Saturday, February 27, 2010

Halo Evolutions!

My wife got Halo Evolutions: Essential Tales of the Halo Universe for me a week or so ago, and I waited to read it until I was in the mood for Halo's particular grim brand of sci-fi action, and it did happen, eventually. Halo is a 'hard' sci-fi, and not always to my taste. I have read all of the other written installments to the Halo series, some of which were quite good. The series, however, being based on a video game, can be rather disjointed, as some of the stories follow the iconic character (Master Chief), and other whole books have been only tangentially (or not at all) related to the main story arc of the franchise.

Apparently, they have decided to now put out these stories as a collection of short stories, rather than as stand alone books. This is a good thing and bad thing, as this way it makes it more cost effective for the reader who just has to have every last Halo story, but bad in that the casual reader will simply not put up with a volume of short stories. I almost can't do short stories myself, and I am far from a casual reader.

Things I liked:
  • Unusually high caliber of authors in the mix. Usually you have some good, and some bad in a collection, but the writing standard was universally high throughout.
  • There were some very good stories in this volume, such as Headhunters and Icon.
  • No dud stories, even my least favorite, Stomping on the Heels of a Fuss, was a good story, just not to my taste.
  • Long. It took me two days, which means it will take more leisurely readers quite a bit longer. It's a lot of reading for the price. Good deals are hard to come by these days when it comes to quality entertainment, and this is one.
Things I did not like:
  • It's a book of short stories! I typically find volumes of short stories highly unsatisfactory, as just as you are getting into a groove and sypathizing with the protagonist, the story ends and you have to start the cycle all over. This is particularly problematic in a series like Halo, which I will get into in my next point...
  • Too Grim. I get it, Halo is a gritty setting. It would still be nice for someone to live, occasionally. If everyone dies, in every story, it sort of makes you feel like you were reading it for nothing. Person A and Person B meet, they kill each other, and have no effect whatsoever on the Universe. Perhaps realistic, but if I wanted realism, I wouldn't be reading sci-fi in the first place. I'd read the obituaries. About as many happy endings there, to be honest.
Overall rating is tough. I feel like I am being too harsh on the work, in particular, for the general sins of the genre. It is a good book, and has several good stories, and some truly great ones. It is tough however, to have to read through four short stories to come across a single surviving character. If you are a fan of Halo, this is a worthwhile acquisition. If you're looking for happy endings, pass this up.

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