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Halo Evolutions: Essential Tales of the Halo Universe    by Karen Traviss, Tobias S. Buckell & et al order for
Halo Evolutions
by Karen Traviss
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, Softcover

Read an Excerpt

* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The highly entertaining Halo series of military SF novels - that started with Halo: Contact Harvest - is based on the popular Xbox game, set in a universe in which humanity struggles for its very survival against a Covenant of alien races whose faith requires that mankind be exterminated.

Halo Evolutions: Essential Tales of the Halo Universe is an eclectic collection of original Halo short stories by eleven talented authors including Karen Traviss, Eric Nylund and Tobias S. Buckell. As in all short story collections, they vary in style, theme and quality, but most carry the reader along with riveting action that mimics the game on which they are all based.

B. K. Evenson's Pariah is a semi-feral child, Soren, who chooses to join the Spartan program. When the medical treatments leave him 'uniquely deformed', he becomes an insurrectionist sympathizer. In Eric Raab's Stomping on the Heels of a Fuss, a top ONI (Office of Naval Intelligence) operative gets much more than he bargained for when he attempts to study the Jiralhanae.

In Frank O'Connor's Midnight in the Heart of Midlothian, a medical treatment leaves Shock Trooper Mike Baird as the only one left to stop the Covenant from extracting Earth's location from his ship's AI. Tobias S. Buckell's Dirt follows the careers of three Colonial Military recruits from Harvest and Madrigal. They end up with no choice but to 'die helping protect the dirt'.

In Mona Lisa by Jeff Vandermeer and Tessa Kum, a blood-drenched prison ship turns out to be filled with space zombies and (surprisingly) Covenant allies. Human Weakness by Karen Traviss takes the unusual point of view of USNC AI Cortana, who's been captured by the Gravemind and longs for rescue by her Spartan partner John.

Since I don't play the game, I've been surprised by how much I've enjoyed previous books in this series. Since I'm also not much of a fan of short stories, I didn't expect these to capture my interest, but I found them engrossing, especially those where the action flows fast. I recommend Halo Evolutions to both Halo and military SF fans.

Audiobook Review:

The unabridged audiobook of Halo Evolutions is read with feeling by four different narrators (Steve Downes, Holter Graham, Frank O'Connor, and Jen Taylor) in fourteen hours and on twelve CDs.

The short stories work well in audio format. I tend to listen to audiobooks on one hour car trips and sometimes find it hard to track where I am in a longer piece (which takes many weeks of trips to finish), but didn't have this problem with these shorts. The variety in narrators also helps distinguish the different tales, and reading them aloud brings out the emotions of humans, aliens and AIs very well.

If you like the game and haven't tried the books yet, then listening to these brief Halo episodes might be a very good place to start.

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