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Literature: Halo: Glasslands

Halo: Glasslands is a novel in the Halo Expanded Universe by Karen Traviss as part of the "Kilo-Five trilogy" set in the months after the events of Halo: Ghosts of Onyx and Halo 3, in which Humanity and the Sangheili, no longer at war, are picking up the pieces from the Great Schism. It revolves around the continued adventures of Dr. Halsey, CPO Mendez, and the Spartans in the Onyx Shield World; Serin Osman, a team of ODSTs, and Naomi, another Spartan, who find themselves on a mission to destabilize the fragile Sangheili government, and a group of Sangheili hoping to overthrow the Arbiter and eventually continue their war with humanity.

A sequel and the second book in the Kilo-Five trilogy, titled Halo: The Thursday War, was released on October 2, 2012.

Glasslands contains examples of:

  • Author Filibuster: Throughout the book, a number of characters deliver condescending speeches and remarks about Dr. Halsey and the Spartan-II project. Unsurprisingly, the views presented in these correlate with the author's, as seen in several interviews with her (e.g. Traviss compares Dr. Halsey to Dr. Mengele, and then a character in the novel does the same). The heavy-handedness of the message, and the lack of any meaningful representation of the other side of the argument, borders on making or simply makes the whole novel an Author Tract. Unsurprising to those of who remember her views on the Jedi.
  • Break the Cutie: Oh Naomi. She gets told that Halsey is dead and then it turns out she isn't, then she finds out how Halsey left her family after kidnapping Naomi. Lucy too, to the point that she stops speaking out of survivor's guilt.
  • Big "NO!": Lucy's first words, ending her mute condition. When Halsey harasses Prone to Drift enough, Lucy punches her while screaming "No, no, no, no!"
  • Cliff Hanger: An explosion of...something bright on Sanghelios destroys Philips' camera and causes the squad to head back there.
  • Conflict Ball: Nearly everyone is suddenly inclined to hate Dr. Halsey to get the conflict ball rolling. Most noticeable of these is probably CPO Mendez, whose excuse to start hating on her seems to have come out of nowhere, and comes across as hypocritical.
    • The Elites, who were previously pretty much united in their campaign against the Brutes, are now locked in a massive feud amongst themselves over their beliefs regarding the Forerunners.
    • ONI's plan to protect Earth: arm a Sangheili splinter faction of zealots who want to assassinate the Arbiter in the hopes that this will destabilize the Elites enough to prevent them from attacking Humanity. Note that A. The Arbiter is the most influential Elite in favor of making peace with the humans, and B. A good portion of the rebel Elites want to continue their war with humanity.
      • Basically, the belief is that peace with the Elites is impossible; so the idea is to weaken the Elites as much as possible to buy humanity enough time to rebuild their power. Then the humans will be in the position to dictate terms.
  • Continuity Drift: It's not exactly clear whether it's author infighting or simply the result of a different interpretation, but Eric Nylund's depiction of the setting and characters seems to be taking a lot of flak in Glasslands; to name a couple of examples, the formerly formidable and intelligent Dr. Halsey is degraded, and the sentimental portrayal of the Spartans is bordering on being a Deconstruction of their earlier, more stoic (and chemically induced) depiction. Namely, the revisionism appears to target the ends-justify-the-means morality shown in Nylund's work. Halsey is also one of Nylund's favorite characters, and he's even stated that he and Halsey think very much alike. This might easily lead to the conclusion that there might be more to the sudden anti-Halsey sentiment than just a different author's view of the universe.
    • There is a lot of drift to be seen regarding Dr. Halsey and her motivations, as well as the specifics of the SPARTAN-II project. The program is now shown as being Halsey's personal experiment she conducted to satisfy her curiosity (as opposed to being commissioned by the brass at ONI, and Halsey being driven by genuine fear of human civilization collapsing and believing she was the only person who could save it). Glasslands also introduces the idea that Halsey somehow covered up the entire SPARTAN-II flash-cloning program from the brass, although no piece of earlier fiction has given any indication of such, and said brass actually enabled the program.
      • It also strikes as odd that Admiral Parangosky, a woman who authorised sending 12 year old child soldiers on suicide missions, amongst other things, would be bothered by flash-cloning.
    • Additionally, no one ever pretended Halsey was a saint, but a number of traits seem to have been added to make her seem more sinister. For one, the Glasslands version of Halsey is shown to live by an ‹bermensch view of morality, considering herself as being Above Good and Evil, even noting a few times that she doesn't have a soul. She regards other people, like Jacob Keyes, as nothing more than curiosities in a scientific sense rather than genuinely caring about them. She's also constantly losing the blatant War on Straw with almost any character she happens to interact with, something which is in stark contrast with her sharp intellect shown in the previous novels. Indeed, even her intelligence is called into question - at one point she concludes that she was one of the greatest thinkers of the century, because "everyone had told her so." (apparently not because she really was smart or anything).
  • Continuity Nod: There are several times when Dr. Halsey's journal, shipped with the Halo: Reach special editions, is referenced or directly quoted.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Raia, Jul's wife.
    "Let me know when you've done something decisive and manly."
    • Black-Box
    • Nearly everyone, at least Kilo-Five and some of the Spartans, deliver similar sarcastic banter at one point or the other.
  • Defusing the Tyke Bomb: Spending time with Kilo-Five soon melts off Naomi's hardened exterior, showing she's really a scarred, delicate flower in need of some genuine care. In addition, it only takes the revelation about the flash clones to turn her (and apparently the other Spartans as well) against Halsey, despite decades of incessant indoctrination and training since childhood, something that should realistically make the Spartans accept everything Halsey and the UNSC do without question, as it has been in prior fiction.
  • Didn't See That Coming: When Jul and Forze go to meet the Servants of the Abiding Truth, Jul is expecting some old monks in robes. He's surprised to see that not only are they lead by a fully armed and armored Field Master, but that they've turn their temple into a fortified bunker and fully stocked armory, with dozens of young and old Elites ready to use those weapons.
    'Telcam: I am Avu Med 'Telcam. And I have many brothers.
  • Dirty Business: Dr. Halsey, Chief Mendez, and Admiral Parangosky, though the tone of the novel seems to be more forgiving toward the latter two while focusing on Halsey's deeds.
  • Earlybird Cameo: The Spartan IVs and Infinity, which are to be major plot elements of Halo 4, receive their first mention in the story's epilogue.
  • Foreshadowing: The reason the members of Kilo-Five were chosen was the fact that they had no family — no ties to worry about if they went missing for months at a time. Toward the end, it's discovered that Naomi's father is alive.
  • Hard Head: Halsey is punched in the face by a Spartan-III supersoldier, yet does not sustain the massive injuries that one would expect from such a blow. Spartan-IIIs are described in Ghosts of Onyx as being of equal strength to Elites, snapping necks and ribs with ease.
  • Humiliation Conga / Break the Haughty: The whole novel is this for Dr. Halsey. Her former allies and coworkers turn against her, her Spartans turn against her, all of her secrets are exposed, she's detained in the middle of nowhere and officially declared dead.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: This is generally Halsey's justification for her past actions. Same for Mendez and Parangosky, though they get called out for it far less than Halsey.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: The ODSTs, particularly Vaz, are portrayed as being just about the only morally "pure" characters around (as stated by the author in an interview), though Vaz's depiction as a moral compass does become questionable when he's perfectly okay with murdering an unarmed and defenseless Halsey in cold blood without a second thought, before BB talks him out of it. Or for that matter, they don't have any qualms about betraying humanity's allies by arming the Abiding Truth, and in doing so conspiring against Lord Hood and the UNSC's proper leadership, which is unaware of Parangosky's plans.
    • One could argue Kilo-Five is Just Following Orders, but it would seem grossly hypocritical when the novel actually brings up the Nuremberg defense in relation to Halsey and the scientists involved with the SPARTAN-II project.
  • Insane Admiral: Parangosky. There's really no good reason for her to willfully override the lawful leadership of the UNSC to destabilize humanity's biggest potential allies and derail a large-scale peace process after the bloodiest war in (recorded) human history. She's paranoid, viciously vengeful, devoid of morals and utterly self-interested — what's not to like?
  • Moral Dissonance: Admiral Parangosky has sent children to die by the hundreds, mercilessly eliminated all of her opposition, and is behind most of ONI's darkest projects we don't even know about. Chief Mendez has been on board with training the aforementioned Child Soldiers for over 20 years. Kilo-Five conspires against the Arbiter behind Lord Hood's back. Yet all of them seem to have the moral high ground whenever Dr. Halsey comes up, and Halsey's actions in the SPARTAN-II project outweigh everything anyone else has done.
    • A Million Is a Statistic is apparently why Parangosky gets away with it, whereas Halsey's program (ignoring the fact it wasn't really her personal project) ends up being treated as worse because we get to see how it ruined peoples' lives when Vaz looks through Naomi's file.
  • Planet of Hats: The Elites have to get over this or they'll be in trouble.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: This trope is very much at play in Glasslands. The protagonists are shown as being morally righteous not just from their own perspective, but the entire fictional reality seems to bend to their moral views. Whenever they do something less moral (which is every so often), it's not that big a deal or it's justified as being for The Needs of the Many (or just not acknowledged at all). Meanwhile, the opposing side (Dr. Halsey) doesn't get much to say in her defense and the entire universe seems to be against her on a fundamental level.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Admiral Parangosky gives one to Catherine Halsey at the end of the book over her use of flash-cloning the SPARTAN-IIs and forcing their parents to watch them die. Although even Halsey's supporters would agree that she needed calling out, the fact that Parangosky has authorized just as horrible, if not worse, things makes it a particularly twisted form of Even Evil Has Standards at best to outright hypocritical at worst, a fact she fully acknowledges.
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens: The Servants of Abiding Truth, even by Covenant standards. Blow up an ancient, broken Forerunner spire as revenge for "abandoning" the Sangheili? We'll bomb your keep and nail you to some scaffolding.
  • Series Continuity Error:
    • It's noted that Dr. Halsey doesn't have an AI with her in the Shield World, though she had her personal AI, Jerrod, in her laptop back in Ghosts of Onyx.
    • The billions of Sentinels that were left guarding the Shield World when Onyx disintegrated at the end of Ghosts of Onyx appear to have mysteriously disappeared, as they are not brought up at any point and UNSC ships can freely move around in the debris field.
    • Admiral Parangosky mentions that the Master Chief and Cortana disappeared five months earlier, though only about two or three months had passed at that point.
    • According to Osman, the UNSC had only captured a Covenant Engineer "a couple of years back." However, the UNSC captures several Engineers in Halo: First Strike and one defects in Halo 3: ODST; both of these take place only a few months before the events of Glasslands.
    • The MJOLNIR armor is said to have "servos". However, all earlier fiction has made a point about how the lack of servo motors and their replacement with a layer of electroactive crystalline polymer is the MJOLNIR's most significant advantage over previous exoskeleton systems.
    • Halsey and Mendez get into an argument about the genetic screening involved in choosing Spartans. While Halsey was very strict when it came to genetic profiles for the Spartan IIs, Spartan-IIIs had comparatively more lax screening thanks to improved augmentations. Mendez goes on as though the IIIs had no genetic tests, while Onyx makes note that they actually had to cut down Beta Company from 1000 to 300 because they couldn't do the genetic tests necessary to bolster the numbers. Furthermore, it also outright states that having the correct genetic markers has a direct correlation with the bioaugmentation survival rates. Mendez was in fact present at the meeting where both of the above facts were discussed.
    • When Paragonsky is interrogating Halsey about the use of flash clones, she asks why she didn't just use flash clones of the children as the SPARTANs. Halsey is written to act like she intentionally never thought about that, but Halo: The Fall of Reach had explicitly stated that flash clones of full human beings were genetically unstable and would die within a few years of cloning. Supplemental media such as Halo Legends and Halo: Reach shows that Halsey was actually surprised that the clones lasted for so many years, but they were physically crippled and would have been useless as SPARTAN candidates.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Several plot threads seem to have been dropped without resolution:
    • What happened to the SPARTAN-III Gamma Company which had been deployed before the attack on Onyx?
    • The Elites have their grudges with humanity, but none of them see it necessary to mention how Admiral Whitcomb's NOVA bomb devastated one of their base worlds, killed their highest-ranking military officials and annihilated a significant portion of their fleet only a couple of months earlier, back in Ghosts of Onyx.
    • The much-touted feud between the Elites and Brutes no longer seems to matter that much, as the entire Great Schism plot seems to have been diminished into a minor scuffle that is mostly over by the time the novel is set. A lot of Brutes even serve the Elites. This is unlike its prior depictions in works such as The Return in Halo: Evolutions. Later explained when The Thursday War reveals that the Brutes on Sanghelios were biding their time to plan their own uprising against the Elites.
  • Writer on Board/Depending on the Writer: The change in writer is definitely reflected in the story. Unlike just a few months earlier in-universe, the entire UNSC seems to be against Halsey now. Additionally, characters like Mendez and Halsey have been radically altered from their previous portrayals, the Spartans seem to have forgotten their professional stoic mannerisms, and so on. It's also fairly obvious from the amount of dropped plots and the change in tone.
HaloCreator/Karen TravissHalo: The Thursday War
Halo: SilentiumScience Fiction LiteratureHalo: The Thursday War
Halo: SilentiumFranchise/HaloHalo: The Thursday War

alternative title(s): Halo Glasslands
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