One of the best Halo novels I’ve read in a long time; maybe even my very favorite. It helps that it’s a story about one of Halo’s most likeable side characters: Sergeant Buck, originally from ODST, and now a squadmate in Halo 5. Buck is voiced and modeled by Nathan Fillion, an iconic figure to geeks everywhere and his character is basically a pitch-perfect translation of Malcolm Reynolds moved into the Halo universe. And it works perfectly.
Author Matt Forbeck either has the uncanny ability to mimic those around him, or he binged on Firefly episodes and Fillion’s other work while writing this book. You can hear Fillion’s voice in these pages and it’s excellent. The story itself is very human and focuses on the themes that make the Halo universe the most compelling: duty, identity, loyalty.
The story is told out of sequence, which is interesting as it creates a strong sense for how Buck (the main character and narrator of the story) thinks. We get a quick recap of the plotline of ODST, which is interesting, check in with some old comrades (which is interesting and also heartbreaking), and see how exactly Buck transitioned from ODST to Spartan-IV.
The best aspect of this story, however, is that it succeeds where almost all franchise tie-in novels fail: you don’t have to be a Halo fan to enjoy this book. It stands on its own; if you’ve never played a Halo game, you can still enjoy this story. It doesn’t rely on the reader having a degree in its own lore; if you’ve never played a Halo game, you’ll understand the difference between ODSTs (elite, but thoroughly human) and Spartans (human supersoldiers) and even the different classes of Spartans.
Most of all, it’s a human, character driven story. The ending, which I won’t spoil here, really did catch me off guard and caught me right in the feels. That’s a rare achievement for most books focused on space wars and future soldiers, let alone a video game novel.