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Talkingship – Video Games, Movies, Music & Laughs | April 17, 2014

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A Quick Review, Halo: Primordium

The saga continues…

Halo: Primordium is the second release from the author Greg Bear set in the Halo universe. This series of novels known as the Forerunner Saga, gives us an insight into the fall of the mysterious beings that created the halos and more importantly, tells us who the frack was the Didact and Librarian (these names first appear on the terminals in Halo 3).

In the first book, Halo: Cryptum, we are introduced to ‘Bornstellar Makes Eternal Lasting’ (yes, that is a name), a young rebellious Forerunner who’s only interest is to find old lost treasures left behind by the all-powerful ‘Precursors’, a race predating the Forerunners and a race that was responsible for all life in the galaxy. The only problem was they also destroyed all that life and this cycle of creation and destruction has been on-going for some time until, the Forerunners decided they wouldn’t go without a fight and wiped out the Precursors, except for one, as we find out at the end of Cryptum.

We follow Bornstellar’s adventure who is accompanied by two unusual characters (Chakas and Riser), he is led to a cryptum on the planet of Erde-Tyrene (aka Earth) where he resurrects the Didact. Chaos ensues.

Before I continue I would like to just say I am a massive Halo fan. I own all the novels, art books, graphic novels, strategy guides and games (collector’s editions if available of course) and have recently received my prized possession ‘The Art of Building Worlds’ limited edition where only 1,000 copies have been printed and include four lithographs signed by the artists themselves.

Primordium

In Cryptum we follow the events through Bornstellar’s perspective but in Primordium we are thrown into the mind of the human, Chakas. After the events that take place in Cryptum he finds himself marooned on a halo, battered and bruised. His little human friend Riser’s status is unknown, so he decides to go for a long, long walk in search of his friend.

Chakas is not alone in his search though. After he wakes from the crash landing, he is cared for by a female named Vinnevra and they decide to leave the small settlement full of grouchy men in search of an old man, Gamelpar who was exiled from the settlement and presumed dead. After some babbling between Chakas and Gamelpar the three of them go for a wander. This is where I had a problem with the book.

The journey they take pretty much takes up half the novel and found myself sighing that nothing seemed to be happening. It felt that I was reading a boring version of ‘Lord of the Rings’ where we just experience Samwise and Frodo walking around endlessly from place to place. The surroundings felt over described and the characters underdeveloped. To try and keep you from falling asleep, obstacles were thrown in at regular intervals, an impassable forest, a halo wide sea and a ditch. The forest just made me laugh out loud as the spaces between the tree trunks were filled with thorns and amazingly and conveniently the thorns parted leaving just enough time for the travellers to pass before they re-emerged. If I missed the explanation to this while reading this part of the book please let me know in the comments.

Periodically we are reminded that this story is being told to ONI personnel by a Forerunner ancilla (artificial intelligence) and this ancilla used to be Chakas. Even the ONI staff are becoming impatient by the story being told by Chakas so it seems that the writer knew what he was doing, pissing me off. As I made my way deeper into the book I became suspicious about this ancilla Chakas and at the end my suspicions were correct but I’m not here to spoil it for you.

It’s not until we get to the last 90 pages or so that anything interesting happens and a novel at 380 pages long that is simply not good enough. I was force-fed a lot of  information in this section which could  have been more evenly digested throughout the novel but as the story is written in the first person we have to stay with Chakas. This was supposed to be a saga about the Forerunners and not ‘There and back again, a human’s tale set on a halo with a female he doesn’t care about and a decrepit old man’. I felt like I had just seen another mid-season episode of ‘Terra Nova’ where I’m bored out of my skin the whole episode until I’m given a morsel of important plot at the end so that I watch the next episode. And of course I will read the final instalment in the Forerunner saga and anything else that 343 Industries decides to release because I love Halo.

This is the first book released based on the Halo universe that I didn’t enjoy and it gets a sorry 4/10 from me.

The only way is up, baby!

  • MarksmanShrimp

    A very interesting review, as these Forerunner Sage books are the only ones I don’t own and thusly haven’t read.

  • http://Talkingship.com Cobberwebb

    It may not be clear, but I did like Cryptum so don’t let this put you off. I’m still very much looking forward to the final installment.

  • Charlie

    I agree with this review completely, and unfortunately this book did remind me of Cryptum in that nothing big really happens until the end. Cryptum had a lot of endless walking around, pointless conversation and tasks; like filler to reach a page quota. I read another of Bear’s books, ‘Hull Zero Three’ and it was almost identical in structure. Mostly walking and talking until the very end. Its kind of depressing but his writing style consists of such that one may read a sentence or two from each page in the middle of the book and have a complete understanding of whats happenning, and miss very little. This is literally what I did for about a dozen chapters in the mid section.
    Also, there are some things that don’t line up anymore with Halo-game stuff… Didact, Mendicant Bias, 343, which irritated me. Plus the relevation of the Primordium/Prisoner was not appreciated… Kind of killed the most intrigueing part of the last book…

  • http://Talkingship.com Cobberwebb

    That’s what pissed me off the most Charlie, the fact we were left with a great cliff hanger in Cryptum and this comes along and practically avoids the Precursor. I think Cryptum kept me interested because there were characters to read about unlike Primordium.

  • Luchent

    i could not agree more with both of you. i am on page 172 and really having a hard time staying focused on it. i read cryptum in 1 night and have found that i need t put this book down because i am board to tears. every time you think somthing good might happen they just walk somewhere els. it kind makes me want to scream at someone. i am looking foward to the third book but if it is anything like this one i dont think i will be able to take it. i need to know more about the precursor and the only thing they will do is go away from it. lol. i needed to rant about this a bit thanks for the review. :)