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Halo Cryptum: Book One of the Forerunner Saga    by Greg Bear order for
Halo Cryptum
by Greg Bear
Order:  USA  Can
Macmillan Audio, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Holter Graham does a splendid job of narrating (in 7 CDs and 9 hours) all the roles in Greg Bear's Halo Cryptum: Book One of the Forerunner Saga - from that of the rebellious young Forerunner Manipular, Bornstellar Makes Eternal Lasting, to the gravelly tones of the ancient warrior Didact and the soft lilt of a Lifeshaper. Author Greg Bear introduces the audiobook, explaining what drew him to the series.

Fans of the Halo videogame and books have long wondered what happened to the Forerunners, keepers of the Mantle. Though expected to become a great Builder like his father, Bornstellar ('Born') avoids taking the next step towards assuming that kind of responsibility. Instead, he heads off on a treasure hunt (for Precursor atrifacts) of which his family would surely disapprove. Little does he know that he's been manipulated into this headlong adventure, which will drastically changes his own life as well as the future of his entire race.

Along the way we learn that humans once had an interstellar empire, which was defeated and destroyed by the Forerunners as humans fought on two fronts and themselves defeated a terrible genetic infestation called the Flood. Devolved by the Forerunners (and split into sub-species) they were exiled to Erde-Tyrene, which is where a treasure hunting Born (guided by his ancilla, an AI tutor) joins two of them (chamanune Chakas and hamanune Riser) to travel by steam boat to an island reputed to hold Precursor artifacts.

Instead, Born and the humans activate a Forerunner Cryptum, reviving its occupant, the Didact, who had been there for over a thousand years. He was exiled after he opposed the creation of dreadful Halo weapons (built to stop the Flood). The Didact's Lifeshaper wife, the Librarian, was behind his awakening. The Didact essentially kidnaps Born, Chakas and Riser, taking them along to survey various planets. He asks for Born's help, which depends on Born's accepting a mutation (mentored by the Didact) and sharing his memories. Born agrees, but is shocked by how the process changes him, physically and mentally.

After the four are captured and interrogated by the Master Builder, Born is returned to his powerful family, his new friends' fates unknown. But soon afterwards, he is summoned back to the Forerunner home world. There, AI Mendicant Bias (possibly influenced by a dire monster that escaped a Precursor prison) attacks, sending Born and two companions on the run once more. This time he ends up at the Ark, where he finally meets the Librarian and learns why she sent him on this course in the first place. He also learns a shocking truth about the origins of the monster.

Though only for Halo fans (there are many references that only they will be able to follow) this first in the Forerunner Saga tells an exciting story that spans millennia. At the same time, Halo Cryptum takes readers (and listeners) through a coming of age for Bornstellar Makes Eternal Lasting, one that parallels the downfall of a great civilization.

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