01/06/2009. Contributed by Rod MacDonald
pub: Macmillan Audio. 9 CDs 10.5 hours. Price: $39.95 (US)ISBN: 978-1-4272-0528-5. read by Jonathan Davis.
check out website: http://us.macmillan.com/Book.aspx?isbn=9781427205285
It seems a long time since the late Sgt Avery Johnson was fighting insurrectionists in 'Contact Harvest'. It's beginning to get scary when even the human combatants seem to be less human and more like machines. In this bitter conflict against the Covenant where there are no niceties, the relentless progress of total war has made it necessary to push humans to the extreme, both physically and mentally.
'The Cole Protocol', ably written by Tobias Buckell, is the sixth novel in the Halo Universe. This expanding universe, which has grown since its first conception as a media game, has become much more than a simple shoot 'em down show.
Set approximately 500 years hence, it's a highly evolved story of a conflict between two galactic civilisations, namely Earth and The Covenant, and also the instabilities inherent within each organisation. This is no straight, well-defined battle because each side has its own internal troubles which act to make life more difficult for all concerned. There's no black and white: there's only grey.
No better opportunity to introduce the Gray Team! This is a three-man team (actually one is a woman) of difficult to train Spartan 3 soldiers. Rather bolshie, unable to follow orders because they were independent thinkers, these gifted, intelligent and resourceful people were put together as an unofficial team to go behind enemy lines and create havoc. The SAS come to mind!
What exactly is the Cole Protocol? It was of prime importance that the Covenant did not find Earth's location. Admiral Cole dictated that no communication should give away the location of Earth and that any vessel left stranded at the mercy of the enemy should self-destruct in order to prevent information being disclosed. The last thing Earth needed was a Covenant fleet on their doorstep!
Now, to continue the story, way beyond the colony planets in the depths of space exists a system called Hesiod. This star is a bloated giant and the only place habitable is an environment called Rubble, basically lots of asteroids linked together in a Lagrangian orbit much the same way that the Trojan asteroids accompany Jupiter. This became a place for Insurrectionists to escape detection. They were joined by survivors from some of the worlds which the Covenant destroyed in the vicinity.
Insurrectionists and Jackals, the latter being Covenant allies, have an uneasy truce in Rubble. Feeling that information may be given away as to Earth's location, the Gray Team must step in to prevent this from happening. This means destruction! However, it is not going to be an easy task. The Covenant send in their own elite forces, in particular the ambitious and ruthless Thel. Many battles would take place, alliances formed and broken, with ships destroyed and planets ruined in heroic battle. Many would be injured and countless more would die. In many respects, death was preferable in such circumstances.
If you want excitement and action, here it is. The audio book has a pace of its own and it's much more immediate than simply reading the book. Jonathan Davis' style of narration is eminently suited to this story and he is able to deliver the action and exciting climaxes with powerful impact. This isn't for the faint-hearted. It's a battle to the death from start to finish with so many twists and turns of plot that it's difficult to keep a straight head throughout the proceedings.
Overall, I've been quite impressed by the 'Halo' audio books. The authors have turned a media game into another universe, meticulous and complex in its construction, which continues to deliver enthralling action. Certainly one to recommend!
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Stephen Hunt's novels - USA