Review – Halo: Cryptum by Greg Bear

The friend that lent me I, Robot thought I’d also enjoy Cryptum by Greg Bear. The book is set in the Halo universe, something I’m not overly familiar with.  Beyond shooting friends in the virtual face about eight years ago, I must admit I didn’t know much about the backdrop. I also admit that had I seen this book on Amazon or the local bookstore, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. I’m glad it was recommended to me though, since gauging from the mixed reviews on Amazon, people that aren’t beholden to Halo lore seemed to enjoy this book much more than those who sleep with a Halo compendium beneath their pillow.

Regarding the author, Greg Bear, I had heard of him but never read any of his work. He’s a pretty big name in the ‘hard sci-fi’ arena, but I was definitely walking into this book in a near tabula rasa state.

After taking a few days to go through the book, how can I aptly describe it?

Challenging.

The concepts and prose are somehow terse and dense at the same time. Bear doesn’t hesitate for a second to throw you into the middle of the fray with new words and ideas that don’t get properly explained, if at all, until a few chapters down the road. Whenever I found myself distracted, I ended up missing a vital connection or keys to understanding what was really happening to the characters. It really threw me off at first because I thought I slept through earlier explanations. But nope, they came later and, most of the time, cleared the air.

Bear does a fine job of developing the protagonist, a member of an ancient, powerful alien race called the Forerunners. The story follows a familiar trope — a young man seeks adventure outside of the path chosen for him by his family and societal rank. He ends up playing a much bigger part in galaxy-shattering events.

It was a surprisingly short read, but maybe I’ve grown too accustomed to over-sized tomes from George R. R. Martin. It’s also the first book in a planned trilogy, so I’m hopeful the story will be generously expanded upon.

As a side note, I’ll be taking this book and generating character profiles and an outline. A little reverse engineering is always a good way to learn how the pros do it. I’m also looking forward to the insights a reread will bring me now that I’m more comfortable with Bear’s writing style.

-beatbox32

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