Follow TV Tropes


Literature / The Forerunner Saga

Go To

"ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND YEARS AGO, the galaxy was populated by a great variety of beings. But one species—eons beyond all the others in both technology and knowledge—achieved dominance. They ruled in peace but met opposition with quick and brutal effectiveness. They were the Forerunners—the keepers of the Mantle, the next stage of life in the Universe's Living Time. And then they vanished. This is their story."
Cryptum jacket description

The Forerunner Saga is a trilogy of science fiction novels by Greg Bear, set in the distant past of the Halo universe. Notably, the series is the first to focus on the life of the eponymous Forerunners and the intricacies of their civilization.

The first novel, Halo: Cryptum, was released in January 2011. The story is told as a first-person narrative, from the perspective of Bornstellar Makes Eternal Lasting, a rebellious young Forerunner fed up with the social rules of Forerunner society. He is sent to a remote mining colony called Edom by his father to learn discipline, but instead he gets caught up in an adventure involving Ancient Conspiracy, Sealed Evil in a Can and Lost Superweapons.

The second novel, Halo: Primordium, was released in January 2012. It covers the adventures of Chakas, a human introduced in the first novel, as he and a select few others journey across Halo Installation 07, seeking to find a way to escape and survive while also avoiding a malevolent entity's grasp, all the while discovering things about the virulent entity known as the Flood.

The third and final novel, Halo: Silentium, was released March 2013. It is presented as a series of Forerunner logs detailing the final days of their civilization.


  • Abusive Precursors: The Forerunners are revealed to have been this. While previous canon and the Covenant religion made them seem like benevolent protectors who martyred themselves to save the galaxy, Cryptum reveals that they had a highly prejudiced society and ran an empire that deliberately kept other species at low pre-industrial levels (though a few of them were actually Benevolent Precursors, mainly Lifeworkers).
    • It's revealed in Primordium that the Precursors created the Flood to be a last ditch "fuck you" to the Forerunners, their rebellious servants.
      • Silentium shows that the Precursors intended the Flood to keep down all life in a state of misery and slavery so that no one could overtake them again.
  • Adaptive Armor: The Forerunners wear extremely advanced suits of armor most of the time. These eliminate the need to sleep, indefinitely prolong the wearer's lifespan, offer first aid in case of an emergency, give access to near-unlimited data banks, etc. Also, a fully functional suit of armor can be built on just about anybody, as demonstrated by Chakas and Riser.
  • The Ageless: The armor Forerunners use effectively stops aging, apparently allowing them to live virtually forever.
  • Age Without Youth: In a Cryptum, a Forerunner's body will still age, becoming practically mummified. Fortunately, there is a procedure to restore the body to the point when they entered the Cryptum.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: It was already known prior to the novel, but the Forerunner AI Mendicant Bias turns against his former masters and assaults the Forerunner capital.
  • Alien Hair: The Forerunners are said to have fur covering at least part of their bodies.
  • Ancient Astronauts: Just about everyone. The Precursors, who had a hand in the evolution of both humans and Forerunners, the Forerunners themselves, and the ancient humans who had a spacefaring civilization.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Not exactly apocalyptic, but the ONI transcripts sprinkled throughout Primordium culminate with 343 Guilty Spark taking control of their vessel, sticking the crew in stasis, and taking off to parts unknown to seek the Librarian ... Renegades confirms the ship crashed shortly afterwards, Spark being the only survivor.
  • Batman Gambit: The Librarian's plan to reunite with her husband involved millennial genetic commands given to humans, a self-constructing ship hidden under a mountain, manipulating multiple Forerunner officials, etc.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: The humans and San 'Shyuum resisting the Forerunner siege of Charum Hakkor during the Forerunner-human war kill themselves rather than surrender. This mass suicide could also be seen as the last act of defiance to make sure the secrets to combat the Flood die with them.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Forerunner civilization is all but wiped out at the Greater Ark, the Librarian is forced to imprison the Ur-Didact in Requiem, Chakas is forced to be uploaded into a Monitor and becomes 343 Guilty Spark, and the Domain is feared lost forever with the activation of the Halo Array. However, the races indexed by the Conservation Measure survive to repopulate the galaxy, something of the Domain does survive into Halo 4, humans and Forerunners are able to stand as friends, and Riser is able to say goodbye to the Bornstellar-Didact.
  • Call-Forward: Lots, such as personal Ancillas being described as a "blue woman in my armor" (clearly recalling Cortana) and with the San 'Shyuum having their leaders in wheelchairs and wearing "ridiculous crowns" (recalling the gravity thrones and mantles of the Covenant Prophets). The description of the Deep Reverence (the vessel used by the Confirmer to guard the San 'Shyuum) sounds like a description of High Charity.
  • Came Back Wrong : The Flood originated from the highly versatile cells of Precursors being damaged due to being in stasis for eons.
  • Catapult Nightmare: This happens to Bornstellar not long after his brevet mutation, thought it's more of a Catapult Revelation than an actual nightmare.
  • Crapsaccharine World: At first, the Forerunners appear to be a Perfect Pacifist People, but on closer inspection, their society was actually full of corruption and hypocrisy.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: Despite their lack of togas, the Forerunners definitely qualify, with their love of crystals and gigantic spires. The description of their culture given in the novel reinforces this.
  • Eternal English: Averted (though not with English because none of the species involved speak it). The Forerunners use many different languages (only two or three are given any detail, however) and many, many more have been lost over their ten million year history.
  • Evolutionary Levels: Humanity was apparently "devolved" by the Forerunners from its former state; though the precise nature of the "devolution" is not specified, it's said to be biological.
  • Existential Horror: Reaches this for the Forerunners: The gods they believed so favored by that they were deemed The Chosen People in truth considered the Forerunners an inadequate defective failure of an experiment worthy only to be wiped away. And in the mere act of survival, their gods were driven mad, to return as the hideous plague known as The Flood. And the only way to best make up for their crime of survival is to commit galactic genocide, hoping the few planets they could preserve might flourish eventually once more. It's no wonder the entire Forerunner race essentially decides to go extinct.
  • Fantastic Caste System: The Forerunner have this.
  • Final Battle: And what a battle it is. Involves planet-sized megastructures and starships, making it by far the largest-scale battle scene in the series.
  • Forerunner Warriors Get No Respect: Warriors are a pretty low caste in the society, as they have an ideal of nonviolence. This doesn't stop the Warrior caste from repeatedly saving the citizens' collective ass almost every time it's threatened.
    Bornstellar: Skill at war, however necessary at times, had always seemed to be the antithesis of my people's primary philosophy.
  • Four-Star Badass: The Didact. Bornstellar, too, when he basically becomes the Didact. The Lord of Admirals.
  • Genocide Backfire: The Precursors would create species but destroy them if they didn't live up to their expectations. Their last attempt to do so with the Forerunners ended up badly for them.
    • The Forerunners also get hit with this. The Flood are actually the Precursors who transformed themselves into powder, and later regenerated and mutated into the Flood, and they are out for vengeance against the Forerunners.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: Heavily implied with the Confirmer. Halo really loves this trope.
    • Cryptums are intended to potentially invert this trope: The occupant is allowed to meditate in quiet and peace, connected to the wellspring of living knowledge/memory that is the Domain, providing an opportunity at rehabilitation for the guilty or unstable. Without the Domain, however, the individual is forced to "stew in their own juices" with only their own thoughts (and whatever darkness found therein) to dwell on in endless loops.
    • The Ur-Didact is unintentionally doomed to suffer this when the Halos wipe away the Domain, his madness and rage festering for 100,000 years.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Humans who questioned the Prisoner about the Flood were so horrified by its answer that many of them killed themselves rather than live with the knowledge. The rest locked it up, and forbade anyone from even talking to it.
    • The Ur-Didact talking to it, and learning the truth, is similarly implied to be his Start of Darkness. A Mind Rape from the Gravemind then finally pushed him over the edge.
  • Hard Light: Used to a great degree, much more so than in the games.
  • Higher-Tech Species: The Forerunners, ancient humanity, ancient San' Shyuum and especially the Precursors.
  • Hobbits: The Florians, or Chamanune as they call themselves, are a humble folk of diminutive hominids with a love for the simple pleasures in life and a general disinterest in the goings-on of the larger galaxy. Though their portrayal shares some commonalities with fantasy hobbits, the Florians are directly based on a real human species that used to exist, Homo floresiensis, who are actually nicknamed "hobbits" in real life.
  • Humans Are Special: Prehistoric humanity was able to defeat the Flood, understand Precursor technology, and were pretty evenly matched with the Forerunners, only defeated because they were forced to fight a two-front war.
    • ... though, in Primordium, the Captive basically says outright that the Flood can choose to infect or not.
    • The Librarian believes this, leading to her preferential treatment of the various human subspecies after their empire's downfall.
    • Silentium confirms that the Precursors believed humanity to be worthy of inheriting the Mantle over the Forerunners. In other words, humans had achieved the potential the Precursors had long sought. Of course, their thoughts on this have likely changed since their defeat by the Forerunners.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Pretty much how the Forerunners view the humans by the events of Cryptum, and for a reason. The ancient humans conquered several Forerunner worlds, though this was an act of desperation as the humans were on the run from the Flood that ravaged many of the worlds on the other side of their empire. Many of the Forerunner worlds that humanity destroyed were also infected by the Flood. Humanity was trying to stop it.
  • Humans Are Warriors: Even the Didact seems to have a little respect for the humans' tenacity in battle.
  • Humongous Mecha: The Didact's War Sphinxes.
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: Cryptum depicts Slipspace as being even more foreign to the physics of the real universe than before. This is particularly apparent when Bornstellar and co. travel to the Ark through the damaged portal near the end.
  • I Know Your True Name: Bornstellar's "inner Didact" uses Mendicant Bias' true name to briefly stun it towards the end of Cryptum, allowing him to escape.
    • At the end of Primordium, when the Didact arrives and frees Installation 07 from Mendicant Bias' control, the name seems to have more power, as it completely shuts Mendicant Bias down.
  • Insignificant Little Blue Planet: "This station was located on the system's third planet, known as Erde-Tyrene: a forsaken place, obscure, sequestered, and both the origin and final repository of the last of a degraded species called human."
  • King in the Mountain: The Didact was in suspended animation in his Cryptum for a thousand years.
  • Lost Technology: The Forerunner can't travel outside of the galaxy on a regular basis because a Slipspace drive jumping that distance would cease all travel and communication in the galaxy due to the reconcilations that space-time must make after any warp travel takes place. When the Librarian finds an entire Forerunner fleet in Path-Kethona, the Greater Magellenic Cloud and home of the Precursors, she realizes that they once had technology that didn't suffer from that handicap. She also notes that the Veil placed over the system is at at an angle that modern Forerunner tech could not produce.
  • Meaningful Name: Most Forerunner names seem to have a meaning of some kind. Riser, or Day-Chaser Makes Paths Long-stretch Morning Riser also qualifies as their tribe's genetic command was to build paths of rocks to eventually avoid the traps surrounding the Didact's cryptum.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: As much as both species like to pretend they have the moral high-ground when it comes to their opposite number, it is constantly pointed out that Forerunners and humans can be equally as petty, monstrous and all around assholes as each other.
  • Power Crystal: Forerunner slipspace drives are powered by flakes of a larger crystal.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Forerunner Warrior-Servants, especially the Didact.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: This seem to be a major theme of Halo series.
    • The humans and the San’Shyuum successfully pushed the Flood out of the galaxy but their empire was too exhausted to resist the Forerunners' assaults.
    • With the fall of the human-San’Shyuum empire, Forerunners destroyed the last obstacle on the road to galactic domination but their enemy, in last act of defiance, destroyed most of the data about Flood to make sure Forerunners would be wide open to the Flood.
  • Puny Earthlings: Humans aren't held in a particularly high regard by the time Cryptum is set.
  • Rebellious Spirit: Bornstellar Makes Eternal Lasting in the beginning.
  • Rubber-Forehead Aliens: The Forerunners: while their form changes with artificially-induced mutations, "first-form" Forerunners look very close to humans, only with patches of fur.
    • Subversion with the Precursors. The Prisoner of Charum Hakkor was described as having four arms, a head tail, and insectoid eyes.
  • Space Opera: Even more so than the games or the previous novels.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: The Precursors and the Forerunners to a lesser degree.
  • The Battlestar: Forerunner Fortress warships are around 50 km long and carry not only fighters, but also smaller warships inside.
  • The Reveal: The very nature and setting of the story makes these commonplace. Though some big ones are dropped near the beginning rather casually with little drama surrounding them, there are many universe-changing ones.
    • A particularly big one is in the very end of Cryptum is the Prisoner of Charum Hakkor's message to the Didact: "We meet again, young one. I am the last of those who gave you breath and shape and form, millions of years ago. I am the last of those your kind rose up against and ruthlessly destroyed. I am the last Precursor. And our answer is at hand."
    • Primordium reveals that, apparently, Chakas became 343 Guilty Spark. Also, the Forerunners did wipe out the Precursors, but the Precursors struck first.
    • The end of Primordium hints that the Librarian may still be alive in some form.
      • Subverted in Silentium which reveals she was on Earth up until the moment the Halo Array was fired with no way off as she purposely stranded herself meaning she was almost certainly killed by the Halo pulse. This means the Lifeshaper 343 Guilty Spark went looking for at the end of Primordium is someone else and not the Librarian. Renegades elaborates that it's merely a personality imprint of her located under Mount Kilimanjaro.
    • Silentium reveals that the Domain is a Precursor. And it's pissed. The Gravemind claims that by activating the Halo Array will destroy the Domain, but something of it survives into Halo 4.
      • The Domain survived after it was repaired by the Isodidact and other Forerunners a century after being damaged by the Array firing. However it appears that all the knowledge it contained has been lost as a result of the Halos' firing.
    • Silentium reveals the Precursors are incomprehensible Eldritch Abominations who can asume any form they see fit,(both physical and incorporeal) their current form is the Flood and are potentially responsible for the creation and evolution of all known life in the universe and potentially created the universe itself.
  • Translation Convention: This is actually explained in the beginning of the book, where all terms and idioms are said to have been translated to understandable words.
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: The Ancillas used by the Forerunners.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: It's explicitly stated early on in Cryptum that the higher Forerunner ruling classes married mostly for a combination of political and social reasons whereas the lower classes married for love.
  • Worthy Opponent: How the Didact viewed the human race as a whole, and the Lord of Admirals in particular.
  • Written by the Winners: Even the young generation of Forerunners don't know their true history let alone modern civilizations.