high on the UNSC and ONI's desired items list, they don't have much choice but to follow orders. On the other side of the equation, we have a Covenant perspective.  Nizat is a Sangheili, or in human terms, an Elite with the Covenenant race of aliens. He is an officer and he has fallen from grace. He comes up with numerous plans to try to get either the Spartans for capture and research, or get a plant set-up to ruin humanity in the long-run. Either way, he wants to be back in high religious favor with his higher ups and higher beings. What ensues is conflicting interests and plan changes on a very barren planet. 

In general, I really enjoyed this book. Having only read The Fall of Reach and the few comics I have, I've never seen a Covenant perspective used. I thought that was really intriguing to see. You could see the motives on both sides, between Master Chief and Nizat. I think that was a really good choice, instead of just having an empty face alien army as the opponent. We get to know a lot more about them, even though timeline wise, this is really early in the Human-Covenant War. We see motivations, planning, cultural and religious belief, and hierarchical structure within the alien race. 

Another set of characters in this book is a bunch of castaways that Master Chief and Blue Team stumble across. This group throws a few wrenches in the operation and makes for a bit of extra conflict to deal with throughout the book. The Spartans are as cool as ever, running longer than anyone should, doing crazy operations that shouldn't succeed, and taking down enemies like nobody's business. There's a lot of Halo based weaponry and tech scattered all about in the book and there is some detail on how the Spartan armor works. There's some good basic info for anyone new to the series and familiar enough things for people who have been involved in it for a while. As somebody who is kind of in between, I had a blast with it. I loved the Master Chief and Blue Team chapters best, but I really think that the Covenenant/Nizat chapters added a lot to the story in rounding out why everything was happening. I liked seeing how each side adapted to the tactics of the others, seeing them change up their subplans to still achieve the ultimate goal. 

There is a lot of action in this book. There is also a lot of just moving from place to place, since there is a lot of ground to cover. Everything comes to a big head and at times, there are even some questions raised about how ONI and the UNSC operate ethically. Master Chief also does quite a bit of talking here, which I hear is very different from in the games. He interacts a lot with Blue team and the castaways I mentioned before, so you get a better picture of his perspective and character, early in the war. All of this makes for an almost well-rounded story that from the outside just looks like a military space adventure. My main gripe with it, was the ending, which is why it is ALMOST well-rounded. By the end of the book, you don't fully know, what happens with everything that was just...happening. It is left kind of open-ended, and initially I wondered if that was due to my limited knowledge of the series overall. I first thought it might have been addressed in a game or other book. I was going to my boyfriend and asking if he knew about certain things, or if these other things were ever mentioned in any of the games, and he told me no. I also did some digging on the side myself, and found nothing. So...unfortunately, the story is kind of incomplete, and I still haven't found any notice of there being another book. I'm just waiting it out to see if we get anymore. If a couple years pass without anything, I'm really going to be disappointed. 

This is an action-filled book, with two major perspectives. It is fun, it gives us more of Master Chief and Blue Team, and it even shows some Covenant motivations. I had a really good time with it, but the ending right now, with no promise of anymore to come, is a real downer. It leaves me feeling largely unsatisfied, and that means I have to dock this book down to a Lone Star rating of ✯✯✯ & 1/2. I want it to be a 4, but without a sequel yet, it just can't be at this point in time. If we get one, it'll definitely go up that half step, but for has to wait. 

Thanks for reading and as usual, I'll see you at the next review!