Literature / Halo: First Strike

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Halo: First Strike is a 2003 Halo book by Eric Nylund bridging the events of Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2, and also serving as something of a sequel for Halo: The Fall of Reach. As Halo 2 hadn't yet been completed when the book was written, there are some inconsistencies between the two, some of which Tor rectified with an updated edition in 2010.

No relation to the Jackie Chan movie of the same name.

First Strike provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: A great deal of subplot mysteries in this book don't come up again in subsequent works:
    • The Forerunner crystal, which is deemed too dangerous by Halsey and so destroyed. The Prophet of Truth receives a few fragments that he thinks may be good for his plans, but that's the last we've heard of it.
    • The Ascendant Justice has numerous mysteries that go unresolved in the book, including its unusually small crew, its AI unlike any known Covenant one, and one of its passengers supposedly having been the "Guardian of the Luminous Key". The Combat Evolved: Anniversary terminals and the adjunct section of the 2010 Halo: The Flood reprint give (or at least imply) answers to a few of these questions, but not all of them.
    • Sergeant Johnson's immunity to the Flood has also never come up again. In this case, it is intentional; Bungie has said they've chosen to ignore it.
  • A Father to His Men: Admiral Whitcomb.
  • Ace Pilot: Shiela Polaski, who's from the same squadron as Foehammer.
  • Badass Boast: Admiral Whitcomb's transmission to the Covenant fleet after crashing the Ascendant Justice into Unyielding Hierophant:
    "We're here in the middle of your fleet with your 'holy of holies'. Come and get it!"
  • Badass Crew: The mixture of Spartan, Navy, and Marine characters.
  • Badass Normal: Corporal Locklear, an ODST who acquits himself admirably fighting alongside Chief and Johnson.
  • Boarding Party: One of the first things Chief and friends do after escaping Halo is hijack the Covenant carrier Ascendant Justice. Later, the Spartans board a Covenant space station in order to blow it up.
  • The Captain: While he's technically a vice admiral, Danforth Whitcomb fills this role to the letter. Complete with a gruff personality, Texan accent and a mustache.
  • Combining Mecha: The captured Covenant carrier Ascendant Justice is combined with the UNSC frigate Gettysburg because the maneuver Cortana is planning to pull requires two reactors.
  • Continuity Nod: Locklear is explicitly noted to have been one of Major Silva's ODSTs.
  • Disposable Pilot: Red Team's pilot gets a few throwaway lines before getting blown up in his cockpit, prompting Joshua to take over from inside the troop bay.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Truth and Tartarus from Halo 2 show up in the epilogue, which also has a brief mention of the very Elite who goes on to become the Arbiter.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The book was originally released right in the middle of the Halo 2 hype campaign, so readers back then already knew that Chief, Cortana, and Johnson would all make it back.
  • Fictional Document: The 2010 rerelease to celebrate the launch of Halo: Reach includes a few transcripts and documents further expanding on the EU.
  • Four-Star Badass: Vice Admiral Danforth Whitcomb.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Whitcomb and Haverson use themselves as bait to lure in a 500-strong Covenant fleet towards a just-about-to-explode space station; they succeed in wiping out nearly the entire fleet.
    • Played with by Locklear's death. He destroys the Forerunner crystal in order to prevent it from causing more trouble, but he probably wasn't planning to die in the resulting explosion.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Haverson kills an Engineer who just repaired John's armor in order to keep the Covenant from getting any data on it. He finds the act just as despicable as Cortana does, but stands by his decision. Also, when Whitcomb orders the Gettysburg-Ascendent Justice to bail out while the Covenant come in and destroy Eridanus Secundus.
  • I Like Those Odds: Averted when Fred leads a 3-man Spartan team to destroy a Covenant cruiser:
    Kelly: I'm all for a good fight, Fred, but those odds are a little lopsided even for us...like ten thousand to one.
    • Fortunately, Fred has a plan to destroy the entire task force.
  • Killing for a Tissue Sample: Sergeant Johnson turns out to be immune to the Flood. Halsey gives John the choice of giving the Office of the Naval Intelligence one of two data crystals. One directly mentions Johnson by name and and outlines how his nerve condition makes him immune, the other has the same information but omits his name and DNA. She warns John that giving ONI the former will likely cause them to dissect Johnson in hopes of figuring out the cure. John struggles with which crystal is better to give, but ultimately chooses the one that won't kill Johnson.
    • Later media revealed that this dilemma was all for nothing; as it turns out, Sergeant Johnson is not immune to the Flood, he just outfought them and escaped on his own merits. The irregularity in his nervous system is due to him being an ORION/Spartan-I, an earlier super-soldier program that predates even the Spartan-IIs.
  • The Last Dance: When Whitcomb and Haverson crash the Ascendant Justice into Unyielding Hierophant and lure the nearby Covenant fleet in, destroying most of the ships when the station blows up.
  • MacGuffin: The Forerunner crystal seems to serve no purpose other than getting the survivors from Halo to Reach in time, allowing them to escape the besieged Reach and creating an exotic setting for a space battle. While Truth mentions its remnants may be "enough for their purposes" in the end, it's never referenced again.
  • Mauve Shirt: Most of the Spartan-IIs who initially survive the Fall of Reach.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Cortana discovers that the Covenant's ships, with their better technology than the UNSC's, are capable of jumping within a gravity well easily. The Covenant AI of the ship she's on leaks the info to nearby Covenant ships, and this very technique is used by the Prophet of Regret's flagship in Halo 2; the jump causes a shockwave that destroys much of the city of New Mombasa and prevents the squad in Halo 3: ODST from landing correctly.
  • Noodle Incident: As the Chief and his team gear up for a Zero-G op, they reminisce about a training mission they had:
    Fred: This reminds me of the underwater mission Chief Mendez sent us on at Emerald Cove. When he sabotaged half our air tanks? And we ended up stealing his?
    Anton: (laughing) And after, we ditched him and camped on that island. It was a week of nothing to do but light bonfires, bake clams, and surf.
    Grace: Mmmmm, calamari.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Haverson, despite outranking the Master Chief, willingly concedes command of the mission to the Spartan. Later when the mission changes and Haverson retakes command, he still agrees to take the group back to Reach even though he knows that Master Chief really only wants to go there to check for surviving Spartans.
    • Whitcomb, who is very much willing to put his trust in the Spartans.
  • Retcon: The 2010 rerelease changes a number of details to make the book mesh better with later canon, as well as to simply fix internal inconsistencies. For one thing, Brutes are no longer referred to as a newly encountered species when the Spartans fight them.
  • Sacrificial Lion: All of the Spartans, except for John, Fred, Will, Linda, and Kelly.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Master Chief and co. crash landed into the Ascendant Justice's hanger bay at 300 meters per second, or 671.1 miles per hour, and then get right back up. Sure, Master Chief has his armor, and the ship may be made of some kind of future metal that doesn't disintegrate upon crashing at Mach 0.9, but, c'mon, Sergeant Johnson wasn't even wearing a seat belt. (On the other hand, it's Sergeant Johnson; the man is legitimately badass.)
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Dr. Halsey, having lost all hope that humanity can win the war, deserts the group, taking a sedated Kelly with her. That said, she does all this as part of her plan to lure all the surviving Spartans to a safe haven where they don't have to fight anymore.
  • Space Station: The Unyielding Hierophant, a Covenant battlestation 30-km long and over 10-km in circumference; Johnson describes it as looking like "two squids kissing".
  • Tempting Fate: Mixed a little with Underestimating Badassery; while on the Unyielding Hierophant, a Cortana clone finds out what the Chief and the rest of the Spartans would be encountering shortly and states this little gem.
    "Also be advised, Chief, that there are ceremonial guards in this temple a race we have not encountered before. Roughly translated from Covenant dialects, they are called 'Brutes'. They shouldn't be a significant threat or they would have been used in previous military situations."
  • There Is Another: As it turns out, John is not the last Spartan. In fact, four other Spartans survive through the entirety of the book.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: Check the dates in the story. The Chief escaped Halo on September 22. The book ends on September 13. That Forerunner crystal was warping time.
  • Title Drop: "We're going to take this fight to the Covenant. We're going to launch a first strike."
    • And the attack itself is codenamed Operation: FIRST STRIKE.
  • Try Not to Die: When the Chief and the other Spartans leave to fix the ship:
    Whitcomb: Chief, make sure you come back alive. That's an order, son.
  • Underside Ride: In a flashback, it's revealed that John and his squad did this to infiltrate an enemy base during a training exercise. The soldiers they were up against suspected this, and ran mirrors along the bottom of the truck to check for them. However, the Spartans knew they would do that, and brought along their own mirrors so they could reflect an unoccupied portion of the underside back at the guards. The kicker was that the Spartans did this when they were only twelve.
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer: Cortana needs to disrupt the mainframe on the Covenant space station they're invading. Her answer? Clone herself about a gajillion times, resulting in a DDoS attack that is so effective that Cortana herself starts having trouble communicating with John.

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