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Halo: Evolutions audio book by various authors

01/03/2010. Contributed by Rod MacDonald

Buy Halo: Evolutions audio book in the USA - or Buy Halo: Evolutions audio book in the UK

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pub: Macmillan Audio. 12 CDs 14 hours. Price: $49.99 (US). ISBN: 978-1-4272-0786-9) voices: Steve Downes, Holter Graham, Frank O'Connor & Jen Taylor.

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A very neat and presentable package, it's amazing how they get 12 CDs into a box about 1 inch thick. Well, the book was released in November last year and now we've got the audio version. By now, 'Halo' is a very well-known product. The video game has been transformed into several novels, a graphic novel and, to be released later this year, a trilogy by Greg Bear based on the Halo Universe. This audio book is a collection of 16 pieces, mainly short stories with a couple of poems and some e-mail transcriptions included.

The 'Halo' video games have been very successful. Likewise the novels and I was wondering if this was an attempt to fill the gap between this and the new Greg Bear novels with any old thing just to keep the punters happy? A few leftovers chucked together, so to speak? On listening to the stories, I could discern that this was certainly not the case. The entire content was very interesting and enjoyable.

To some extent you need to know a little about the Halo Universe. Essentially, humans venturing into space have come in contact with a very dangerous group of aliens called The Covenant. Despite being outgunned and outnumbered, Earth has fought back using specially trained soldiers, Spartans by name, and like the ancient Greeks, they became expert warriors. Tied to this we also have an extinct race of aliens, the Forerunners, who somehow seem to play a pivotal role in the entire affair.

The stories in this CD package explore lots of corners and alleyways in this universe and bring light to some unsolved mysteries. They also add colour, emotion and extra dimensions to the lives of both the soldiers and aliens. Yes, we see how both sides function. Halo is not a one-sided conflict and it is possible to understand, albeit without sympathy, the ethics and psychology of the aliens.

My favourite story of the collection was 'Midnight In The Heart Of Midlothian' by Frank O'Connor who comes from Edinburgh. 'Heart Of Midlothian' is a famous novel by Sir Walter Scott and also the name of O'Connor's favourite football team (he is a Jambo) which obviously is the inspiration behind the naming of an Earth space destroyer. On board is a marine soldier undergoing an operation but when he wakes up' he discovers The Covenant has taken over the ship in an attempt to find Earth's location. The only human remaining, his task is to stop them by any means possible.

We've also got 'Headhunters' which is a story about Spartan soldiers going behind enemy lines to create as much havoc and destruction as possible. Jonathan Goff's story is quite frantic, electric and bloody. Another encounter of grisly proportions is 'The Mona Lisa' written by Tessa Kum and Jeff VanderMeer. The crew of The Red Horse encounter a ship, The Mona Lisa, which seems to be abandoned in space. On entering, they discover that The Flood, a weird parasitical life-form from The Covenant, has infested everything which leaves them with a grim battle for survival.

Like most of the 'Halo' stories, everything is indeed a battle for survival. Too often perhaps everything ends in self-sacrifice and death but that is the essence of the struggle against the aliens which are overwhelmingly superior to the humans in many respects.

The 12 CDs and 14 hours seem to run by very quickly, such is the pace of the stories. They are well told, well-written and enjoyable to listen to if such material is to your liking. With a big fan base out there in a Halo Universe which encompasses many forms of media, this audio book is sure to be a big hit and a necessary part of any collection. It can definitely be recommended.

Rod MacDonald

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