Author: Tobias S. Buckell
Publisher: Microsoft Corporation, 2008; Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
Rating: 4/5 stars
Amazon Price: $7.99 – $10.67
All the Halo books I’ve reviewed up to this point have been stories about the Master Chief’s life. In this book, we don’t read about the Master Chief at all, but rather a trio of Spartans and other key characters. The thing that annoyed me most about this book was getting the blood colours of the Covenant wrong. For example, Buckell described the Sangheili (Elites) blood as being blue, but in the games they’re clearly purple. Once, he correctly described Unggoy (Grunts) blood as blue, but later on described them as purple for some reason. There are a few other strange errors such as calling the character Adriana “Adrienne” once near the end of the book. Besides these continuity and spelling errors, overall it’s an enticing read on a new group of Spartans nowhere mentioned in the game lore. We get an inside look at just what the Cole Protocol is and its importance, and why the story of the trio Spartans and a mere human are important characters in the whole Halo story.
While they may not realise it, the Halo fan first comes across the Cole Protocol in one of the first cutscenes in Halo: Combat Evolved. Upon finding the Halo ringworld for the first time, Captain Keyes tells the AI Cortana to enact the Cole Protocol. This tiny mention is easy to miss. Unless you play the game a lot like I have, you don’t even recognise its mention in the game. This book which tells the purpose and formulation of the Cole Protocol was written seven years after its first mention in the first Halo game, which just goes to show the extreme detail Bungie always puts in their games.
I wouldn’t say it’s a spoiler to describe what the Cole Protocol because defining it doesn’t really spoil anything, but if you have no idea what it is and don’t want to know before you read the book, then skip this paragraph. The Cole Protocol was an extremely important military edict formulated by Admiral Cole Preston (hence Cole Protocol) that commanded all UNSC Navy captains that upon predicted or imminent defeat by the Covenant, to set a random slipspace jump away from Earth and any human colony to avoid AI capture on the ship and to prevent the Covenant from finding other human occupied planets and colonies. Or, worst case scenario, if doing this random jump is impossible, to erase all intelligence on the ship and self-destruct. In fact, activating the Cole Protocol is how the Pillar of Autumn comes across Halo Installation 04 after evacuating Reach after its fall.
The book starts us off with a species of the Covenant called Kig-yar, or Jackals, attacking an Insurrectionist asteroid base called the Rubble. This is where we meet the primary main character, Ignatio Delgado. During the attack, he meets SPARTAN-111 Adriana of Gray Team, who works with two other Spartans: Jai-006 and Mike-120. In this book we also read of the famous Captain Keyes’ important involvement in the story, who was Lieutenant at this time. Upon meeting the rest of Gray Team, Delgado learns they’re on the Rubble to destroy any navigational data per the Cole Protocol and is left to find out more about a security leak originated from the Security Council of the Rubble, the primary suspect being Peter Bonifacio. Meanwhile, an Elite named ‘Thel Vadamee, whom we know as the Arbiter from the Halo game series, is ordered by the Prophet of Regret to track down modified Covenant weapons that rebel Jackals made in a deal with humans on the Rubble along with annihilating the Rubble. Gray Team’s mission becomes a dual mission, then, in finding the Security Council leak and saving the Rubble from the Covenant, even though they’re rebel Insurrectionists.
There’s not much that’s unique about this book. It’s not as unique as The Fall of Reach, or First Strike, or even the Forerunner series by Greg Bear. However, what I did enjoy a lot was getting an inside story about the future Captain Keyes’ courage, tactical genius, and rise through the ranks and a further background of the Arbiter (‘Thel Vadamee), along with an understanding of what exactly the Cole Protocol is. To be honest, I didn’t care much for Ignatio Delgado. While he did play a pivotal role in the story, I just don’t care about him as a character. Earlier I explained Buckell’s misdescription of the Elites’ and Grunts’ blood colours; that was really annoying. It’s almost as if he never played any of the games. That, or he’s colour blind. It’s a little hard to take his writing seriously if he gets something as simple as the aliens’ blood colours wrong. Otherwise, The Cole Protocol is an enlightening story of the protocol’s significance, another Spartan group’s pivotal role in saving humanity, and the famous Captain Keyes’ admirable character as a leader.