“Find what’s missing. Fix the path. Right what my kind has turned wrong.”
Halo: Point of Light by Kelly Gay releases March 2nd 2021, continuing the story of Rion Forge, 343 Guilty Spark (now just ‘Spark’), and the Ace of Spades crew.
343 Industries kindly provided me an early copy of the book and I’m very excited to share my (non-spoilery) review and impressions.
I’m excited because this is the biggest, most universe-shattering Halo story told since Greg Bear’s conclusion to the Forerunner Saga in Halo: Silentium.
Trust me, you don’t want to miss this one!
Every now and then, a piece of media will come along and remind you of exactly why you’re a fan of a particular series…
Let me begin by describing one of the times I’m most nostalgic for in Halo history.
The year is 2011 and we’re on the cusp of a brand-new era of Halo, as the mantle passes from Bungie to 343 Industries.
343 has already worked on some great projects. Halo Waypoint is the media hub on the Xbox 360 for a wealth of great content and rewards; Halo Wars is the most successful console RTS ever; the Halo: Legends anime and Halo: Evolutions anthology novel (plus motion comic adaptations) really interrogate the themes, structure, style and essence of what it means to tell a Halo story…
And then it is announced that Greg Bear will be writing a trilogy to explore the ancient history of the Forerunners. This trilogy would have resonant connections with the then-upcoming Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary and Halo 4 (and remains foundational to this day for Halo Infinite).
This was everything that I had wanted. It was as if every box was being ticked for what I’d envisioned for this series from the moment I set foot on Installation 04, the stories I’d imagined and wanted to be told.
That ‘era’ concluded in 2013 with Halo: Silentium, which brought everything full circle as we saw the final hours leading up to the firing of the Halo array, silencing the galaxy to defeat the Flood.
There’s been a lot of Halo fiction since then. Silentium was about eight years and twenty books ago now, which is incredible, and I’ve loved a lot of that media. But I think I’ve always been chasing that incomparable high the Forerunner Saga gave me.
Enter Kelly Gay…
Kelly’s first contribution to the series was in 2016’s Halo: Fractures anthology, a short story called ‘Into the Fire’ which introduced us to Rion Forge and the crew of the Ace of Spades. A professional salvager and the daughter of Sergeant John Forge from Halo Wars, Rion is on a journey to find out what happened to her father after he went missing twenty-six years ago.
This was followed just months later by Halo: Smoke and Shadow, a novella which continued Rion’s story. Naturally and brilliantly, it pulled from some of the most obscure corners of the universe. It was here that Kelly established herself as a fan-favourite author – somebody with a deep knowledge and understanding of Halo.
Come 2019, we were blessed with Halo: Renegades.
Renegades paid off something which had been building in the background since the Forerunner Saga, bringing 343 Guilty Spark (the memories of Chakas, his old human self, now reawakened) back into the mix. His search for the Librarian intersects with Rion’s own search for her father.
If you’re out of the loop on Spark’s story, here’s a quick catch-up on everything that happened to him after Halo 3.
Indeed, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kelly about Renegades, and you can expect another of those to come very soon.
All this is to say: Kelly’s stories absolutely have their own unique energy and flavour to them, but they’ve also given me that same feeling I had during those formative years from 2011 to 2013.
With Halo: Point of Light, I think she might have surpassed even that…
A SPARK OF HOPE
“No worries, Spark. We get it. this is your op, and it’s personal.”
Here’s the thing, it’s really, really hard to do a spoiler-free review of this book.
So. Much. Happens.
You’re going to go into this with a particular set of expectations from what’s on the cover. You can guess which Halo ring that is, so you can infer which Forerunner book this kind of a sequel to.
But you’ll never guess – no matter how immaculately versed you are in the lore of the last twenty years – where it goes from there.
I genuinely lost count of the number of times I said “Oh, fuck!” out loud at some new revelation, some new connection to an old story, character, or even the settings – from previous stories to multiplayer maps (loving this new trend by the way, 343!)
And, like the Forerunner Saga, this isn’t just a story that looks backwards at what’s come before, or sideways to set things up for Halo Infinite. No, Point of Light is a story that opens doors for the future of the series in the long, long-term.
If Halo Infinite is a platform for the next ten years of the series in the format of the games, Point of Light sets things in motion which feel like a platform for the next twenty-or-thirty years for the broader scope of the franchise.
There are questions that are explored here about the galaxy’s ancient past, which reveal truly immense possibilities for its future – for untold millennia to come.
That all sounds quite intimidating, particularly for readers who perhaps aren’t too familiar with the more esoteric lore. Rest assured, this isn’t too much of a barrier.
Kelly and all the folks involved in the editing process do a really great job of simplifying and summarising these things – not just on a technical level, but through the lens of the narrative as well. Rion and her crew are only just starting to learn about these things themselves, you’re discovering their significance alongside the characters.
Having brought up the Forerunner Saga quite a bit, some may find that intimidating because of Greg Bear’s very classical, Homeric prose. Again, rest assured, while the essence of that – the poetry of Bear’s vivid imagination – feels familiar, Kelly’s prose will have you gliding across the pages.
This comes down to a couple of things. For one, Kelly is an expert at deciding which character’s perspective is the best one to tell each part of the story.
There are five main characters juggled in Point of Light (Rion, Spark, Lessa, Niko, and Ram), and there was never a point where I felt anything less than the most interesting storytelling decision was being made.
Chapters are brisk. The pacing and momentum of the story sweeps you up and carries you all the way through. Every character has something interesting going on, and Kelly has an extraordinary talent for seeding those sub-plots through her characters. They fit into the grand architecture of the overall narrative in very natural ways, driving their development over the course of the book.
Also, Point of Light isn’t all about epic lore and the tectonic shifts of the Halo universe. It’s actually quite a small (and often very funny) story that is anchored in grounded themes and character relationships.
This is a story about family – of those we choose for ourselves and those chosen for us. It’s about the unfinished business we leave in our lives, and it’s the first Halo story that I think really realistically grapples with what it’s like to live your life on a cosmic scale.
How do we maintain our connections with each other – relative to our human sense of time – when one of us is living on a planet while the other sails across the vast interstellar ocean? How do our relationships change when we’re light years apart?
No matter how far we may travel, how long we may live, how do we deal with the ghosts that aren’t finished with us yet?
How do we make a new start for ourselves – finding hope and purpose amidst the mistakes we make?
How do we say goodbye?
ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING
“I lost my humanity and became Forerunner. I remember because I must and a thousand centuries later, I am still furious.”
343’s strategy for expanded universe media over the last couple of years has been great. Not only have they gotten a lot more economical with releases, but they’ve been very good at providing a bit of something for everybody.
Halo fans enjoy a lot of different ‘flavours’ of the universe. Maybe you’re into the military sci-fi aspect, which forms a strong part of the audience. Maybe you’re excited about seeing more of Blue Team; you want to learn more about the Banished; you’re interested in returning to Reach as a setting after the war… you’ve got plenty to chew on in Troy Denning’s Halo: Shadows of Reach.
In a lot of ways, this feels quite like that period from 2011 to 2013 again. Back then, it was Greg Bear and Karen Traviss carrying the torch for Halo literature. Today, it’s Kelly Gay and Troy Denning – and what a duo that is!
Me? I gravitate towards the ‘weird’ side of Halo. Ancient cosmic mysteries; classical sci-fi images of vast alien worlds, cultures, and politics; epic tragedies beset by deeply emotional, human stories which have connective tissues across the franchise.
That’s what puts the likes of the Forerunner Saga, Broken Circle, Shadow of Intent, and Renegades at the top of my list. And now, Point of Light joins that esteemed list of ‘best Halo fiction ever.’ In fact, this easily makes my top five.
Yours may look totally different. I think that speaks to the versatility of this franchise. This incredible baseline of quality in its transmedia – told and nurtured by passionate, talented storytellers – is why Halo has succeeded where so many others haven’t.
As I said: every now and then, a piece of media will come along and remind you of why you’re a fan of a particular series.
Halo: Point of Light is one of those rare occasions where – even after two decades – it feels like falling in love with Halo for the first time all over again.
Halo: Point of Light releases March 2nd 2021.
Written by Kelly Gay, the cover art was made by none other than Will Cameron (AKA ‘Pixelflare’ – Website | ArtStation | Twitter), and the audiobook will be narrated by Tim Dadabo (the voice of Spark himself).
August 2558. Rion Forge was once defined by her relentless quest for hope amidst the refuse and wreckage of a post-Covenant War galaxy – years spent searching for family as much as fortune. But that was before Rion and the crew of her salvager ship Ace of Spades encountered a powerful yet tragic being who forever altered their lives.
This remnant from eons past, when the Forerunners once thrived, brought with it a revelation of ancient machinations and a shocking, brutal history.
Unfortunately, the Ace crew also made dire enemies of the Office of Naval Intelligence in the process, with the constant threat of capture and incarceration a very real possibility.
Now with tensions mounting and ONI forces closing in, Rion and her companions commit to this being’s very personal mission, unlocking untold secrets and even deadlier threats that have been hidden away for centuries from an unsuspecting universe…
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