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Halo: The Flood

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This article is about the novel. For other uses, see Flood (disambiguation).
Halo: The Flood
The Flood - 1st Edition Cover.jpg


William C. Dietz

Cover artist(s):


Del Rey Books
Tor Books (2010 edition)

Publication date:

April 1, 2003 (original)
October 13, 2010 (2010 edition)
March 19, 2019 (2019 edition)

Media type:

Print (Paperback)


352 pages (2003 edition)
386 pages (2010 edition)
416 pages (2019 edition)


0345459210, 978-0345459213, 978-1982111632


Halo: The Flood is the novelization of Halo: Combat Evolved written by William C. Dietz following the events of the book Halo: The Fall of Reach. This novel attained the Publisher's Weekly bestsellers list during May 2003.[2]

The novel, along with The Fall of Reach and First Strike, was reissued in 2010 by Tor Books, with the new version including some content updates.[3]

Official summary (Tor revised edition)[edit]

Reach has fallen.

The Covenant war machine rages on.

Humanity's last hope lies with the crew of the Pillar of Autumn — the indomitable Captain Jacob Keyes, Staff Sergeant Avery Johnson, the AI Cortana, hundreds of fearless marines . . . and Spartan 117, Master Chief.

Having barely escaped the battle for Reach, the crew of the Pillar of Autumn is forced to make a jump into slipspace in hopes of evading the vast alien alliance hell-bent on wiping out humanity. But their destination brings them to an ancient mystery and an even greater struggle.

In this far-flung corner of the universe floats a magnificently massive artificial ringworld… a construct from a long lost race. The humans’ only hope of survival is to crash-land on its surface and take the battle against the Covenant to the ground.

But they soon discover that this enigmatic ring world is much more than it seems. Built 100,000 years ago by a civilization known as the Forerunners, this “Halo” is worshipped by the Covenant—a sacred artifact that they hope will complete their religious quest for supposed transcendence. They will stop at nothing to control it.

Engaged in a fierce ground battle, Master Chief and Cortana go deep into the Halo Construct to uncover a dark secret; this enigmatic ring world is also the universe’s most dangerous weapon. Its purpose: the destruction of all sentient life. For the Forerunners built the Halo to battle the universe’s most vicious enemy—a virtually unstoppable and suddenly reawakened force known as The Flood.

Plot synopsis[edit]

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

Sections I to III[edit]

Halo: The Flood takes place between September 19 and September 22, 2552. It is based on the game Halo: Combat Evolved. It begins as the UNSC cruiser Pillar of Autumn is exiting slipspace (on a randomized vector due to the Cole Protocol) after retreating from the fallen military base at Reach. The AI Cortana's exit vector leads the ship to a system discovered when she decrypted Forerunner glyphs found by the Master Chief on Sigma Octanus IV. When the Pillar of Autumn drops out of slipspace, her crew encounters a massive ring-world in orbit around Threshold, a gas giant. This ring-world is called Installation 04, also known as Alpha Halo.

In the system, there is a host of Covenant ships, who notice the lone UNSC ship. A Prophet forbids the fleet from firing on the Pillar of Autumn, for fear of damaging the ring. Instead, the Covenant are willing to sacrifice more lives to board and capture the ship rather than blasting it to pieces. As a result, the Pillar of Autumn and her crew are able to destroy four Covenant ships, but not without being further crippled by the Covenant onslaught. Meanwhile, technicians on the Autumn prepare for battle and thaw out a single soldier from cryogenic sleep: the presumed last SPARTAN-II, known as the Master Chief.

The Covenant proceed to take out the Autumn's defenses and board the ship. Deprived of defensive options, the Autumn's captain, Jacob Keyes, initiates the Cole Protocol and orders the crew to abandon the ship. The Master Chief is entrusted with the AI Cortana; given the wealth of tactical information the artificial intelligence contains—force deployment, weapons research, and the location of Earth—Keyes cannot allow Cortana to fall into Covenant hands. The Chief fights through the Covenant invaders, reaches the last remaining lifeboat, and heads to the surface of the ring-world known as Halo. At the same time, a special contingent of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers, or ODSTs, leave the Autumn via Human Entry Vehicles. On the surface of the ring, the ODST Commander, Major Antonio Silva, and his second-in-command, Lieutenant Melissa McKay, prepare to establish a ground base from where the human forces will launch their guerrilla resistance against the Covenant. Silva is aided by a Class C Military AI, Wellsley, named after the Duke of Wellington, who advises them to capture a high butte.

Meanwhile, a Covenant Grunt named Yayap leads his squad into the Pillar of Autumn. Extremely cautious and cowardly by nature, Yayap and his team decide to rescue a Covenant Special Operations Elite wounded by the Master Chief, rather than fight the humans. The five small aliens drag the black-armored Elite back to their craft and escape the deteriorating Autumn as it plunges towards the ring-world's atmosphere.

An Ossoona named Isna 'Nosolee manages to survive, using active camouflage to board Keyes' lifeboat after tracking him down in an attempt to take him hostage. However, the Captain spots him and shoots him with a Corporal's M6D pistol. Isna's corpse later allows the Covenant to realize that they should capture Keyes. Keyes and his crew are forced to evade Covenant forces after they crash onto Halo. Finally, they are betrayed by Ensign Ellen Dowski. Consequently, everyone including the Ensign is executed, save for the Captain, who is captured for interrogation aboard the Truth and Reconciliation.

The Master Chief lands on Halo and helps rescue Marines from their lifeboats, while the ODSTs secure Alpha Base after a clash with Covenant forces. Yayap is rewarded for his rescue of the Elite, named Zuka 'Zamamee, with the terribly dangerous assignment as the Elite's assistant.

The Master Chief and a squad of Marines board the Truth and Reconciliation, rescuing the Captain. Keyes has learned that the ring-world they are on has vast significance to the Covenant (who believe that "Halo", as they call the ring, is a weapon of unimaginable power). Escaping from the Covenant cruiser, Keyes gives the Master Chief the mission of finding Halo's control room before the Covenant does. In the meantime, Zuka ’Zamamee and Yayap are given permission to hunt for the Master Chief but fail in their attempts. Meanwhile, Lieutenant McKay and her company assault the now Covenant-controlled Pillar of Autumn for supplies and vehicles.

Keyes, a squad of Marines, and Sergeant Johnson are dropped into a swamp in an effort to discover a weapons cache. The Marines take prisoner a disillusioned Elite named 'Qualomee, who claims to be delivering a shipment of weapons to a force guarding a structure. Pushing deep into the mysterious structure, the squad finds something unlike anything they have ever seen before: dead Covenant freakishly ripped open and scattered about. In a locked room, the squad discovers the cause of the fatalities: the Flood. These bulbous aliens attempt to latch themselves onto the Marines, and despite their fragility, the sheer number of the creatures overwhelm the soldiers, tapping into their nervous systems and taking over their bodies. One soldier, Private Wallace A. Jenkins, is left still semi-conscious and painfully aware of his predicament. His Pod infector, weakened from hibernation, leaves him with a limited ability to control his movement and actions.

Sections IV and V[edit]

The Master Chief and Cortana discover the location of the Control Room. The Chief inserts Cortana into Halo's computer network. However, Cortana realizes that the ring isn't a weapon as they understood at all. Before the Chief can press her with questions, Cortana tells him to find the Captain, unaware that they are too late. The Master Chief is later dropped alone into the swamp where Keyes disappeared. Heading into the same structure, the Master Chief follows the subterranean passages down to the same room where Keyes and his men were attacked. He learns their fate via a recording from Jenkins' helmet cam and fights his way to the surface. There, he meets up with Marines and heads to a tower for evac. Suddenly, the Chief is teleported away from the swamp by Halo's resident AI: 343 Guilty Spark. The Master Chief is informed that the creatures he has encountered are called the Flood, a virulent parasite that infects its enemies to produce more of itself. Guilty Spark wishes to use Halo's defenses to wipe out the Flood, but needs the Master Chief's help in recovering the "Index" from the installation, which allows the activation of the ring. Fighting more and more Flood, the Chief recovers the Index and is teleported back to Halo's control room.

Meanwhile, the UNSC forces of Alpha Base are forced to defend themselves from a surprise attack by Covenant forces who are attempting to kill the Master Chief, unaware that he is absent. After the failed attack, UNSC forces attempt to ambush a Covenant recovery team, but are interrupted by a Flood attack. Jenkins attempts to commit suicide by throwing himself into the line of fire, but is captured instead.

Back in the control room, Guilty Spark gives the Master Chief the Index to activate Halo, but the furious Cortana stops him. Cortana explains that Halo is a weapon, but it doesn't kill the Flood, it kills their food: humans, Covenant, and all other sentient life in the galaxy. Realizing that they must stop Guilty Spark from activating Halo, Cortana and the Master Chief decide to destroy Halo by detonating the crash-landed Pillar of Autumn's fusion reactors. To do this, they need Captain Keyes' neural implants to activate the countdown. To slow Guilty Spark's progress, the pair overload three generators that amplify Halo's weapon. In order to fire Halo, they would first need to be repaired. Cortana discovers the Captain is still alive: held prisoner once again aboard the Truth and Reconciliation, now in the hands of the Flood, who are trying to escape Halo with the ship. The Chief fights Covenant and Flood and makes it to the Captain, but finds out he is too late; the Captain, after successfully resisting interrogation by the Flood, is now being transformed into a proto-Gravemind. The Chief retrieves the implants and leaves the Truth and Reconciliation for the Pillar of Autumn.

Section VI[edit]

While the Chief and Cortana head to the Autumn, Alpha Base is evacuated. Silva decides to retake the Truth and Reconciliation and pilot the ship away in order to avoid being on Halo when the Autumn blows. The ship is taken successfully, but McKay realizes that Silva is blinded by thoughts of promotion and glory instead of the danger of the Flood; ignoring Wellsley's objections, he fails to realize that if even one Flood specimen escaped containment on Earth, the entire planet could fall. An engineer notifies McKay of a vital power line (should it be severed, the unregulated energy would destroy the ship). Jenkins, who is infected but still coherent, attempts to destroy the line, but falls short. Realizing that the destruction of the Flood is far more important than Silva's promotion, McKay cuts the cable by activating a frag grenade, sending the Truth and Reconciliation crashing into Halo, nose first, killing everything aboard.

At the wrecked Autumn, the Master Chief is forced to destabilize the fusion reactors manually as 343 Guilty Spark and his robotic Sentinels try to stop them. On his way to the Engine Room, the Master Chief is nearly infected by the Flood, but Cortana saves him. Once the countdown until detonation has begun, Cortana radios for dropship evacuation, but Covenant aircraft shoot down the transport. A disgruntled Zuka 'Zamamee attempts to ambush the Chief, but is killed by a hail of grenades. Cortana directs the Chief to a Longsword Interceptor still docked in the Pillar of Autumn's hangar. Gunning the engines, the Chief and Cortana escape the ring just as the Autumn explodes, ending the threat of the Flood. Cortana scans for survivors and realizes that they are seemingly the only two who have survived. Cortana tells the Master Chief that the fight is finished, to which the Chief replies, "No, the Covenant is still out there, and Earth is at risk. We're just getting started."

Spoilers end here.



Artificial intelligence
  • Bok (First appearance)
  • Jak (First appearance)
  • Yeg (First appearance)



2010 bonus content[edit]

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

  • A priority broadcast log of the activities of the Fleet of Particular Justice during the Battle of Installation 04, sent to Lak 'Vadamee by Thel 'Vadamee.
  • An audio transcript of an emergency broadcast recorded by a panicked Flood survivor on Alpha Halo, heavily redacted and under analysis by ONI.
  • "Hunger", a poem depicting the thought process of a Flood victim, on Installation 04, in the process of transformation.
  • Excerpts from the journal of Zuka 'Zamamee while aboard the Truth and Reconciliation.
  • A private status report by 343 Guilty Spark after the outbreak of the Flood on Alpha Halo.
  • A status report filed by the Librarian on the progress of her categorization of life on Earth, presented as a Terminal transcript.

Adjunct-exclusive appearances[edit]








Technology and equipment


William C. Dietz was originally reluctant to accept this work because of two main reasons. First, he had no prior knowledge of Halo. Second, Bungie and Random House (the parent company of Del Rey Books) gave him only ten weeks to write the novel, while Dietz would usually take six months to write a book. He nevertheless changed his mind after checking Halo's popularity at his local videogame store, and after his agent negotiated a good pay because of the counterproductive delay. He was also confident in this kind of work, as he had already written the Dark Forces trilogy for Star Wars.[4]

Before he started the writing, Dietz played Halo: Combat Evolved several times, and he took the time to write notes and copy down some dialogues. He came to love Halo to the point that he still plays the game from time to time, more than a decade later. He also read Halo: The Fall of Reach, considering that the universe had already been firmly established (e.g.: the character of the Master Chief). The author worked closely with Bungie, who wanted to make sure the book would fit their universe. They had an e-mail correspondence, and Dietz would also come to the studio as he lived close to Bungie.[4]

It was Dietz who asked for the permission to include additional stories and characters that were not in the original game—especially the Covenant side—as it would make the book more appealing for readers who already knew the game's story. Bungie were reluctant as they did not want these new characters to be "imposed" on them, though they eventually accepted these additions as the characters would die at the end of the novel. Dietz was satisfied with the choices and compromises, as he felt it was a good deal for a contracted work. Ironically, Halo 2 would later explore more deeply the Covenant side of the universe.[4]


Reception for Halo: The Flood was generally mixed, with most criticism about Dietz's characterization of Master Chief. Some commented on the fact that the storyline did not separate itself from the game too well, which made it less exciting, as it was made more predictable.[5] It was also said that the book was like the game in that it "ground down to meaningless repetition of gunning down bad guys," saying that the repetition of it would bore readers.[6] Another commented that Dietz's writing was not as good as Nylund's, saying it was detailed, but redundant.[7] However, others praised it, saying "it fulfills its duty and elaborates on the major plot points and subtleties in ways the game never could".[8]

343 Industries Franchise Development Director Frank O'Connor has addressed some of the criticisms against the novel, referring to it as the "odd one out" of the novels and stating that the perceived flaws in the narrative are a result of adapting the story from a game to a novel. In addition, he mentioned that Dietz was forced to work with a far tighter schedule than that of Eric Nylund when writing The Fall of Reach.[9]


  • On the original cover, the Banshees flying overhead have their covers up, meaning they have no pilots. The same is true of the cover of Halo: Combat Evolved.
  • The original finalized cover is remarkably similar to that of iD Software's Doom. Both depict the main character gunning down hordes of enemies against a reddish background.[10]
  • Kenneth Scott created the cover art used for the 2010 edition of the novel, and it has been reused for every edition since.
  • The 2010 reissue cover depicts what is meant to be the MJOLNIR Mark V armor, although it does not follow any established iteration of the Mark V, instead being a mix of features from the various depictions of MJOLNIR Mark IV, Mark V and Mark VI. He is also dual-wielding M7 submachine guns. Neither the M7 nor dual-wielding appear in the game or the novel.
  • As the novel was written before many of the Covenant's beliefs were further detailed in Halo 2, it bears several discrepancies with later material. For example, the Covenant show no particular reverence toward 343 Guilty Spark and the Sentinels, and regard them as enemies;[11] Halo 2 later established that the Sentinels are revered by the Covenant as "holy warriors of the sacred rings" while monitors are among the holiest of Forerunner creations as "Oracles".[12] In addition, John-117 or the other Spartans are never referred to by the epithet "Demon" and are discussed with more pragmatic terms by the Covenant, although their battlefield prowess and high kill counts are acknowledged. However, the later-established nomenclature is used in the Adjunct section of the 2010 edition, such as 'Zamamee's journal entries.


Cover art artwork[edit]

Edition covers[edit]

2010 edition artwork drafts[edit]



See also[edit]