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Halo: Ghosts Of Onyx audio book by Eric Nyland

01/04/2009. Contributed by Rod MacDonald

Buy Halo: Ghosts Of Onyx in the USA - or Buy Halo: Ghosts Of Onyx in the UK

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pub: Macmillan Audio. 9 CDs,11 hours. Price: $29.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-59397-983-6. Read by Jonathan Davis.

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Just like the 'Halo' computer game, this is fast and furious! There is no shortage of action and excitement in this well narrated audio book, which is what you would expect from anything to do with 'Halo'. A word of warning: Don't listen to this at bedtime otherwise you'll never get to sleep!

This is the fourth novel in the 'Halo' series and the third to be written by Eric Nyland. If you know the computer game or the books you will be familiar with the setting. In the 25th century, an expanding Earth Empire in space has come into conflict with an idiosyncratic and aggressive alien collective called The Covenant. Ever since the first meeting with these aliens in 'Contact Harvest', the war has become a grim battle for survival.

There are no niceties in this war, no treaties, no agreements, conventions and certainly no mercy. It's a matter of kill before you are killed and to make matters worse, the forces from the United Nations Space Command must also deal with separatist terrorists equally as ruthless as the Covenant aliens.

The Covenant has an edge on technology and in order to counter-act this, Earth has produced soldiers called Spartans. Like the warriors from ancient Greece, they have been professionally trained. Trouble is, there are not enough of them and the casualty rate is very high. In order to re-dress this balance, more advanced versions of the soldiers are produced; enhanced biologically and physically they are the best that the Earth can offer. Well, almost the best because as soon as you produce one model the next design is waiting in the wings.

In order to make this change, new soldiers designated as Spartan 3s are being trained on a world named Onyx. In charge of the training programme are Kurt and Mendez, old soldiers despite their relative youth, who find problems with the basic design. Though illegal, they instigate changes to the soldiers which will make them better able to survive combat. Unfortunately, Onyx is not all it seems. Apparently, this planet once belonged to the Forerunner.

This is where the story gets a bit more complex. The Forerunner were once a powerful race which controlled a large part of the galaxy. One has to remember that in the galaxy which is maybe 10,000 million years old, civilisations will have come and gone at regular intervals. Nothing lasts forever, a poignant thought when considering our own little world! It so happens that the Covenant revere the Forerunner as gods and will do anything to get their hands on archaeological artefacts belonging to this ancient race. This is the reason they came into conflict with humans.

Incidentally, Halo as in the title of the series refers to something similar to a Dyson Sphere. Essentially this captures all the energy given out by a star and, as such, it can also become a very effective weapon or a shield for that matter. Neither Earth nor the Covenant have the capabilities of constructing a Halo but the Forerunner once did and the evidence of their work remains.

The ancient civilisation had enemies of a deadly nature but despite this the reason for the Forerunner's disappearance remains a mystery. Earth forces must now combat robots or sentinels which still exist on the world of Onyx. When undertaking training missions, Spartans are annihilated and Kurt realises that he is up against something quite sinister and deadly. He is joined by one of the Spartan's creator, Dr. Catherine Halsey, plus other Spartan soldiers. Of course, the Covenant show an interest and are soon on the scene.

More Earth forces arrive and the battle ensues. However, the fighting is also between these forces and the sentinel robots. On the planet, the remaining few Earth personnel go into the heart of the Halo. The ending is rather unusual in some respects and not exactly as anticipated, leaving the way open for another story in the series.

The eleven hours of this audio book seemed to whizz by, such is its pace and excitement. Enthusiastically narrated, the listener is taken straight to the action and is immersed in it totally.

Although based on a video game, which I believe it faithfully represents, there is definitely no requirement to be a video game player to enjoy this. Equally, the latter will relish these books as a welcome addition to the Halo universe. One to Recommend? Most certainly, but be aware that in listening to this you will probably want to listen to others in the series. Make sure you have plenty of shelf space.

Rod MacDonald

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