Greg Bear and “Primordium,” the New Halo Forerunner Novel
Can a novel set in a videogame universe enthrall fans of the game and entice those who don’t play the game? Iconic science fiction writer Greg Bear’s seem to be a great example of a series that can attract both sets of readers. Halo: Primordium—the follow up to the first volume, Halo: Cryptum—has just been released by Tor Books. The viability of the series is partly a testament to the Halo game and partly a tribute to Bear—a Hugo and Nebula award-winner—who, in his original fiction, brings powerful and original ideas with him.
When Omnivoracious asked Bear, just back from a recent book tour, how he first encountered the game, he replied that his son Erik “followed the game faithfully and played it frequently. I observed and then played it a few times—I was not as good as he was!—and thoroughly enjoyed the action, design elements, the entire science fictional outlook and feel. I was also intrigued by the back story, which seemed fascinating, but just barely touched upon. I’m a sucker for ancient giant alien artifacts.”
In terms of any constraints exploring the implications of those “giant alien artifacts, Bear indicated the Halo team has given him “a lot of freedom to create and play around in the known Halo universe. We have to respect what has gone before, of course—but when there’s a major question or something pretty much undeveloped, I run with it, develop my own solutions and scenarios, then run them past the gang [at 343] to see if they fit. By far, the majority of my creative additions have been accepted, and then added upon by the Halo team. It’s a great collaborative effort!”
Still, Bear acknowledged that there are challenges to writing in an “established universe”: “I’m used to developing my own moods and themes for individual works. Halo has its own moods and themes, which have to be respected...[it] requires some disciplined and thoughtful maneuvering. Fortunately, the Halo universe reminds me so much of classic science fiction, that it isn’t much of a leap to discern what Halo fans are going to enjoy. They seem to like what I like, so far!”
The Halo game provides great action and fascinating specific detail about its milieu, but, wisely, its creators have left unexplored vistas, too. One of those “unexplored vistas” concerns the Forerunners, the race who created many of the awesome and enigmatic technological achievements (including the Halos, of course) that grace the game. It’s within this area of the mysterious that Bear has chosen to work. Halo: Primordium takes up the story in the wake of the apparent self-destruction of the Forerunner empire. Two humans find themselves on a strange inverted world where horizons rise into the sky. An epic journey ensues across this landscape, taking them to the domain of a powerful and monstrous intelligence.
Asked to give readers a teaser of what to expect, Bear answered, “We’re getting awful close to the seminal event in ancient Halo history. As political and tactical pressure builds on the different classes of Forerunners, Primordium takes us out of the primary action and drops us on a rogue installation—I won’t say which one here, but it has a pretty fascinating history. Our point-of-view character is Chakas, the young human from [the previous novel] Cryptum and he is forced to learn the darker secrets of this Halo, including what has been done to its human population in the name of solving the nasty problem of the Flood. We’re dropped into a terrifying mix of desperation, hope, panic, and technological marvels, most of which seem incomprehensible to our humans—but which will make a lot of sense to our readers. Some amazing connections are revealed, Forerunner and Flood conflict is detailed, and we’re leading up to a third volume that pushes us way beyond the brink of known Forerunner history.”
What does Bear find most fun about the novels? “Fan response, I think, which has been dizzying. Knock on wood! The most fun in getting my work done is corresponding with 343 and going in for meetings—being made privy to top secret developments (but only those I NEED TO KNOW as I’m writing the books, of course) and seeing how a great game is created. I have tremendous respect for both the fans and for the creative team.”
As for the game, the Master Chief is set to make his triumphant return in “Halo 4,” the next blockbuster installment in the Xbox 360 franchise that begins an all-new Halo trilogy, set for release later in 2012.