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January 19, 2003

I return at last! After a long (Long? Ha!) hiatus during which I triumphed over the Mongol hordes, put down an uprising of Highlander Shoats (a shoat is a weasel, you know), read Ulysses, and laid waste to an entire Covenant armada, I finally decided to root through some of the recent submissions piling in my inbox. First up:

Ken ( writes:

I don't know why, but there is one thing about the book that has always bothered me. According to the beginning of the novel, John (Spartan 117) was born in 2511. When the fall of Reach happens in 2552, that would make the Master Chief 41 years old. . .don't you think that would be a little over the hill for a super marine? Rather, the end of the timeline should be in 2542, putting the Master Chief at a healthy 31--considering late in the novel that John reflects on how Dr. Halsey recruited him 25 years prior. 2517 plus 25 would be 2542, not 2552. Can anyone say "reprint"??? Just an observation. . .the book still rocks. Thanks.

While it did strike me as a bit odd for the Master Chief to be over forty the first time I read The Fall of Reach, it really makes a fair amount of sense. For example, almost all modern military pilots are in their mid-to-late thirties (contrary to what Top Gun might make you think), both because of the lengthy training required to operate a jet aircraft, and because they are officers, not enlisted men, and it takes time to work your way up to an officer's position.

Now, the Master Chief is neither a fighter pilot nor an officer. He is, however, both an operator of a very complex battle system, rather like a combat aircraft, and a commander of an elite, very important combat platoon. Maturity and wisdom are required of him, and both of these are generally acquired through age and experience.

Also, men we might today consider to be far too old for ground combat are almost ubiquitous in legend and history, especially in many of the military engagements thematic to Bungie's stories. Roland was at least forty; Miltiades, the Greek general at the front ranks of the Athenian army at Marathon, was exactly sixty at the time; and, specifically to Halo, Leonidas, King of Sparta and leader of the three hundred Spartan heavy infantry to hold the pass at Thermopylae, was fifty five.

However, in my inquires into the Battle of Thermopylae, I have found a very interesting parallel. Dienekes, whom Herodotus claimed to be the chief hero of Thermopylae, was the very same age as the Master Chief, forty one, when he died defending the pass against the Persians. He, like John-117, was not an officer but a platoon leader. In fact, it was Dienekes whose famous quotation is often used to refer to Thermopylae: When told that the Persians had archers so numerous that their arrows would block out the sun, Dienekes replied, "Good. Then we shall have our battle in the shade."

Quandries indeed. Perhaps some digging into this Dienekes character is in order.

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-Ape Man