The Fall of Reach

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

The four Spartans that composed Blue Team covered his back, standing absolutely silent and immobile in their MJOLNIR combat armor. Someone had once commented that they looked like Greek war gods in the armor....but his Spartans were far more effective and ruthless than Homer's gods had ever been.

The Fall of Reach is the first novel in the Halo series, and sets up the backbone of the franchise’s history. Beginning several decades before the first game, the book explores the history of Spartan John-117 – later to become Master Chief – and his rise through the ranks in the Spartan program for the UNSC. It was written by Eric Nylund.

It is notable that the book went from initial concept to final publication in the space of four months, with Nylund writing the final draft within six weeks of beginning the project. It has been suggested by many fans that the book is a good starting point for a movie adaptation – indeed, Stuart Beattie submitted a draft script and concept art based on the book once Peter Jackson’s project fell through.

The broad story details of this book have been adopted into the main Halo canon, with the first reference being in Halo 2 and the game Halo: Reach takes place entirely on the title planet. While Halo canon has evolved significantly since the original writing (the actual fall of Reach has been elaborated upon far more than this book ever did), the core elements of the Spartan program and the characters depicted are still vital to the mythology.

Tropes used in The Fall of Reach include:
  • Abnormal Ammo: The fougasses used in the prologue to take down a wing of Banshees when they fly too low to the ground.
  • Action Girl: Any of the female Spartans, particularly Linda and Kelly.
  • Aliens Are Bastards: Dear God, The Covenant.
  • All There in the Manual: The book is effectively the Origins Episode of how Master Chief became Master Chief, and establishes him as something other than a heartless Space Marine.
  • And I Must Scream: Those who wash out of the Spartan program.
    • James' death is considered to be this for the Spartans.
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: Averted. At the beginning of the book, humanity is knee-deep in a civil war with the Insurrectionists. This conflict continues to go on throughout the series.
  • Arc Number: 117.
  • Artificial Limbs: James gets a replacement after his upper arm got vaporized by a Hunter weapon.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Chief Mendez and the trainers who put the young Spartans through their paces.
    • Also Jacob Keyes, whose "Keyes Loop" during the Battle of Sigma Octanus got him promoted to Captain.
  • Badass Crew: The Spartans.
  • Badass Normal: Mendez.
  • Bash Brothers: Every Spartan learned to trust the rest of their unit completely, and because each member received the same training they don't have to worry about any weak spots. Every time Master Chief comes across a random team of marines he worries that normal combat for them is far too much for regular soldiers.
  • Berserk Button: John accidentally sets off an ODST’s one in the gym. It doesn’t end well.
  • Big Freaking Gun
  • Body Horror: Some of the Spartans who “wash out” gain physical deformities that turn them into this.
  • Bulletproof Vest: The MJOLNIR armour (the one that works, that is) takes this to its logical extreme. Doesn’t stop sustained plasma fire, though.
  • Bullying a Dragon: John-117 at age fourteen accidently angered a couple of arrogant ODST troopers (he removed a pin from a weight set to test the varying gravity section in the gym). In the aftermath of the Curb Stomp Battle, their CO encountered Mendez and realized John was one of "them."
  • Casual Interstellar Travel
  • Child Soldiers
  • The Chosen One: Sort of inverted, as Master Chief proves himself to be the most gifted Spartan. This leads him to be chosen as leader of the Spartans and later chosen by Cortana to receive the full AI compatable Mjolnir armor.
  • Cold Sniper: Linda.
  • Colonel Badass: Mendez, to the point where you think he could beat a fully trained Spartan on is own.
  • Continuity Nod: The pipe that Keyes has in the first Halo game is never lit. It’s explained why at the start of the book.
    • Within the book has an example with Fahjad, one of the Spartans who washed out, eventually writes a paper that then-Commander Keyes reads before the Battle of Sigma Octanus.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: How John, Kelly and Sam first become friends.
  • Determinator: Well, he is Master Chief after all...
  • Disposable Pilot: Red Team's pilot gets a few throwaway lines before getting blown up in his cockpit, prompting Joshua to take over from inside the troop bay.
  • Doomed Hometown: Reach. It’s in the title of the book.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The book is about how the planet Reach falls to the Covenant. Pretty self-explanatory.
  • Expanded Universe: The beginning of Halo’s EU is here, as it was written concurrently with the game's development. It was actually a brilliant piece of preparation, as Halo: Combat Evolved purposefully began In Medias Res. This book gave you the details of everything not mentioned in the game.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Some of the Spartans who "wash out" qualify. Also, the Master Chief actually believes death would preferable to living without his teammates.
  • Fictional Document: The 2010 rerelease to celebrate the launch of Halo: Reach includes a series of documents and transcriptions of various other encounters.
  • Hot Scientist: Halsey.
  • I Like Those Odds: “Four of us,” Blue-Two whispered over the link. “And a thousand of them? Piss-poor odds for the little guys.”
  • Made of Iron: Invoked in that the Spartans bones are reinforced with powerful metals that make them far different to stock-standard human bones. It's repeatedly mentioned that without that reinforcement they wouldn't survive piloting the Mjolnir armor.
  • A Million Is a Statistic
  • Mythology Gag: When Halsey first sees John, he's playing a game of king of the hill. During the Spartans' training they play capture the flag. Both of these are gametypes in the Halo games.
  • Nakama: The Spartans act like surrogate siblings very early on, enabling them to win on missions a lot more frequently from the get-go. John learns the hard way (at age 6) that winning must include his entire team, so they stay close together.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Cortana, in one of her bored moments, discovers three ONI prowlers set to leave Reach for intelligence gathering. One of them, the Circumference, ends up isolating it's computers and scrambling its registry to prevent it from being found out. So when the Covenant launch their attack less than a day later, the AI on Gamma Station cannot delete Circumference's navigation database, posing a serious risk that the Covenant capture it and find all remaining human worlds.
  • One Steve Limit: Apparently there are no overlapping first names among the 75 Spartan trainees. Our John is the only John.
  • Powered Armor: So powerful that no normal human can use them, only the Spartans unsurpassed physical conditioning and virtually unbreakable bones can use them. It's interesting in that any real life powered armor (or any piloted vehicle in general) has to stay within the boundaries of what the pilot/operator is physically capable of surviving. Halsey specifically tells John "You are the only ones who can use them, Petty Officer. Who else would we give them to?"
  • Pyrrhic Victory: A running theme. The Spartan's always won their confrontations but almost every victory came with some sort of defeat, either a destroyed city or a glassed planet. "A death worthwhile" is almost Arc Words.
    • Chief Mendez told John that it's acceptable to spend lives to insure the success of a mission, but not waste them. The Master Chief would continue to ask himself this before a mission.
  • Retcon: Just about everything regarding the titular Fall of Reach was overwritten by Halo: Reach, as well as a lot of other details.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Samuel when making the UNSC's first decisive victory against the Covenant, and the first loss of a Spartan.
  • Satellite Character: Whilst it does focus on others at times, the book is pretty much Master Chief’s gig, and the plot seems to center around him centrally.
  • Super Prototype: The Pillar Of Autumn was overhauled into probably the UNSC's most powerful cruiser. Deceptively old, and considering previously to have been obsolete. But when the rest of the book explains how long it takes to fire one MAC round, the Autumn was refitted to fire three consecutive shots from the same gun.
    • That's just the offensive combat abilities. The ship also includes three reactors with new technology that uses chilled ions to cool the waste heat, meaning that the more power they use, the more they cool the waste heat. And the Autumn can take one hell of a pounding.
  • Super Soldier: The majority of the book is about what is required to get the Spartans to be the ultimate soldiers. Only half passed the augmentation, 2/3rds of those who didn't "graduate" died and the others were horribly deformed. But from those who went on to be the ultimate soldiers, only a handful died during a 20 year career of constant combat.
  • Super Speed: Kelly is frequently noted as being the fastest in a group of superhumans.
  • Training from Hell: Most of the book.
  • Underside Ride: John and his squad of saboteurs infiltrates an enemy base using this method. The gate guards were Genre Savvy enough to scan the underside of their vehicles with a mirror-on-a-stick. Having none of that, they brought their own mirrors to reflect an unoccupied portion of the underside back at the guards. The kicker was that this was a training exercise, and the Spartans did this when they were fifteen.
  • Victory Is Boring: For John-117 his normal life was simply too easy, he did well in school and always dominated any physical or mental activity. Mendez was the first person to really give him a challenge and he appreciated it.
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: The book features Master Chief and Cortana's first experience working together. Cortana learns quickly that MC knows how to read a battlefield just fine, he needs her to scout other options.
  • Wave Motion Gun: The MAC platforms, but more specifically the "SUPER" MAC orbital defense platforms. So powerful even the Covenant capital ship attacking Reach stayed out of range.