This article is about the novel written by Eric Nylund. For the military engagement sometimes known as the "Fall of Reach"
Halo: The Fall of Reach is the prequel to Halo: Combat Evolved, and is also the first Halo novel to be published. It was written by Eric Nylund, and published on October 30, 2001.The novel was reportedly finished in seven weeks, eventually becoming a Publisher's Weekly bestseller with nearly 200,000 copies sold in the United States and United Kingdom.The story begins on the planet Jericho VII on February 12, 2535, and reveals the Spartans as a whole as well as 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, soon the situation in space deteriorates, and the Spartans are forced to retreat as the surface of Jericho VII is glassed. The story itself begins with Dr. Catherine Halsey and Lieutenant Junior Grade Jacob Keyes on board the Han, a UNSC diplomatic shuttle. Their mission is to identify a potential candidate, John, for Halsey's Spartan-II program. Dr. Halsey finds John in a school playground in Eridanus 2, where she tests if he is good enough to be a Spartan. 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. 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.) while Deja teaches them history, mathematics, and physics. After a daring training mission in the wilds of Reach, John is made squad leader of the remaining Spartans. When the Spartans are fourteen, they undergo intense biological enhancements, such as effectively increasing their strength by three times, drastically increasing reaction times, making their bones practically indestructible, increasing blood flow to the eyes so that they can almost see in the dark, and other various improvements. However, of the 75 Spartans, less than half emerge still fit for combat; the rest died or were horribly injured by the augmentation progress. The Spartans are then issued orders to capture Colonel Robert Watts, an Insurrectionist leader in the Eridanus asteroid belt. John leads a small team which manages to capture Watts. 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. On that day, 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 the Vostok, are sent to investigate this incident, initiate first engagement protocols and attempted contact, engage the Covenant ship in battle, and are subsequently routed. Only one, 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. Cole's fleet manages 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, Covenant technology guarantees a three to one kill/loss ratio in most battles. One by one, the Outer Colonies fall to the onslaught and, by 2536, all have been destroyed. To protect the location of Earth, the Vice Admiral Cole establishes the United Nations Space Command Emergency Priority Order 098831A-1, more 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 destroyed or removed. Due to the shortage of effective officers, Keyes is promoted to Commander and assumes command of the UNSC Iroquois. Shortly thereafter, he foresees a Covenant attack on Sigma Octanus IV thanks to a paper by Spartan Fhajad-084. His actions result in the destruction of a Covenant destroyer and two frigates as well as the routing of a Covenant 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 to 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. He later returns to Reach, inadvertently disclosing the location of the planet to the Covenant via a homing beacon attached to the Iroquois. He is debriefed by an ONI council. Here he meets John-117 once again. By 2552, many of Humanity's Inner Colonies have been destroyed by the Covenant. 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.