Halo: The Fall of Reach (Eric Nylund)
The computer game Halo left me disappointed. The levels took some good ideas and, apparently to pad out the game, just copied-n-pasted them many times over. The resulting gameplay quickly devolved to boring repetition. The story, however, was fascinating. I joked to a friend, "I kept pressing on just to see where the story went, so I would have rather read Halo as a book."
Well, it turns out you can.
A search on Amazon turns up a whole trilogy written around Halo. The first book, The Fall of Reach is a prequel to the game. The Flood goes through the game, and First Strike apparently spans the time between Halo and Halo 2. This review covers the first book.
Now sci-fi books based on a computer game sounds like a formula for supreme badness. The Fall of Reach opens with a comic-book-hero-esque action scene which, I hoped, did not set the tone for the whole book. Indeed the next chapter hops you back in time to the characters' beginnings, and does a good job of filling out the Halo back-story.
The training and "modification" of Halo's primary character, the Master Chief, is well detailed. The moral struggle, however, is mentioned but not explored in any depth -- this is clearly an action-oriented book. Inter-character relationships are likewise kept at a superficial level. But most sci-fi isn't touchy-feely.
On the technical side, usually sci-fi's strong point, I thought The Fall of Reach came up light. William Gibson, for example, masterfully weaves descriptions of future technology into his stories, making those worlds come alive in your mind. Eric Nylund must have figured that readers had already played the game, and therefore skipped even cursory descriptions of most technologies. But if the game is our reference, his editor missed issues like stuffing seventy-something people into a Pelican dropship, which in the game only holds about ten.
These things aside, The Fall of Reach is a reasonably enjoyable read. It gets to the point and keeps the story cranking along. It's not a masterwork, even within the genre of sci-fi, but I think most people who enjoyed the Halo story would likewise enjoy this book. Just set your expectation to "a little below Harry Harrison caliber," not "William Gibson genius."