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
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.
Lore Importance: 1/10
10. Kilo-Five Trilogy, Karen Traviss
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.
Lore Importance: 8/10
9. Contact Harvest, Joseph Staten
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.
Lore Importance: 6/10
8. Last Light, Troy Denning
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.
Lore Importance: 3/10
7. Hunters in the Dark, Peter David
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.
Lore Importance: 3/10
The top six novels are on the next page!