The conclusion to Greg Bear’s amazing Forerunner Saga, Halo: Silentium.
Picking up from the events of the previous two books, Cryptum and Primordium, Silentium brings the story of the downfall of the Forerunners and the firing of the Halo array to a climactic and emotional finish. In the final book, Bear sets out to resolve the aspects of the plot that have been built up over the last 12 years, close the arcs of several major characters and foreshadow what is yet to come in the future of Halo‘s Reclaimer Saga.
The primary focus of the story is on the tragic downfall of the Ur-Didact and the seeds that the Librarian has sown that kickstarts humanity on their journey to reclaim the Mantle, and, of course, the monumental event that resulted in galaxy-wide genocide – the firing of the Halos.
Before this book, Halo‘s lore covered something over 110,000 years. With Silentium, we now have over 100 billion years, pre-dating the universe as we know it, as the godlike beings that created all life, the Precursors, are finally unveiled by the narrative. Their story is beautifully fleshed out in the kind of weird, terrifying way that you’d expect from H.P. Lovecraft. The stories that are told and the things that its characters are put through are so dark, I actually found some sections of the book quite difficult to read through because of what was happening to some of my favourite characters.
Perhaps my favourite part of the book is the Ur-Didact’s downfall which results in the foe we face in Halo 4. Following the events of the first novel where he gets captured by his political nemesis, Faber (the Master Builder), he is put into stasis aboard a ship and stranded in a Burn – a star system that has been completely assimilated by the Flood – along with some of Faber’s other political enemies. The ship drifts towards a group of Precursor star roads and gets taken by the Gravemind who subjects the Ur-Didact to a hideous form of torture where his mind is driven into total insanity, as the raw hatred, pain and madness of a near-extinct race of gods hellbent on vengeance against the Forerunners is imprinted in his head. The Ur-Didact becomes a pawn in this game of galactic extinction and he’s turned against the very people he’s fighting for.
A more subtle aspect of this conflict, however, is the meeting between the Ur-Didact and the IsoDidact towards the end of the novel. The latter was once a young Forerunner known as Bornstellar who was responsible for awakening the Ur-Didact in the first book, before they are captured by the Master Builder, the Ur-Didact imprints his memories, experiences and personality into Bornstellar’s mind through a natural process in Forerunner evolution known as a brevet mutation. As a result, Bornstellar became the Didact. They speak to each other at a summit and we see exactly how different they’ve become, as the Ur-Didact rants about how the Mantle of Responsibility is not to be inherited by the worthy, but is to be taken by the strong.
The Librarian similarly has a fascinating journey through the book. She forms an expedition crew to go outside the galaxy to a nearby star system known as Path Kethona in order to search for the origins of the Flood. What she finds are millions of ancient, derelict Forerunner ships and a planet containing a primitive form of Forerunner life who have been living there for 10 million years following their genocidal war with the Precursors. After declaring her mission a failure, she is reunited with her husband(s) to discover that the one she had lost is no longer the person he was. He later betrays her by stealing the Composer and using it on her human specimens on Omega Halo which drives her into a frenzy about how all he has ever done is kill her children. It’s a horrible, yet beautifully written, moment as the story reaches its crescendo.
Librarian then stows away on the Ur-Didact’s ship and heads to Requiem. She discovers that he is using the Composer on his own Warrior-Servants to create the Promethean Knights as his own personal army and sets out to stop him by shooting him twice with a light rifle.
Following this, she places the Ur-Didact in a Cryptum where his mind will connect to the Domain – the information network the Forerunners use which can heal his mind. She plans for him to awaken after meditating where he will become the one who helps humanity ascend to their rightful place as guardians of the Mantle, and she then heads to Earth. She uses herself as bait to draw the Flood’s attention away from the Ark to give the IsoDidact a chance to fire the Halos by sending a message to all Forerunner ships saying that she has found a cure for the Flood. On Earth, she meets with Chant to Green, the young Lifeworker who accompanied the Librarian on her exodus to Path Kethona and who she sees as resembling one of her daughters. Upon detecting the presence of the Flood on their way to Earth, the Librarian sends all her Lifeworkers and ships to the Ark and passes the title of Lifeshaper (which only 3 Forerunners in the last 10 million years have held) on to Chant-to-Green, telling her to go and join the surviving Forerunners at the Ark.
It all looks like everything is going to work out for the Librarian’s plan, but when the Flood arrive the Gravemind sends her a final message to laugh in her face. The Domain, which she hooked the Ur-Didact up to in his Cryptum, is actually a Precursor consciousness which will be destroyed by the firing of the Halos – as the neural physics that make Precursor technology immortal can only be affected by the harmonic frequency of the Halos. She has not only doomed her husband to 100,000 years of silence where he will be stewing in his own Precursor-induced hatred, but the Domain itself is the very Mantle that the Forerunners claimed to inherit – the collection of 100 billion years of knowledge the Precursors have stored.
It’s at this point that the Librarian discovers that it’s too late to do anything about it. The Halos have already been fired and she dies with the Flood laughing in her face.
Throughout the book, there are a number of glyphs put at the start of each chapter. If one enters these codes into Halo Waypoint then you unlock an awesome 40 minute Epilogue titled Halo: Rebirth.
This is set just after the firing of the Halos and reveals that the IsoDidact survived with a number of other Forerunners and the species that the Librarian devoted several hundred years of her life cataloguing, including some of the human characters from the previous two books – like Riser and Vinnevra. Before reseeding the Milky Way of life, the Forerunners and humans make peace with each other as they host a feast to mourn the passing of the Old Galaxy and celebrate the birth of the New. It’s a beautiful moment when the IsoDidact says that he hopes one day that their races will meet again as brothers and find trouble for them to confront together, he then takes Riser back where he started in the first book, bringing the story of the Forerunner Saga full circle.
The Forerunners then depart to go on the Great Journey. Where this took them, we do not know, but one thing is certain and that’s that Chakas, 343 Guilty Spark, has tracked them down 100,000 years later and is on his way to find them, setting up the events for future stories in this wonderful fucking universe.
There’s more to say, of course, such as how a mystery that has been part of the series for 12 years (see the opening cutscene to Two Betrayals) is answered in a very satisfying way. But I think I’ve rambled on for long enough now, until next time.