Halo: The Cole Protocol by Tobias S Buckell

I was interested in reading this after having enjoyed the Eric S Nyland and Joe Staten novels a few years ago. I was looking forward to a different author’s approach. This is a method which has been adopted successfully in ‘The Star Wars Extended Universe’ books and has certainly worked well there. I was also looking forward to seeing what Tobias S Buckell could do with Captain Jacob Keyes’ earlier adventures as a Lieutenant.

The basic idea of HALO is the war set between the aliens of The Covenant and Humanity as defended by the UNSC or United Nations Space Command. The Cole Protocol is set in the early years of the Human – Covenant War although we are not told exactly when. The Cole Protocol has been set up by the UNSC to safeguard Earth and The Inner Colonies from detection by the Covenant. What this means in reality is that any spaceship detected must destroy its navigational data revealing Earth and the Inner Colonies and, if capture is imminent, must self destruct the spaceship.

The plot centres on a group of survivors and some insurrectionists from the human-occupied planets surrounding the gas giant Hesiod and their precarious alliance and tenuous links with a group of Covenant Jackal survivors who have formed The Rubble. A group of Spartans, known as Grey team, stumble upon the Rubble while on a mission to destroy any navigational data found in deep space and they are also joined by a group of the Covenant Elite who are on a holy quest led by the ruthless Thel ‘Vadamee. This further complicates matters and to top it off we also have Lieutenant Jacob Keyes of the Office of Naval Intelligence, ONI, who is on assignment to ensure The Cole Protocol is being upheld on commercial vessels.

The story starts slowly but after the first fifty or so pages I began to get into it. It also takes a while for the Spartans to enter the fray, but once they do the chapters become shorter and hold the attention more. The story centres on the characters Keyes, Thel ‘Vadamee and Ignatio Delgado of The Rubble and this gives us a perspective from all angles of the action, although I felt the interaction of the Grey team could have been touched on more and certainly the concept of Spartan II. The narrative can occasionally get confusing as it shifts perspective around a lot, but not to the point of distraction. The writing is brisk and punchy and that is exactly what is needed in Military Sci-Fi. I enjoyed the character of Thel ‘Vadamee and learning more about the Elite and their politics, especially the fact that they cannot shed their own blood or else they must die. It is definitely a book for hard core Halo fans who are interested in learning more about the Halo universe and the Elites.

Whilst not as action packed as previous Halo books, it was an interesting concept for a story and I would recommend it as the place for a Halo newcomer to start. It is interesting to learn the history prior to the game and to understand more of Jacob Keyes’ character, the Elites and of the desperation of the civilians of the Outer Colonies. This adds a little depth and shading to the Halo universe, and while the writing is not going to blow you away, it is pitched as it should be for this genre. It is nothing more than pure boys’ fun without a hint of a love story and should be enjoyed in the same way as you would enjoy Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. It will just about satisfy you but not fill you up. If you are not a fan of Halo, and I believe you probably need to be to fully enjoy this book, and you want to try Military Sci-Fi I would look at Robert A. Heinlein’s ‘Starship Troopers’ or Orson Scott Card’s excellent ‘Ender’s Game instead.

One other point I would like to add is that I have never been a fan of the quality of the Halo’s series book covers. I believe they could be vastly improved as they feel like a book from the eighties.

8/10 A good place for a Halo newcomer to start.

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