Author: Various authors
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, 2009
Rating: 5/5 stars
Amazon Price: $11.39
Halo Evolutions is a collection of 11 short stories that gives the reader further insight into the Halo lore. Each story is highly well written and each ends in a way that the reader does not expect, or even desire. When reading a particular short story, the reader may desire the characters to survive, but to the reader’s dismay some don’t. The survival of some characters are even left ambiguous. To me, this is a mark of extraordinary writing—writing a story in which the events make the reader expects one thing to happen, but something totally different occurs. No ending should be predictable, and not every story in these volumes are predictable. If a reader is reading through the Halo books in chronological order, the Halo Evolutions volumes cannot be placed in any specific point of the Halo timeline, for each short story takes place at various points of Halo history. This being the case, Halo Evolutions is not required to read in order to generally understand the full Halo narrative. However, if the Halo fan loves Halo lore and wants to know as much as he or she can about it, I would certainly recommend Halo Evolutions as a read. If the reader cares about reading the books in chronological order, I would recommend reading the book after playing through Halo 4, as some stories take place during the Human-Covenant War and others take place after the Human-Covenant War. Overall, for Halo fans that love reading up on Halo lore, this two-volume book is a must read for Halo fans.
Halo Evolutions was originally written in two separate volumes, but after their completion they were both amalgamated into a single volume, which is the copy I read. Since Halo Evolutions is a collection of 11 short stories, I won’t be covering a whole lot. What I will say, though, is that if you really want to know more about Halo lore, read this book. Particularly because of some events that we’re familiar with from the games that are not explained in the games themselves, such as what happened while Cortana was left on High Charity with the Gravemind.
At the end of Halo 2, the Master Chief has no choice but to leave Cortana on board High Charity. The next time we see Cortana is in Halo 3 when the Master Chief rescues her from the Gravemind. After rescuing her, it’s easy for the gamer to tell that Cortana isn’t the same. So what happened to her? Fortunately, towards the end of the second volume, we read a 119-paged story of what Cortana underwent through the Gravemind’s interrogation. If you’ve read Greg Bear’s Forerunner saga and remember that the Gravemind—or the Primordial—corrupted the main Forerunner AI Mendicant Bias, reading what Cortana went through brings back memories of Mendicant Bias’ corruption. How was Cortana—a human AI—able to survive the subtle, insidious manipulation of the Gravemind while the Forerunners’ superior AI was not? Without giving away too many details, it was nothing short of Cortana’s unexplainable emotional connection to John—the Master Chief. How can a mechanical construct have such a strong emotional connection to a human being? Is it due to her oncoming rampancy? Or is it something else?
Besides the story of Cortana on board High Charity, there is one other short story that I think is worth mentioning. It comes directly after Cortana’s story, which is a biography of Admiral Preston Cole. If you’ve read The Cole Protocol, then you’re familiar with Cole’s legacy. Yet the Cole Protocol is only a small part of his legacy. The biography of Cole takes us through his childhood and military career up to his possible death, hence the title, “The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole.” Throughout the biography, the ONI operative’s goal is not only to give an accurate and honourable account of Cole’s life and military prowess, but also to assess the events surrounding his “death.” Is Preston Cole actually dead, or is he alive? By the end of the biography, there is still some uncertainty, and the reader is left to make his own decision whether Cole is alive or dead.
There are many other fascinating stories within the two volumes. Some include a side story of the Master Chief, missions of a SPARTAN-III operation as well as a SPARTAN-II operation, and even stories from the Covenant. All serve to give a broader understanding of Halo lore and the realisation that there is more to the Halo universe than meets the eye.