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Halo: The Fall of Reach

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This article is about the novel written by Eric Nylund. You may be looking for the namesake engagement, the comic adaptation, or the animated series.
Halo: The Fall of Reach
Alt original cover art for Halo: The Fall of Reach
Attribution information


Eric Nylund

Cover artist(s):


Gabriel Garza (2010 edition onwards interior art)

Audio book narrator(s):

Todd McLaren

Publication information


Publication date:

  • October 30, 2001 (Del Rey Books)
  • February 7, 2005 (Orbit)
  • August 3, 2010 (Tor Books)
  • June 28, 2011 (Tor Books re-issue)
  • March 2019 (Gallery Books)

Media type:



  • 340 pages (2001 edition)
  • 352 pages (Orbit 2005)
  • 424 pages (2010/2011 edition)
  • 464 pages (2019 edition)


0345451325, 978-0345451323

Series information


The Original Series

Halo: The Fall of Reach

Halo: The Flood

Other information

Notable info:

This novel has received two adaptions, the comic series Halo: Fall of Reach, and the animation Halo: The Fall of Reach - The Animated Series.


Halo: The Fall of Reach is a Halo novel written by Eric Nylund published on October 30, 2001. The first Halo novel to be published, it serves as a prequel to Halo: Combat Evolved.[1] The novel was reportedly finished in seven weeks,[1] eventually becoming a Publisher's Weekly bestseller with nearly 200,000 copies sold in the United States and United Kingdom.[2]

The Fall of Reach was reissued on August 3, 2010 by Tor Books, with the new reissued version including some content updates and additional content;[3] on June 28, 2011, Tor released the "Definitive Edition" of the novel, which fixes many of the errors introduced in the 2010 reissue.[4] A further reprinted edition was published in March 2019 by Gallery Books, featuring a slightly modified cover layout which no longer bears the title "Definitive Edition", but retains the 2011 text.[5]

A comic book adaptation series titled Halo: Fall of Reach, consisting of three story arcs was published by Marvel Comics and 343 Industries, starting with Boot Camp on September 14, 2010. It is followed by Covenant and Invasion.[6] In addition, the novel was adapted into an animated series which was shipped with the Limited and Limited Collector's Editions of Halo 5: Guardians.[7] The animated series was later released on Blu-ray and DVD.[8]

Official summaries[edit]

Original edition by Del Rey Books[edit]

Before the Human-Covenant War engulfed Halo, the planet-colony Reach came under attack by the Covenant, and Earth's specially trained and augmented warriors, code-named SPARTANs, stood alone to fight for humanity's survival.

Definitive Edition by Tor[edit]

The Definitive Edition to the First and Bestselling Halo Novel, Including Twenty-seven Pages of New Material

Legends are not simply born...they are willed into existence. Humanity has expanded beyond the Sol System. There are hundreds of planets we now call "home." The United Nations Space Command now struggles to control this vast empire. After exhausting all strategies to keep seething insurrections from exploding into interplanetary civil war, the UNSC has one last hope. At the Office of Naval Intelligence, Dr. Catherine Halsey has been hard at work on a top secret program that could bring an end to all this conflict...and it starts with seventy-five children, among them a six year old boy named John. Halsey never guessed that this little boy would become humanity's final hope against a vast alien force hell-bent on wiping us out. This is the story of John, Spartan-117…the Master Chief, and of the battles that brought humanity face to face with its possible extinction.

This new Tor edition will serve as the definitive version of the novel that started Halo fans reading the series, and features brand-new material, including: Excerpts of Office of Naval Intelligence interrogations of the Covenant. Missives and mandates issued by the Covenant. Declassified transmissions regarding the defense of Reach. A personal insight into the Spartan program. The Official Evacuation Order for all inhabitants of Reach. Five sketches of cover art by 343 Industries artist, Robogabo.

2019 Gallery Books reprint[edit]

The New York Times bestselling origin story of the Master Chief—part of the expanded universe based on the award-winning video game series Halo!

The twenty-sixth century. Humanity has expanded beyond Earth’s system to hundreds of planets that colonists now call home. But the United Earth Government and the United Nations Space Command is struggling to control this vast empire. After exhausting all strategies to keep seething colonial insurrections from exploding into a full-blown interplanetary civil war, the UNSC has one last hope. At the Office of Naval Intelligence, Dr. Catherine Halsey has been hard at work on a top-secret program that could bring an end to the conflict…and it starts with seventy-five children, among them a six-year-old boy named John. And Halsey could never guess that this child will eventually become the final hope against an even greater peril engulfing the galaxy—the inexorable confrontation with a theocratic military alliance of alien races known as the Covenant.

This is the electrifying origin story of Spartan John-117—the Master Chief—and of his legendary, unstoppable heroism in leading the resistance against humanity’s possible extinction.

Plot synopsis[edit]

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

The prologue takes place on the planet Jericho VII on February 12, 2535, and introduces the Spartans and their purpose. As the seemingly unstoppable Covenant war machine moves into place to glass Jericho VII, Spartan Red and Blue teams are sent to prevent the destruction of the planet. The Spartans manage to kill a thousand Grunts and even destroy a Covenant air strike with fougasses. However, the situation in space soon deteriorates, and the Spartans are forced to retreat before the surface of Jericho VII is glassed.

Section I: Reveille[edit]

The story itself begins with Dr. Catherine Halsey and Lieutenant, Junior Grade Jacob Keyes on board the Han: a UNSC Vancouver-class courier. Traveling to the colony world Eridanus II, their mission is to identify a potential candidate, John, for Halsey's SPARTAN-II program. Dr. Halsey finds John in a school playground in Elysium City, where she determines his suitability for the program. Using a coin, she tests John's reflexes by flipping the coin in the air and having him identify the side it will land on. John catches it and correctly identifies the side: the eagle. During this time, Halsey gives John the coin, which is later taken from him.

Section II: Boot[edit]

The plot then goes on to show, in detail, the brutal indoctrination and training regime that John and his fellow Spartans are put through. Chief Petty Officer Mendez trains the Spartan-IIs, showing them the many necessary virtues of a soldier (e.g. courage, teamwork, skill, etc.) whilst the AI Déjà teaches them history, mathematics, and physics. After a daring training mission in the wilds of Reach — where the young Spartans regroup, construct a map of the area from separate pieces, and steal a dropship back to base — John-117 is made squad leader of the Spartans. When the Spartans are fourteen, they undergo intense biological enhancements that effectively triple their strength, drastically decrease their reaction times, make their bones practically indestructible, and increase blood flow to their eyes so that they can almost see in the dark, among various other improvements. However, of the 75 Spartans, less than half emerge still fit for combat; the rest wash out and die during the operations or are horribly injured by the augmentation process. While recovering on the Atlas, John gets into a fight with a group of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers, but ends up accidentally killing two of them. The speedy arrival of Chief Mendez leads John to suspect that the incident may have been arranged.

After returning to Reach, the Spartans quickly prove that the augmentations have surpassed all expectations, and their cohesion in battle is amazing. The Spartans are then issued orders to capture Colonel Robert Watts, an Insurrectionist leader in the Eridanus asteroid belt. John leads a small team, consisting of Samuel-034, Linda-058, Kelly-087, and Frederic-104, which manages to infiltrate the Insurrectionists' asteroid base and capture Watts in Operation: TALON. John is wounded during this mission and is subsequently awarded a Purple Heart.

On February 3, 2525, first contact is made with an alliance of alien races that refers to itself as the Covenant. A single Covenant warship exterminates the entire surface population of the Outer Colony Harvest. Three UNSC warships — the destroyer Heracles and the frigates Arabia and Vostok — are sent to investigate this incident and initiate first engagement protocols. They attempt contact, engage the Covenant ship in battle, and are subsequently routed. Only the Heracles manages to return to Reach, having been badly damaged. By December of the same year, the UNSC has mobilized a massive fleet under the command of famed war hero Vice Admiral Preston Cole, with orders to reclaim the Harvest colony and stop the Covenant advance.

In response to the emergence of the Covenant, the Spartans' graduation occurs earlier than anticipated, while Chief Mendez leaves to train the next class of Spartans, giving John some advice before returning the coin Dr. Halsey gave him years earlier. Dr. Halsey takes the Spartans to Chi Ceti IV to retrieve Project: MJOLNIR. Upon arriving in the system, the Commonwealth — the frigate carrying the Spartans — is attacked by a Covenant ship. The Commonwealth engages the Covenant ship and is able to drive it off, but sustains significant damage. Heading to the Damascus Testing Facility, Dr. Halsey introduces the Spartans to the MJOLNIR power armor, which further enhances the Spartans' already significant strength and speed. While returning to the Commonwealth, John comes up with the idea to go EVA, board the Covenant vessel, and destroy it using Anvil missiles. Only three Spartans — John, Sam, and Kelly — manage to board the ship. They fight their way past the crew, a birdlike race later dubbed Jackals, and are able to make their way to a reactor, but Sam's armor is penetrated and he is forced to stay behind or die upon exposure to vacuum. John and Kelly are able to escape as the Covenant ship is destroyed.

Section III: Sigma Octanus[edit]

Admiral Cole's fleet manages to gain a victory at Harvest, but at a high cost: two-thirds of his ships are destroyed. Despite significant tactical brilliance on the part of human commanders, the superior technology possessed by the Covenant gives the latter a crucial advantage in the war. One by one, the Outer Colonies fall to the onslaught and by 2536, virtually all have been destroyed.

To protect the location of Earth, Vice Admiral Cole establishes the emergency order commonly known as the Cole Protocol: if any Covenant forces are present, selective purges of databases on all ship-based and planetary data networks are to be activated. When human forces are forced into retreat, they must not execute a slipspace jump in the direction of Earth or any major population center, even if this forces them to jump without the necessary navigational calculations (a "blind jump"). If such a jump is not possible, and if capture is imminent, the commanding officer must order a self-destruct. The on-board ship artificial intelligence construct, normally imperative to navigation and tactical decisions, must either be removed or destroyed.

Due to the shortage of effective officers, Jacob Keyes is promoted to Commander and assumes command of the UNSC Iroquois. In 2552, he foresees a Covenant attack on Sigma Octanus IV thanks to a paper by Spartan washout Fhajad-084. His actions result in the destruction of a Covenant Wik-pattern light destroyer and two frigates, as well as the routing of a carrier, with a daring maneuver dubbed the "Keyes Loop". This unprecedented victory against a Covenant force earns him a promotion to Captain and helps him become recognized by the entire UNSC. Keyes and the Iroquois remain in the Sigma Octanus system to partake in the Battle of Sigma Octanus IV.

On the ground, the Marine force is slaughtered save for a small group of survivors, so Spartan Blue, Red, and Green Teams are sent to destroy a Covenant occupation force in the city of Côte d'Azur with a nuclear bomb. In the city, they find the Covenant has occupied a museum and discover a new race called Engineers. While Red and Green Teams escort a group of civilian survivors to the landing zone, Blue Team — John, Kelly, Fred, and James-005 — enter the museum and discover two massive aliens: Hunters. The Hunter pair seem to be scanning a rock and transmitting the data to a stealth ship, which Captain Keyes discovers and destroys. The Spartans are able to neutralize the Hunters, acquire the rock, and escape to the landing zone, where they detonate a nuclear bomb and annihilate the Covenant presence. Keyes later returns to Reach, inadvertently disclosing the location of the planet to the Covenant via a homing beacon attached to the Iroquois. An ONI committee debriefs him. There, he meets John-117 once again. Scans of the rock produce a set of alien symbols that do not match any Covenant dialect. Dr. Halsey concludes that the artifact is from a separate race from the Covenant.

Section IV: MJOLNIR[edit]

By 2552, the Covenant have destroyed many of humanity's Inner Colonies. In a move of desperation, ONI Section 3 orders the execution of a secret plan to capture a Covenant ship using the Spartans. The ship would be taken to the Covenant home world in order to capture a Prophet, one of the aliens' religious leaders, and then use the Prophet as a bargaining chip to negotiate a truce.

To aid the Spartans in this mission, an AI, Cortana, from Dr. Halsey's previously cloned brain is used. John is introduced to Cortana during a live-fire mission to test their capabilities working together, and they perform spectacularly. With Cortana's aid, John manages to overpower a full squad of ODSTs, pick his way through a minefield, destroy automated chain guns, and even evade an airstrike from a SkyHawk fighter, all of which are using live rounds. These were authorized by Colonel James Ackerson: Dr. Halsey's main rival for NAVSPECWEP funding. In a move of revenge, Cortana arranges for a substantial amount of the Colonel's private funds to be sent to a brothel and forges a request for his reassignment to front line duty.

Every available Spartan-II boards a specially outfitted Halcyon-class cruiser known as the Pillar of Autumn, which is under the command of Captain Jacob Keyes. The Pillar of Autumn moves out towards the edges of the system to make a slipspace jump to begin the mission.

Section V: Reach[edit]

Autumn's mission is interrupted when a massive fleet of 315 Covenant ships enters the Epsilon Eridani system. Captain Keyes orders the Pillar of Autumn back towards Reach, but the Master Chief convinces him to allow the Spartans to continue their mission by finding a damaged Covenant ship to capture and take to Covenant space. Reach's fleet — with about a hundred ships and twenty orbital defense platforms on hand — engages the Covenant fleet, but takes massive losses. However, the Super MAC platforms manage to repulse the initial Covenant assault.

The Covenant return and land troops on Reach with the objective of destroying the generators for the Super MACs: the only things that are stopping the Covenant. At the same time, the UNSC realizes that the Circumference, a prowler, is still docked at a station orbiting the planet of Reach just before its fall, and has not initiated the Cole Protocol. John takes Linda-058 and James-005 to deal with the Circumference, while the rest of the Spartans are sent down under Fred to the planet to defend the MACs' power generators.

John's team crash-land their Pelican on Gamma Station, on which the Circumference is docked, and move towards the NAV data. Among the Covenant attack force are the Elites, the leaders of the Covenant military. However, James' thruster pack is hit by a Needler shard and explodes, sending James flying uncontrollably into space. John and Linda proceed to the Circumference, where they find Sergeant Johnson and his Marines, including Jenkins and Bisenti, also fighting to wipe the data. With John's help, the Marines are successful, but Linda is shot by five separate plasma blasts. The humans fall back to the Autumn; Linda is clinically dead because of the extensive wounds she receives, but is placed in a cryotube in the hope that she can later be resuscitated.

The surface of Reach is also overrun. The Spartans who John sent to the surface are all presumed by the Autumn's crew to be overrun and slaughtered. Without the generators, the Super MACs fall silent and are destroyed by the Covenant, who soon begin glassing the planet. The remaining UNSC ships are all destroyed, except for the Pillar of Autumn, as Cortana plots an exit vector in compliance with the Cole Protocol, though not completely at random. A comment by the Master Chief leads Cortana to reinterpret the alien symbols from the artifact as star charts. The NAV coordinates lead the Pillar of Autumn to what the Covenant had been searching for: Halo, an extremely sacred artifact to the Covenant. The book ends with Captain Keyes looking through view screens at the ring, asking Cortana to identify the object.

Spoilers end here.


As this is the first released piece of media in the Halo universe, all of the following are first appearances.

Re-releases and other countries[edit]

2010 bonus content[edit]

See here for a list of changes in the Tor Books edition of the novel.

The Tor Books edition of The Fall of Reach features a new "Adjunct" section at the end, which features several pieces of short fiction:

Polish 2012 edition[edit]

On May 30, 2012, ISA publishing house published a Polish version of the book, "Halo: Upadek Reach".[9] This version was translated by Marta Koniarek and features a unique cover created by Garbacz.


Critical reception to Halo: The Fall of Reach was mostly positive, though with a few negative comments. Gene Park, from Game Critics, stated that it "...exceeds expectations by being an intelligently written and well-paced story with enough imagination to improve on the original Halo mythos."[10] Many reviewers praised Nylund's writing skill, saying that it was "solidly written" and had many "vivid" details.


  • The Banshee on the original front cover of the book projects the same "energy beams" that the Banshee projects on the front cover of Halo: Combat Evolved.
  • An excerpt from this book, along with excerpts from Halo: The Flood and Halo: First Strike, is included in a directory on Halo: Combat Evolved for PC. It is found in the "Goodies" section of the disc.
  • The first section of this book is titled "Reveille" and involves characters emerging from cryo-sleep. The first section from Halo: Combat Evolved is also appropriately titled "Reveille", and also involves someone waking from cryo-sleep. Reveille is a traditional bugle call of the U.S. Military, which is sounded at the start of each day on military installations, to wake up the troops. "Reveille" is French for "to awaken."
  • In Halo 3, Cortana states several of Dr. Halsey's quotes from this book during Cortana moments, such as: "Can I speak with you please? What's your name? It's very nice to meet you. You like games? So do I.", "You have been called upon to serve, you will be trained...and you will become the best we can make you. You will be the Protectors of Earth and all her Colonies.", and "Could you sacrifice yourself to complete your mission? Could you watch him die?" In the game, "yourself" and "him" are changed to "me", referring to Cortana. This may be because Cortana was going rampant; as she was created from Dr. Halsey's mind, she would view herself as Halsey when reviewing the memories.
  • Bungie considered canceling the book to allow players to see the Master Chief as a blank slate, and because of concerns that the book would not sell enough units to be worth the effort. Nylund's editor, Eric S. Trautmann convinced Bungie to approve the book, and it carried a dedication to him until it was reissued in 2010 by a different publisher.[11][12]
  • Gabriel Garza created the cover art used for the 2010 edition of the novel. It has been reused for every edition since, barring the unique 2012 Polish edition.
  • The original release cover art for The Fall of Reach was later echoed with the 2020 release of Halo: Shadows of Reach.


Cover art artwork[edit]

Edition covers[edit]

2010 edition artwork drafts[edit]



External links[edit]