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Literature: Halo: The Fall of Reach

The four Spartans that composed Blue Team covered his back, standing absolutely silent and immobile in their MJOLNIR combat armor. Someone had once commented that they looked like Greek war gods in the armor....but his Spartans were far more effective and ruthless than Homer's gods had ever been.

The Fall of Reach is the first novel in the Halo series, and sets up the backbone of the franchise’s history. Beginning several decades before the first game, the book explores the history of Spartan John-117 – later to become Master Chief – and his rise through the ranks in the Spartan program for the UNSC. It was written by Eric Nylund.

It is notable that the book went from initial concept to final publication in the space of four months, with Nylund writing the final draft within six weeks of beginning the project. It has been suggested by many fans that the book is a good starting point for a movie adaptation – indeed, Stuart Beattie submitted a draft script and concept art based on the book once Peter Jackson’s project fell through.

The broad story details of this book have been adopted into the main Halo canon, with the first reference being in Halo 2 and the game Halo: Reach takes place entirely on the title planet. While Halo canon has evolved significantly since the original writing (the actual Fall of Reach has been elaborated upon far more than this book ever did), the core elements of the Spartan program and the characters depicted are still vital to the mythology.


  • Abnormal Ammo: The fougasses used in the prologue to take down a wing of Banshees when they fly too low to the ground.
  • Action Girl: Any of the female Spartans, particularly Linda and Kelly.
  • Aliens Are Bastards: The Covenant.
  • All There in the Manual: The book is effectively the Origins Episode of how Master Chief became Master Chief, and establishes him as something other than a heartless Space Marine.
  • And I Must Scream: Those who wash out of the Spartan program.
    • James' death is considered to be this for the Spartans.
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: Averted. At the beginning of the book, humanity is knee-deep in a civil war with the Insurrectionists. This conflict continues to go on throughout the series.
    • Also averted within the Covenant, who have a strict caste system determined by species. Species of a higher caste rarely demonstrate anything but contempt for the Cannon Fodder Jackals and Grunts. (eg. the Hunter who tramples a Jackal because it was in the way and the Hunter couldn't be bothered to slow down or step aside.)
  • Arc Number: 117.
  • Artificial Limbs: James gets a replacement after his upper arm got vaporized by a Hunter weapon.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Chief Mendez and the trainers who put the young Spartans through their paces.
    • Also Jacob Keyes, whose "Keyes Loop" during the Battle of Sigma Octanus got him promoted to Captain.
  • Badass Crew: The Spartans.
  • Badass Normal: Mendez.
  • Bash Brothers: Every Spartan learned to trust the rest of their unit completely, and because each member received the same training they don't have to worry about any weak spots. Every time Master Chief comes across a random team of marines he worries that normal combat for them is far too much for regular soldiers.
  • Berserk Button: John accidentally sets off an ODST’s one in the gym. It doesn’t end well.
  • BFG: The Super MAC platforms.
  • Body Horror: Some of the Spartans who “wash out” gain physical deformities that turn them into this.
  • Bullet Proof Vest: The MJOLNIR armour (the one that works, that is) takes this to its logical extreme. Doesn’t stop sustained plasma fire, though.
  • Bullying a Dragon: John-117 at age fourteen accidently angered a couple of arrogant ODST troopers (he removed a pin from a weight set to test the varying gravity section in the gym). In the aftermath of the Curb-Stomp Battle, their CO encountered Mendez and realized John was one of "them."
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: Averted and played with. How much a civilization can play this trope straight is a major indicator of their general "technology level"; up until the end of the war, human slipspace travel is somewhat inconsistent, unpredictable, and crude (travel times for the same journey can vary by days, sometimes even weeks). A major advantage the Covenant have is their far faster, more accurate, and efficient slipspace travel capability.
  • Child Soldiers
  • The Chosen One: Sort of inverted, as Master Chief is, by the selection standards, completely mundane. Hasley only picks him after noticing he fights the hardest to stay on top during a game of King of the Hill and after a coin toss. Eventually, he proves himself to be the most gifted Spartan. This leads him to be chosen as leader of the Spartans and later chosen by Cortana to receive the full AI compatible Mjolnir armor.
  • Cold Sniper: Linda.
  • Continuity Nod: The pipe that Keyes has in the first Halo game is never lit. It’s explained why at the start of the book.
    • Within the book has an example with Fahjad, one of the Spartans who washed out, eventually writes a paper that then-Commander Keyes reads before the Battle of Sigma Octanus.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: How John, Kelly and Sam first become friends.
  • Determinator: Well, he is Master Chief after all...
  • 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.
  • Doomed Hometown: Reach. It’s in the title of the book.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Dr. Halsey shoots down John's assumption that killing a Prophet would end the war or at least demoralize the Covenant, instead pointing out that such a thing would enrage the Covenant enough to make them fight harder. As early as Halo 2, this line of thinking is dropped, with Cortana (who is born from Dr. Halsey's mind) recommending killing The Prophet of Regret to destabilize The Covenant, which it does
    • For that matter, the story implies that until the titular Fall of Reach, no one, not even The Chief, encountered Elites or Hunters, when later EU materials have them encounter plenty.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The book is about how the planet Reach falls to the Covenant. Pretty self-explanatory.
  • Expanded Universe: The beginning of Halo’s EU is here, as it was written concurrently with the game's development. It was actually a brilliant piece of preparation, as Halo: Combat Evolved purposefully began In Medias Res. This book gave you the details of everything not mentioned in the game.
  • Fearless Fool: Averted, as the Spartans actually feel fear, they've just been trained to acknowledge its existence and put it aside. When John-117 sees the Hunters for the first time, he has to expend a little more effort than usually in putting aside his fear.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Some of the Spartans who "wash out" qualify. Also, the Master Chief actually believes death would preferable to living without his teammates.
  • Fictional Document: The 2010 rerelease to celebrate the launch of Halo: Reach includes a series of documents and transcriptions of various other encounters.
  • Five-Man Band: The original Blue Team:
    • The Hero: John-117: Team leader, perennial badass, and protagonist of the games.
    • The Lancer: Samuel-034: John's best friend and fiercely loyal supporter right up until his death, when John reluctantly replaces him with Kurt-051.
    • The Big Girl: Linda-058: The quietest, most intimidating, and in John's opinion, the "strongest" SPARTAN.
    • The Smart Guy: Frederic-104: The everyman (at least by SPARTAN standards) and the most rational of the group.
    • The Chick: Kelly-087: John's other best friend, one of the more emotional SPARTANS, the glue that sticks the team together, and one of the only SPARTANS with a fairly active sense of humor.
  • Hot Scientist: Halsey.
  • Humans Are Bastards: This is the first of many times in Halo canon that hints are given that the UNSC is...not entirely heroic. The Spartan-II program involves kidnapping children to be used as test subjects in an experimental super-soldier program, subjecting them to a training regimen so grueling it qualifies as torture, and performing highly dangerous medical procedures on them that kill many of the subjects outright. And the kicker? When this was happening, the UNSC had no idea the Covenant existed. The original purpose of the Spartan-II program wasn't to save humanity from genocidal aliens, but to quell political dissenters, secessionists and rebels, of which there were very, very many.
  • I Like Those Odds: “Four of us,” Blue-Two whispered over the link. “And a thousand of them? Piss-poor odds for the little guys.”
  • Limb-Sensation Fascination: Midway through the book, the SPARTANs all marvel at their new Powered Armor, Samuel in particular spouting "I think I'm in love." Averted earlier with their physical augmentation. There the SPARTANs' reactions are mostly dizziness and confusion post-surgeries.
  • Made of Iron: Invoked in that the Spartans bones are reinforced with powerful metals that make them far different to stock-standard human bones. It's repeatedly mentioned that without that reinforcement they wouldn't survive piloting the Mjolnir armor.
  • A Million Is a Statistic
  • Mythology Gag: When Halsey first sees John, he's playing a game of king of the hill. During the Spartans' training they play Capture the Flag. Both of these are gametypes in the Halo games.
    • Becomes much more interesting when you consider that Halo 4 establishes that multiplayer games are supposedly a training simulator.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Cortana, in one of her bored moments, discovers that three supposedly civilian ships docked at an orbital station are actually ONI prowlers set to leave Reach for a routine intelligence gathering mission. In response to this security breach, the ONI operative in charge of the mission orders that one of the prowlers, the Circumference, have its computers isolated and registry scrambled to prevent it from being found out. So when the Covenant launch their attack less than a day later, the AI on Gamma Station cannot delete Circumference's navigation database, posing a serious risk that the Covenant capture it and find all remaining human worlds.
    • It ultimately leads to a case of Nice Job Fixing It, Villain, as the Covenant's attempt to retrieve Circumference's database is what keeps John from participating in the disastrous ground defense of Reach with most of the other Spartans, instead putting him in position to board the Pillar of Autumn after stopping them in space, leading to the events of Halo: Combat Evolved.
  • No Social Skills: John knows only three ways to interact with people: as superiors (which he obeys), teammates (which he helps), or targets (which he neutralizes). Part of the trouble with the ODST squad John has is that they could be any of those three. It's implied that the rest of the Spartans have similar problems.
  • One Steve Limit: Apparently there are no overlapping first names among the 75 Spartan trainees. Our John is the only John.
  • Powered Armor: So powerful that no normal human can use them, only the Spartans' unsurpassed physical conditioning and virtually unbreakable bones can use them. It's interesting in that any real life powered armor (or any piloted vehicle in general) has to stay within the boundaries of what the pilot/operator is physically capable of surviving. Halsey specifically tells John "You are the only ones who can use them, Petty Officer. Who else would we give them to?"
  • Pyrrhic Victory: A running theme. The Spartans always won their confrontations but almost every victory came with some sort of defeat, either a destroyed city or a glassed planet. "A death worthwhile" is almost Arc Words.
    • Chief Mendez told John that it's acceptable to spend lives to insure the success of a mission, but not waste them. The Master Chief would continue to ask himself this before a mission.
    • The Battle of Sigma Octanus ends with millions of civilians and Marines dead and a large number of UNSC ships destroyed, along with a major city on the planet's surface being nuked.
    • The Fall of Reach itself, at least for the Covenant. Out of a fleet of 300 ships, over two thirds of them are destroyed, not to mention the ground casualties.
  • Retcon: A number of things about the titular Fall of Reach was overwritten by Halo: Reach, though some of the conflicts were explained in Halsey's Journal, a booklet co-written by the same author that came with the limited edition of Halo: Reach, and six "Data Drops" released by 343 Industries.
    • In fact, a number of details were changed in the 2010 rerelease in order to make the book mesh better with later canon, as well as to simply fix internal inconsistencies. For one thing, Elites are no longer referred to as a newly encountered species when the Chief finally fights one.
      • They even had to release another edition in 2011 to change some inconsistencies that were missed by the 2010 edition.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Keyes gambled with a risky maneuver that involved dropping a nuke as effectively a hidden land mine while doing a high speed orbit of the planet outrunning a Covenant weapon and using the nuke and a Wronski Feint to take out three Covenant cruisers. It paid off and came to be known as the "Keyes Loop." Keyes comments that if anyone proposed that plan to him he would have dismissed it as something approaching Hollywood Tactics, the fact it worked was a fluke.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Samuel when making the UNSC's first decisive victory against the Covenant, and the first loss of a Spartan.
    • Linda at the end.
  • Satellite Character: Whilst it does focus on others at times, the book is pretty much Master Chief’s gig, and the plot seems to center around him centrally.
  • Straight for the Commander: Halo: The Fall of Reach: After 27 years of losing the war against the Covenant, the UNSC plans an operation to kidnap a Covenant Prophet in hopes of forcing a truce. The operation is interrupted by the Fall of Reach, but fortunately backstabbing politics within the Covenant end up killing off the Prophets for them.
  • Super Prototype: The Pillar Of Autumn was overhauled into probably the UNSC's most powerful cruiser. Deceptively old, and considering previously to have been obsolete. But when the rest of the book explains how long it takes to fire one MAC round, the Autumn was refitted to fire three consecutive shots from the same gun.
    • That's just the offensive combat abilities. The ship also includes three reactors with new technology that uses chilled ions to cool the waste heat, meaning that the more power they use, the more they cool the waste heat. And the Autumn can take one hell of a pounding.
  • Super Soldier: The majority of the book is about what is required to get the Spartans to be the ultimate soldiers. Only half passed the augmentation, 2/3rds of those who didn't "graduate" died and the others were horribly deformed. But from those who went on to be the ultimate soldiers, only a handful died during a 20 year career of constant combat.
  • Super Speed: Kelly is frequently noted as being the fastest in a group of superhumans.
  • Taking The Plasma: Sam for John. Unusually for this trope, he isn't that badly hurt; but it breached his suit so he won't survive the trip back.
    • Taken Up to Eleven at the Battle of Sigma Octanus IV, where the Cradel (a drydock) takes a plasma salvo to save the fleet. Keyes describes the fleet's returning MAC slavo as "a 21-gun salute three times over."
  • Training from Hell: Most of the book.
  • True Companions: The Spartans act like surrogate siblings very early on, enabling them to win on missions a lot more frequently from the get-go. John learns the hard way (at age 6) that winning must include his entire team, so they stay close together.
  • Underside Ride: John and his squad of saboteurs infiltrates an enemy base using this method. The gate guards were genre savvy enough to scan the underside of their vehicles with a mirror-on-a-stick. Having none of that, they brought their own mirrors to reflect an unoccupied portion of the underside back at the guards. The kicker was that this was a training exercise, and the Spartans did this when they were fifteen.
  • Victory Is Boring: For John-117 his normal life was simply too easy, he did well in school and always dominated any physical or mental activity. Mendez was the first person to really give him a challenge and he appreciated it.
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: The book features Master Chief and Cortana's first experience working together. Cortana learns quickly that MC knows how to read a battlefield just fine, he needs her to scout other options.
  • Wave Motion Gun: The MAC platforms, but more specifically the "SUPER" MAC orbital defense platforms. So powerful even the hundreds of Covenant capital ships attacking Reach stayed out of range. By the end of the battle, a vast majority of the Covenant's several-hundred capital ships in the Fleet of Particular Justice were destroyed, most of them by the mere twenty Orbital MAC platforms. To make matters worse for the Covenant, they also lost one of their few massive supercarriers, and about a dozen more of their capital ships (that followed the Pillar of Autumn to Halo-04) were destroyed in the prolonged conflict near Halo-04.
    • Note that the Super MAC guns are NOT Wave Motion Guns in the normal sense of an absurdly powerful energy weapon; rather, the guns are massively upscaled MAC guns that fire very large payloads at absurdly high velocity.
HaloScience Fiction LiteratureHalo: First Strike
Halo 5: GuardiansFranchise/HaloHalo: The Flood

alternative title(s): The Fall Of Reach
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