I keep meaning to read the Halo universe books, particularly the original trilogy of books recounting the events of the first video game. It’s a compelling universe that’s only just barely been touched by the video games, and I’d love to delve deeper. When Amazon.com and Macmillan went to war over ebooks, and all of the Macmillan titles were dropped from Amazon, I decided to take up John Scalzi on his call to support the authors caught in between by buying Tobias Buckell’s The Cole Protocol.
The Halo universe book, published by Tor, takes place in the opening days of the Covenant/Human War. The United Nations Space Command has initiated the Cole Protocol, which is systematically wiping any and all navigation data that could lead to Earth from captured (or soon to fall) star systems.
That mission brings a UNSC stealth frigate and a team of Spartan super soldiers to The Rubble, a renegade human colony lurking in a gas giant’s trailing Trojan moons that’s some how established a truce with a faction of Covenant aliens.
It’s a good read that scratches that itch to delve deeper into the Halo universe. It’s got what you want from a Halo book: Spartans battling behind enemy lines, noble UNSC fleet officers and ODST warriors on a desperate mission, and a suitably “big science” structure in the form of the Rubble, and an AI that just might be on the brink of going insane.
Is it a great book? No. Buckell relies too much on our familiarity with the Halo universe, and doesn’t spend nearly enough time describing the Spartan armor, energy blasts, or the look and cant of the alien species. Those who haven’t played the series are likely to be lost reading this novel; there’s some background provided, but these are mostly touchstones for fans.
Characterization is thin; I liked Lieutenant Keyes (who goes on to become Captain Keyes in Halo) but the Spartans and ODSTs are relegated to secondary characters. All of this serves a fast moving plot that quickly skips between the human factions and those of the covenant. It makes for a fast read, but I wish the book had another 50 pages to flesh out its characters and environment.
Applications to higher education? None, except it would be handy to have an AI around here to help with coordinating our work…
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