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Literature / Halo: Silentium

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Halo: Silentium is the third novel in The Forerunner Saga set in the Halo universe, published in 2013. It follows the Catalog, a Forerunner of the Juridical rate made up of many "evidence-gathering agents", as he receives testimonies from the Librarian, the IsoDidact, and the Ur-Didact, while the Forerunners wage all-out war on the Flood and prepare for the inevitable activation of the Halo Array.

A forty minute narrative read by Greg Bear entitled "Rebirth" acts as an epilogue, and can be found here.

Contains Examples Of:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot:
    • The Domain appears to be coming alive... and it is not happy. Subverted. All this time it was actually a Precursor construct.
    • The Flood use something referred to as the "logic plague", which is capable of converting almost every AI to their cause via an endless stream of logical arguments that eventually overwhelms the AI and convinces it that the Flood is right. Only a few notable AI avoid this.
  • And I Must Scream / Go Mad from the Isolation: When the Librarian sealed her husband in Requiem, she expected he'd at least still have access to the Domain. But the Halos unexpectedly destroyed it, resulting in him being alone inside his Cryptum for over a hundred millennia. Rather than dreaming in the Domain and eventually coming to repentance, he spent all that time meditating in his own xenophobia and hatred.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The whole book, really, but especially the parts not attributed to particular characters.
    The logic plague is now pandemic. It is no longer limited to direct Gravemind communication
    ...estimated two out of three remaining battle fleets destroyed or parasitized
    ...Catalog is NOT IMMUNE to the Flood/Gravemind logic plague. There is peace in subjugation
  • Back from the Dead: Both the Ur-Didact and Faber were thought to be dead, but are back for the war.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The Senior Juridical in the opening chapter. He asks for forbidden information in the Domain. The Domain eventually grants a "testimony"... and whatever it shows him overwhelms him.
  • Bittersweet Ending / Doomed by Canon: It's been known since the beginning of the Halo canon that the Forerunners are rendered extinct by their defeat of the Flood. But this book brings light to the specifics, namely: The Greater Ark sheltering most of the last Forerunners is completely destroyed, the Ur-Didact is driven mad by the Gravemind and imprisoned by his wife, the Librarian herself is left on Earth as the Halos are fired, and Guilty Spark listens as communications across the galaxy - including an undiscovered (read: not indexed by the Librarian) alien civilization that has just begun transmitting messages into space - go silent. However, the Librarian's indexed populations on the Lesser Ark are preserved and reseeded, including Riser and Vinnerva, and humans and the few surviving Forerunners are able to stand with each other as friends, with Riser getting to say goodbye to the IsoDidact.
  • Blatant Lies: Pretty much half of Faber's testimony. Besides denying anything having to do with dropping the Ur-Didact and company in the Burn, he also claims to have done much to combat the Flood with his forces; the Master Juridical mentions their rate of defeat and retreat was five times greater than that of nearby Forerunner forces.
  • Call-Forward: In Halo: Combat Evolved, Guilty Spark mentions that someone asked him if he would fire the rings. In Silentium, we actually hear the IsoDidact ask that question.
  • Came Back Wrong: The Flood are the remains of Precursors made aberrant by being subjected to a Time Abyss.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: It's safe to say that Silentium finally has Halo cross this line. The sheer impossible might of the Precursors is truly a sight to imagine, and the devastation they bring by merely passing through a system unparalleled (the page image for this trope is actually very similar to what Precursor star roads do to planets). They even throw in some nice mind rape simply by talking to you. Add in being older than the universe several times over, and it makes one wonder just what hope in high heaven any of us mere mortals have in future stories.
    • Heck some Precursor artefacts invoke this trope such as "anchors" they left behind. These were large, anomalous masses which released no radiation and were regarded as unstable and dangerous with the Forerunners had recorded strange phenomena near the masses, including ships vanishing and surviving crews suffering severe mental trauma, requiring extensive proto-geometric therapy to restore their minds' neural topology to its normal state. They and the place they lead to sound like something straight out of H.P. Lovecraft.
    • Specifically, It's shown that the Neural Physics that the Precursors employed is now being used to change spacetime itself, and Forerunners commented that the very stars, formerly a source of wonder, now seem oppressive and hateful towards them. It's implied that if the flood had won, the universe would have become a very literal hell, knowing only suffering.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Any battle involving the indestructible, massive Precursor star roads. Of particular note, the Battle of Kan Pakko begins with a Forerunner fleet obstructed from using slipspace, unable to use their weapons, their ships' shields disabled, and facing off against star roads and thousands of Flood ships.
    • The whole Flood War, essentially. The strings that make up much of the novel's midpoint paint a picture of what is less a war, more the methodical dissection of the Forerunner Ecumene.
  • Doomed by Canon: The Halos will be fired. The Forerunners and the Flood will both be wiped out. The Ur-Didact will become a Well-Intentioned Extremist and be sealed inside Requiem.
  • Dirty Business/I Did What I Had to Do: As the Iso-Didact prepares to fire the Halos:
    Didact: Forgive us.
  • Dystopia Justifies the Means: The Precursors have decided that this time, no one will inherit the Mantle; instead they will merely wipe out anyone who resists and enslave the rest. Their perfect world will be one where the Precursors can create and destroy as they wish.
    Our urge to create is immutable; we must create. But the beings we create shall never again reach out in strength against us. All that is created will suffer. All will be born in suffering, endless greyness shall be their lot. All creation will tailor to failure and pain, and never again shall the offspring of the eternal Fount rise up against their creators. No more will. No more freedom. Nothing new but agonizing death and never good shall come of it. We are the last of those who gave you breath and shape and form, millions of years ago. We are the last of those your kind defied and ruthlessly destroyed. We are the last Precursors. And now we are legion.
    • The Librarian realizes when she arrives at Requiem that the Gravemind's Mind Rape of her husband has made him adopt the same mentality. Endurance-Of-Will undergoes a Heel–Face Turn when the Librarian makes her realize that his plan to wipe out and/or enslave any potential threat to the Forerunners is identical to the Timeless One's plot to control all non-Precursor life.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: In the end, after both races have faced mutual loss due to the Flood, Forerunners and humans are able to come together in peace and something resembling friendship.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: The Librarian mentions several past incidents of finding sentient, primitive species, often only the size of ones hands, whose entire lives are spent under thick shells of ice on frigid worlds. Each time, the Forerunners would breach the ice, allowing the scuttlers their first glance at the outside world... at which point they would panic, retreat, seal the breaches, and utterly wipe any memory or record of the incident from their history. The Librarian reflects on the potential wisdom of their actions.
    • The Ur-Didact, when the Gravemind fully reveals the nature of the precursors, itself, and the Flood drives him insane while also turning him into the Flood's puppet, subtly causing him to act just like the Flood on the 'enslaving anything that could be a threat' front. He's vaguely aware of what has happened to him, but is no longer capable of caring or willingly changing back.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: The mythical Organon that Forerunner treasure hunters believed could activate all Precursor artifacts turns out to have been the Domain.
  • Hope Spot: One chapter (String) consists of five "fragments" called "Battle Tactics of the Warrior Circle". The first fragment describes a masterful strategy used by the Forerunner commander Falchion to combat overwhelming Flood forces. The whole battle proceeds entirely in the Forerunners' favor ... then the last paragraph mentions that the key last step to the strategy cannot be carried out due to key Forerunner AI being converted to the Flood cause. The next four fragments describe how despite such strategies, all but a few Forerunner worlds are overrun, a "pandemic" is spreading through all AI causing them to defect, only one Forerunner fleet is left, and finally, the network used to record this information itself is becoming infected by the Flood.
  • Hypocrite: The Catalog interviewing the Librarian and the IsoDidact was formerly a Warrior-Servant, and the IsoDidact is surprised that he would abandon his rate. Catalog notes that this is hypocritical as the IsoDidact is Bornstellar Makes Eternal Lasting, a Builder by birth.
  • Love Triangle: When she arrives on Requiem, the Librarian is greeted by Endurance-of-Will, a female Warrior-Servant that once had a relationship with the Ur-Didact. She notes that his feelings for Endurance never went away entirely after the two of them were married, leading to her offering him the chance to leave their union and be with her if he so chose, which he never took. (Curiously, there's nothing unusual noted about the Master Builder having multiple wives, though it seems likely that those were political, rather than romantic, marriages.)
    • Aversion in that, although the two Didacts both love the Librarian, the Librarian mentions the only complication in them both being her husband is that they are in effect the same person. Forerunner marital practices appear to be very complicated.
  • Meaningful Echo: According to Endurance, the Ur-Didact intended that "never again would [the galaxy] rise up against Forerunners", a phrase eerily similar to the Precursor's promise that they would never again be the subject of rebellion by their creations.
  • The Mentor: Bitterness-of-the-Vanquished, an ancient female Forerunner who was Didact's predecessor and his main teacher, plays a role in the war.
  • Mind Rape: Contact with the Gravemind is what changes the Ur-Didact from a benevolent warrior into a genocidal monster bent on enslaving all non-Forerunners in the galaxy
    • Some Precursor artefacts can result in this trope as Forerunners found out over the years with them finding and investigating Precursor "anchors" — large, anomalous masses in space which led to ships vanishing and surviving crews suffering severe mental trauma, requiring extensive proto-geometric therapy to restore their minds' neural topology to its normal state.planes.
    • It's somewhat implied that this is just the nature of being exposed to the Gravemind directly— It's utter malice and desire to corrupt is absolute. the Logic plague is transmitted through memes and complex information encoded in everything it says, and it's likewise implied that the same goes for any communication it has with organic life, too.
    • When the Ur-Didact outright refuses to describe the specifics of his Mind Rape to the Catalog deposing him, the Catalog administers Truth Serum and compels him to continue speaking... effectively Mind Raping him again.
  • Oh, Crap!: This is the Librarian's reaction when she learns that the Domain is a Precursor creation, which means that it will be destroyed by Halo; not only does this mean that the Forerunners' legacy will be mostly lost, but this also ruins her plan for the Ur-Didact's meditation (see Go Mad from the Isolation above).
  • One-Winged Angel: Precursors are discovered to be able to take a multitude of forms, "flesh and spirit, primitive and advanced", of which the Flood is only the latest.
  • No Endor Holocaust: Averted. The firing of the Halo Array would result in dead bodies all over the galaxy, and that would risk poisoning ecosystems. To avert this, the Lifeworkers have seeded the atmospheres of targeted planets with solute, which causes corpses to instantly disintegrate.
  • The Reveal:
    • The powder found by humanity that mutated into the Flood was mummified Precursors.
    • The Domain is the mythical Organon that could activate all Precursor artifacts.
    • The Ur-Didact is the Didact that was sealed inside Requiem. His plan to subjugate the galaxy via the Composer in Halo 4 was inspired by the Gravemind subjecting him to Mind Rape to put him into the same mentality as the Flood/Precursors, and fostered even further with a big case of Go Mad from the Isolation. Furthermore, due to the logic plague, his justification that Artificial Intelligence is The Immune to infection is actually a case of Believing Their Own Lies.
  • Riding into the Sunset: Riser watches as Bornstellar, and Forerunners as a whole, do this, departing Earth never to return.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: As it turns out, the whole Flood war is this for the Precursors in retaliation for their genocide by the Forerunners.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Alien: The Precursors were much more powerful and ancient than anyone believed, with their stellar engineering devices still perfectly intact 10 million years later and able to provide pivotal help to their deformed descendants, the Flood in their war against the Forerunner.
    • They were even greater than that; The precursors describe themselves as post-sentient: Their species has died out and re-evolved countless times in entirely different forms, from biological to machine to pure information. War and joy and pain and liberation are all wonderful to them, adding to the 'sweetness' of living. This bites them in the ass, as their perspective is so entirely alien that the betrayal of the Forerunners drives them completely insane. When the Flood occurs due to a freak accident meant to cause the Precursors to be reborn, the now insane precursors instead embrace it and become part of it— the ultimate plague that will infect all life, corrupt all information, and ensure that nothing will ever be able to rise and challenge it.
  • Time Abyss: The Precursors are certainly this. We knew they were really old, but how old? The Domain is their creation, and contains the sum total of Precursor knowledge (and consciousness) over 100 BILLION YEARS! They were around before the Universe existed!
    • The Forerunners themselves are this, to a lesser extent. They existed in a hyper-advanced technological state more than ten million years ago, not to mention however many thousands of years it took for their species to evolve and develop technology for the first time.
  • Title Drop: 343 Guilty Spark drops it at the end, describing the state of stillness and death that lies over the galaxy after the Halos fire.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The Ur-Didact's opinion of the leading Forerunners' decision to use strategies proven ineffective thousands of years before he was born to fight the Flood.
  • Wham Episode: Artificial Intelligence is not immune to the Flood as previously thought. Also, the Flood and the powder that makes the Flood? Precursors.
  • Wham Line: Somewhat shockingly by the Librarian, guardian of all life in the galaxy, regarding her beloved husband who now threatens her beloved specimens:
    Librarian: " Tell the Sentinels to kill him!"
  • What Other Galaxies?: The Precursors claim to be hundreds of billions of years old, far older than the universe. Why they remained in the same galaxy to be wiped by the Forerunner is anyone's guess.
  • World's Most Beautiful Woman: Catalog is awed by the Librarian's beauty, but notes that physically her face does have flaws and she is not perfect in appearance. Rather it's more of a spiritual beauty emanating from her.