Reviews

Halo: Encyclopedia 2011 Revised Edition – Review

Thanks to DK Publishing for providing a copy of this book for review.

Before I begin this review I have a startling, shocking, horrendous confession to make that may just shatter your mind into a million tortured pieces; I’m a complete noob when it comes to the Halo universe. Sure, I’ve played all the games, but outside of what’s clearly presented in the games my knowledge of the Halo lore is utterly terrible, except for some random facts and bits of information that I’ve picked up along the way. So it’s important for you to know that this review is going to be entirely from the perspective of someone delving into the collected knowledge and lore of the Halo universe for the first time, experiencing the depth that it has to offer and generally getting slightly confused by it all.

The Halo Encyclopaedia, revised to contain information from Halo: Reach, can only really be described as a tome of a book. Sporting a solid hard-back cover and a weight that would make it a perfect weapon for beating whales to death, this Halo bible measures in at 12-inches high and 10-inches across and contains 368-pages of Halo goodness. Simply put, this big boy is going to standout on your bookshelf like a cow in a field full of sheep. Don’t blame me for that anology, I’m a country boy.

While the information that the book contains is doubtless the most important aspect of this book, I’d like to take a minute and ramble about its beautiful presentation, because everyone likes a pretty picture, right? Not only is this book packed with images taken directly from the various Halo games, but it also contains plenty of hand-drawn art.  This abundance of art-work is most noticeable in the early pages of the book, with almost every page featuring a an impressive piece of work. As you venture through the book the art-work does fade out in favour of images taken directly from the game, which is a little disappointing. Of course this is simply because some sections, such as the chapter on weapons, don’t really have much need for hand-drawn work compared to in-game images. Still, almost every page features an image, making this a truly beautiful book to behold, and thanks to the sheer size of the book the amount of pictures on offer never get in the way of delivering the text-based information.The only criticism that I will level at the presentation is that some of the in-game images taken from the older Halo titles don’t look very good when blown up to size.

The book itself contains a total of ten chapters for your reading pleasure;

Chapter One: Timeline
Chapter Two: Humans
Chapter Three: Spartans
Chapter Four: The Covenant
Chapter Five: The Flood
Chapter Six: The Forerunners
Chapter Seven: The Human-Covenant War
Chapter Eight: Science and Technology
Chapter Nine: Transport
Chapter Ten: Locations
Chapter Eleven: Weapons.

Along with that an introduction to the Halo universe at the beginning of the book which provides the perfect primer for those, like myself, about to  jump into the Halo universe. And a foreword by Frank O’Connor is also included at the start of the book and is a wonderfully written little piece to begin the book with, providing a nice feel for what you’re about to jump in to. As you would expect each and every chapter is then broken into sub-sections for easy navigation, and each chapter is also handily color coded so that you don’t get lost.  Due to its size it can be a little tricky to find a specific entry, but that’s what indexes are for.

 While the book can be used as a reference guide for when you’re playing the actual games, it really feels more like a book that should be read from cover to cover. This is  emphasised by the style of writing that’s present in the book; it never refers to the games, or to the fact the Halo universe is fictional, instead it is written as though the events described on every page actually took place and are still taking place.  Each section provides an absolute wealth of knowledge, covering everything you see in the games as well as plenty of other information that you don’t. For somebody like myself it’s an almost overwhelming amount of information to try to take onboard, from detailed accounts of the Master Chief’s life to manufacturing information on the various weapons found in the game, as well as insights into the various species that make up the  Covenant , such as the fact that Hunters are actually made up of wrist-thick worm-like creatures,  and more.

However, despite my lack of knowledge on all things Halo, I was still able to spot some mistakes in entries throughout the book, such as the entry of Doctor Catherine Halsey failing to mention that she was the mother of Commander Miranda Keyes. Other errors also exist within the book, such splitting the Battle of Earth into two separate battles, despite Halo: ODST revealing that it was one continuous fight. At other points the book didn’t quite seem to have enough information, such as only having two pages devoted the entire of Noble Team, offering very little background information of the Spartans who gave up their lives on Reach. I also noted that the section regarding ships hadn’t been updated to include the likes of the Savannah, or Night of Solace, both of which played major roles in Halo: Reach, and therefore major roles in the Halo story. Several Covenant weapons, such as the Plasma Repeater and Plasma Launcher, both introduced in Reach, were also strangely absent.  These errors, missing entries and strange omissions in information are disappointing considering this is supposed to be revised to contain information from Halo: Reach, and while they didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the book overly much I can still imagine that Halo fans with an almost unhealthy level of knowledge regarding the universe will be frothing at the mouth at these problem. I also find myself wondering how many errors I missed simply because I don’t already know much about the universe.

So, what are my final thoughts on this book? As somebody venturing into the formidable Halo universe for the first time outside of the games, I loved every moment of every page of this book. It provides a collection of information on almost every aspect of the Halo story and lore, along with beautiful art-work and plenty of in-game pictures. Yet the errors present in the book are hard to forgive, even for me. But still, if you’re like me and want to discover more about the Halo universe, this is a great book to pick up and read through.

The Good:
+ Beautiful presentation.
+ loads of information.
+ Looking up events from the game and discovering things I never knew.

The Bad:
- Glaring errors exist within the information.
- Despite being revised for Reach it misses out on quite a few things from the game.
- The writing can be a little bland in places.

The Verdict: 7.5
Despite some utterly daft errors that should have been fixed for this revised edition, I still loved expanding my limited Halo knowledge. For a Halo player who wants to learn about the universe, this is a great book to purchase. But die-hard Halo fans may not be able to look past the errors contained within book.

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6 replies »

  1. Where did you get this idea that Halsey is Miranda’s mother? I’m a long time Halo fan-I’ve read and own all the books, and I’ve never heard that before.

    Secondly, they don’t “split” the battle into two seperate events. They are simply letting you play the same battle from different perspectives.

    There are other errors in your review as well. In the future I think it best to either be familiar with the material in question or have someone who is do it.

  2. As Mr. Larry had said, I have no idea where you got the idea that Dr Halsey was Miranda’s mother… Especially if all your knowledge is based only on the games.

    I’m more disappointed in the books lack of Halo: Legends and Halo: Evolutions material… And as you said, I am also disappointed by the lack of certain Vehicles/ships/weapons/equipment for absolutely no reason…

    • In regards to Miranda, simply check the Halo: Visual Guide, the Halo Wiki or any other major source of Halo information. Miranda was the result of a brief liason between Halsey and Jacob Keyes when they were involved in the Spartan-II project. While my knowledge was limited by the games, I still sifted through as much information on the series as I could to triple check the facts in the book to ensure that they had everything correct

    • Read Halsey’s Journal, a roughly 200-page booklet co-written by Eric Nylund (author of “The Fall of Reach”, “First Strike”, and “Ghosts of Onyx”) which came with the Legendary/Limited Editions of the 2010 game Halo: Reach. It was strongly implied in it that Halsey and Keyes had a fling and produced Miranda.

      If those clues are too subtle for you, then the book “Glasslands”, which had already been out for over a month when you posted your comment, outright said that Miranda was Halsey’s daughter.

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