Quick View: Matt Forbeck's latest installment in the halo series does not disappoint. This novel does a wonderful job utilizing the vast lore of the halo universe while following the journey of the Orbital Drop Shock Trooper Buck as he journey's from young marine to SPARTAN IV Super Soldier.
Full Review: Halo: New Blood is a very recent entry into the growing series of halo novels. It’s a refreshing new tale giving us the backstory of a far from new character. The novel is written in a 1st person, flashback-memoir style, with ODST Buck guiding us through his journey, first as a child living on a fishing boat to his adventures as an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper, and his eventual commission into the SPARTAN IV program. The book has many emotional highs and lows, and keeps the reader entranced with its variety of topics, locals, and live
changing events that lead Buck along his path that has him end up on Fire Team Osiris in Halo 5.
Matt Forbeck does an excellent job in this novel compared to many of the other one-offs we see in the Halo series. His use of previously established characters and his ability to make them his own without changing who they are to the eyes of the fans allows for him to weave together a heart wrenching story of a soldier who lost everything, built it all back up, just to stand the chance of losing it all again. Forbeck plays with the lives of the characters in a way very unique to this novel. He isn’t scared to pull a G.R.R.M. and kill off any character at any moment. Thankfully he doesn’t abuse this power, but instead lets us know that no matter how much we may love a specific name in the book, nobody is immortal. That said, we might find death as a better alternative for the fate of some of the members of Buck’s Alpha team.
When dealing with such a saturated world of lore such as Halo, one needs to be witty and original when writing their own installment in the series. Forbeck does a masterful job crafting the story, utilizing the vast amounts of information about the colony planets, the insurrection, the ODSTs, and the various conflicts throughout occupied space. The story doesn’t feel forced or stuck in the tedious requirement that Nylund’s Fall of Reach fell victim to. One wouldn’t even know the story was meant to act as lore to link Halo 3: ODST to Halo 5. Forbeck proves his worthiness of writing for the haloverse and every halo fan is better off for it. He treats the established lore with respect as well as creating his own to go along with it in a harmony of storytelling
Now, I could go on all day with what he did right, but now it's time to address what Forbeck could improve with his novel. Overall, the novel was well made, however, I felt the segments which were occurring in the present felt out of place. The book starts off with Buck on a mission with Alpha in the present day, lore wise. Halfway through he then cuts to the long backstory that leads all the way up to that mission, and at the end of the book, picks up where he left off. I think it would have been much more seamless if he split up these current events amongst the backstory with a higher frequency. It would have been much more pleasing to read story wise, and would have a nicer flow. That said, Forbeck may have made this decision based on the relative briefness of the book and might have felt that splitting the current events amongst the flashbacks might have inadvertently damaged the flow of the story rather than help it. Overall this decision doesn’t take much away from the story and can be considered more preference than critique.
Overall the book was just a pleasure to read, and even nicer to listen too in audiobook format. Its first person style makes the audiobook that much more enjoyable and is nice for when your hands are full and you need something to listen too whilst you work or drive. It honors the halo lore that came before and offers new content for future writers to play with. I don’t know a single halo fan who wouldn’t thoroughly enjoy this book for everything its worth, and it will definitely stay a member of my collection for years to come.
Final Score: 9/10