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Halo Primordium: The Forerunner Saga #2    by Greg Bear order for
Halo Primordium
by Greg Bear
Order:  USA  Can
Macmillan Audio, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Halo Primordium follows Halo Cryptum as the second book in The Forerunner Saga. Written by Greg Bear, it tells the story of what happened to the Forerunners, keepers of the Mantle, and of their involvement with humanity.

The first episode introduced rebellious young Forerunner Manipular Bornstellar, treasure hunting on Erde-Tyrene, accompanied by young chamanune Chakas and small elder hamanune Riser. Together they activated a Forerunner Cryptum, reviving ancient warrior Didact, husband to the Lifeshaper Librarian (whose manipulations affected them all). The Didact then kidnapped the trio. After all four were captured by the Forerunner Master Builder, the first episode continued to tell Bornstellar's story.

Now, in Halo Primordium, we find out what happened to Chakas and Riser. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (9 hours, 7 CDs), read with character and verve by Timothy Dadabo, who (for fans of the videogame) was also the voice of Halo's 343 Guilty Spark. It begins with the analysis of a damaged monitor by an ONI research team, who hear the voice of Chakas:

'A long time ago, I was a living, breathing human being. I went mad. I served my enemies. They became my only friends.

Since then, I've traveled back and forth across this galaxy, and out to the spaces between galaxies - a greater reach than any human before me.

Essentially after conflict amongst Forerunners, Chakas and Riser are dropped into the Halo, whose test they witnessed, but do not reunite for most of the episode. Chakas is cared for by human Vinevra who takes him to her grandfather Gamelpar. Like Chakas and Riser, Gamelpar hosts an ancient human spirit, that occasionally offers comments and advice. Humans on the Halo live precarious existences in fear of being taken to the Palace of Pain, from which few return.

Chakas seeks a way out, hoping to get back to Erde-Tyrene. He and Gamelpar follow Vinevra, believing the Librarian has imprinted her with a route to safety. But they discover that the Halo's infrastructure has been subverted by the Master Builder and the monstrous Captive, supposedly the Last Precursor. Their odyssey is long and leisurely, with a variety of encounters and adventures, before they find out what is real and what illusion. They are eventually offered an opportunity for revenge on Forerunners, that leads to a reunion with Bornstellar/Didact.

The story is very slow to develop and I would only recommend this new series to serious Halo fans, who know and understand its context. However, the episode has a nice twist to the ending (obligatory in classic SF) and is masterfully narrated by Timothy Dadabo.

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