So far my exposure to the Halo universe has been Spartan heavy. Each of the stories has centred around the super soldiers in one way or another and while I think they have interesting aspects, they are hardly the most riveting characters (Kurt aside). However, with them being the focus of the video games’ and being such an important part of the story, I was hesitant to read a book without them. That trepidation could not have been more wrong as Halo: Contact Harvest is a great Halo novel with some of the best characterisation so far.
Halo: Contact Harvest follows the story of humanities first contact with The Covenant. Set on an agricultural world that believes it is being targetted by insurrectionists, it explores the reasons why The Covenant are hell-bent on the destruction of the human race. Throughout the book, we spend a lot of time with Sargent Avery Johnson. Johnson played an important role in the original Halo game and the novelisation The Flood. And while his character in that story is fun, he was never fleshed out or given any space to develop. That isn’t the case in Contact Harvest as this is his story and we see him go through highs and lows and become the character we recognise.
One of my favourite aspects of any Halo novel is the time spent with The Covenant and one of its many alien species. In Contact Harvest we see a relationship between an Unggoy and a Huragok. This storyline runs parallel to everything and is one of the most touching relationships in a Halo novel. We get to see them slowly become friends, learn to communicate and share their cultures. Not only does this provide interest insight into the structure and hierarchy of The Covenant, but it also succeeds in having you care about beings that are later only there as target practice for the Master Chief and his pals. We also get to see the inner workings of Jiralhanae (Brute) culture as they interact with humans for the first time.
We also get to see some different AI’s in the vein of Cortana. And unfortunately, this is one of the weaker areas of the characterisation. I understand that they are designed as a caricature of specific personalities but Mac’s ‘old western farmer’ personality comes off as sexually aggressive towards his female AI counterpart. It’s weird and unnecessary. There’s also a moment where he saves the other AI and she then seems to ‘fall’ for him which serves to justify his behaviour. If this was the outcome they were heading for, it should have been handled differently.
One of the most important parts of this book is the revelation about why The Covenant want to destroy humanity in the first place. With so many different races and cultures absorbed into them, I’ve long been confused why they didn’t do the same with humans. And while I won’t spoil the reasons, as its interesting and tragic, I will say it gives you another new perspective on this war.
Halo: Contact Harvest is probably my new ‘first Halo book’ recommendation. It doesn’t get bogged down in trying to humanise the Spartans and while it does toe the ‘humanity are the best and nothing they do is wrong except those pesky insurrectionists line’, it provides some insight into the cause of this conflict and characters who play important roles in later stories. And for people who are fascinated by The Covenant, Contact Harvest provides further insight into this strange conglomeration of species. If you are interested in the Halo universe and find Spartans a bit boring, then this is the book for you.
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