Halo’s Expanded Universe Novels, Ranked

halo, books, novels, extended universe, ranked, kilo-five, the flood, contact harvest, last light, hunters in the dark, first strike, evolutions, forerunner, the cole protocol, the fall of reach, ghosts of onyx

Growing up, no other video game struck a chord with me like the original Halo — I must have beaten the campaign over 20 times. But I wanted more. I needed more. My first trip to a Barnes & Noble was to pick up Halo: Fall of Reach; my first trip to a comic shop was to pick up a Halo comic. Yet, I realize that Halo lore is almost as impenetrable as the average DC comic crossover. Being dick-slapped by military jargon and dense continuity is rarely a fun experience, so I made this list to help parse the literary wheat from the chaff.

I decided to rank each book on two qualities: how enjoyable it is to read, and its importance to the lore of Halo itself. Being a college student short on time and money, I have not yet gotten to the latest pair of novels, Halo: New Blood and Broken Circle, and thus I am not including them in the rankings. I have also decided to skip Saint’s Testimony, as it is more of a novella.

11. Halo: The Flood, William C. Dietz

halo, books, novels, extended universe, ranked, kilo-five, the flood, contact harvest, last light, hunters in the dark, first strike, evolutions, forerunner, the cole protocol, the fall of reach, ghosts of onyx

There’s not much to say about The Flood, considering it’s just a retelling of the first Halo game. Sure, it adds to some interesting context that fills in the gaps between story missions, but this information is mostly superfluous. There are no major revelations to be had, no exciting unseen battles to be viewed. With the Master Chief Collection making Halo 1 more easily accessible than it’s ever been, there’s no real reason to pay this little book anything more than a passing notice.

Enjoyability: 3/10

Lore Importance: 1/10

10. Kilo-Five Trilogy, Karen Traviss

halo, books, novels, extended universe, ranked, kilo-five, the flood, contact harvest, last light, hunters in the dark, first strike, evolutions, forerunner, the cole protocol, the fall of reach, ghosts of onyx

Fans of the now-canned Star Wars extended universe can attest to the fact that Karen Traviss writes some character archetypes pretty well! For the characters that don’t fall under those labels however, the results are rarely pretty. These books are a hard read for anyone familiar with the Halo EU: established characters act in manners almost completely different from past portrayals, and Dr. Halsey is demonized to an almost comically absurd degree, entirely missing the point of her character. However, these books are pretty critical to understanding both ONI and the current state of the universe at the time of Halo 5, while also containing some new characters that are worthy additions to the lore. If you can trudge through the literary muck, there is some worth to be had in this trilogy.

Enjoyability: 3/10

Lore Importance: 8/10

9. Contact Harvest, Joseph Staten

halo, books, novels, extended universe, ranked, kilo-five, the flood, contact harvest, last light, hunters in the dark, first strike, evolutions, forerunner, the cole protocol, the fall of reach, ghosts of onyx

If you’ve ever wanted a steamy Sergeant Johnson sex scene without the shame of internet history, then this is the book for you! Contact Harvest is a very different read from the typical Halo EU novel, serving as something of a prequel to the universe as a whole, focusing on the story of the first contact between humanity and the Covenant. Packed full of intricate political machinations and cameos by famous Halo villains before they became so villainous, this book is great for all levels of Halo fans, thanks to not being tied to the continuity of any other novel. If you’re interested in why the Human-Covenant War occurred the first place, this book has what you’re looking for — and then some.

Enjoyability: 7/10

Lore Importance: 6/10

8. Last Light, Troy Denning

halo, books, novels, extended universe, ranked, kilo-five, the flood, contact harvest, last light, hunters in the dark, first strike, evolutions, forerunner, the cole protocol, the fall of reach, ghosts of onyx

Last Light is a bit of a tonal shift from the typical Halo novel, with the first half being more of a mystery novel. While the mystery part is hardly a mystery (the culprit is pretty obvious), the action is on point and refreshingly puts the spotlight on fan favorite Fredrick-104. Some might be annoyed that the other Blue Team members get pushed to the side, but there is no lack of Brute-killing mayhem here. There are no real revelations in terms of the greater tapestry of the universe, but it’s still a book I recommend if you care about the Spartan IIs and IIIs from Nylund’s trilogy.

Enjoyability: 7/10

Lore Importance: 3/10

7. Hunters in the Dark, Peter David

halo, books, novels, extended universe, ranked, kilo-five, the flood, contact harvest, last light, hunters in the dark, first strike, evolutions, forerunner, the cole protocol, the fall of reach, ghosts of onyx

Hunters in the Dark serves as both a return to The Ark from Halo 3 and an introduction of one Olympia Vale (one of Locke’s squad members in Halo 5) to the Halo EU. What I really like about this book is that it does a lot of cool world-building for the Elites. They’re everyone’s favorite group of aliens, and getting to peer into Sanghelli (the race’s actual name for you non-lore nerds) culture has been a long time coming. Give it a look if you enjoy energy swords and mandible jaws.

Enjoyability: 7/10

Lore Importance: 3/10

The top six novels are on the next page!

10 thoughts on “Halo’s Expanded Universe Novels, Ranked

  1. Great article! I was ready to give you the side-eye for ranking First Strike at #6, but then I saw what you ranked above it. *thumbs up*
    It really has next to no lore importance (other than the 1st appearance of Ben Giraud and how R’tas Halfjaw lost half his jaw), but the Halo OGN from Marvel has good stories and great art. (Moebius!)
    I haven’t yet read Hunters in the Dark, but I hear it becomes the Halo version of Jurassic Park.

    1. Thanks for reading, I appreciate it. I was kind of surprised that First Strike was #6 myself, but really that’s more of a testament to how many good books there actually are in the Halo EU than anything else.

      Hunters in the Dark is a little Jurassic Parky now that you saw that lol. Totally a worthwhile read though especially considering how Halo 5 focuses way more on Osiris than I would have thought.

  2. Thank you so much for this informed and well expressed article. I love the Halo universe and it’s sadly derided by Chris and the crew on a regular basis. It’s great to see that they aren’t afraid to get someone to write about a major piece of pop culture that they don’t necessarily like. Good work!

    1. Glad you liked it. I know the laser crew says that Halo’s story doesn’t matter, but obviously we beg to disagree. And considering that the majority of hours spent playing Halo in the first week were spent in the campaign, a lot of people share that sentiment. That’s what makes Halo for me, and you will never see stats approaching anything near that for Call of Duty.

      Halo is my Mario, and it’s the game series i’m the most passionate about.

  3. Great read! I’ve read most of them, but I haven’t given The Cole Protocol much of a chance and stopped reading it halfway through. I might have to pick it up again.

  4. I honestly think Kilo-5 is criminally underrated. People love Halsey because they got to be in her head and hear her rationalizations before they judged Halsy. From an objective look at her actions it is quite easy to see how this person could be considered evil in universe especially by people who have been negatively affected by her.

  5. As a Halo fan forged purely from playing Halo 2 and 3, I am for ever bookmarking this. I hope you do an update to this list in the future and a chronological reading order would be great.

  6. Hello! Can I know what you think of the newer novels like Fractures, New Blood, Shadow of Intent, Broken Circle, Smoke and Shadow?

    I have only read till Cole Protocol and don’t have time or money to read all the books. What should I read?

  7. I think Hunters in the dark is under rated, The story is Very enjoyable The best chapters (in my opinion) Chapt 3, Chapters 13 too 15 are exciting It Refrencises things from Halo 3 Where You Attack the Citadel, there is parts that Talk about the 2 Scaribs that you Destroy, The Broken window Inside the citadel (that really gets the excitement Going) Chapter 3 gives a look at how Life is for Thel Vadam (Arbiter Halo 2, 3, 5) The story takes place 2 years after Halo 3. The Plot is Odd but the story is very Exciting the hole thing through. my favorite characters are: Usze And N’Tho

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