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The Cole Protocol: Halo    by Tobias S. Buckell order for
Cole Protocol
by Tobias S. Buckell
Order:  USA  Can
Macmillan, 2008 (2008)
Paperback, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I was intrigued to see this sixth Halo episode written by Tobias S. Buckell (well known for Crystal Rain, Ragamuffin and Sly Mongoose). The Halo series of books - 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 has ruled that mankind is to be exterminated.

This action-packed (9 CDs) audiobook is read brilliantly by Jonathan Davis, whose range allows him to switch between human and alien grunts, as well as the primary characters, and make them all seem real. The sound effects also help increase the audiobook's dimensionality, giving it the feel of an old-style radio play. The title refers to a protocol enforced by the UNSC to prevent Covenant forces from finding and destroying the Inner Colonies and Earth, as they did Harvest and other colonies - it requires human ships under threat from the enemy to destroy all navigation data.

This exciting episode opens in the Rubble, an asteroid base that Insurrectionists opened up to refugees from the Covenant destruction of Madrigal. Since then, the Rubble Council has secretly traded with the enemy, but has assigned Ignatio Delgado to hide their navigation data. As the story begins, Delgado is under attack from Jackals and is rescued by Adriana, one of three members of Spartan Gray Team, operating independently behind enemy lines. Delgado has further encounters with the Spartans as the plot thickens.

Another story thread follows Lieutenant Jacob Keyes, who is hauled away from his teaching position at the Academy to join a secret mission (to enforce the Cole Protocol) on the Midsummer Night (a frigate kept hidden by stealth technology). Finally we meet Sangheili Kaidon Thel, a fierce alien warrior leader who's tasked by the High Prophet of Regret to track down the Jackals who are trading with humans. This ultimately takes him to the Rubble, where the High Prophet of Truth already has another plan in motion, to buy the human navigation data.

All these characters, plots, counterplots, and betrayals galore collide in a magnificent action orchestrated by Rubble AI Juliana, who's on the verge of madness. Though I've never played the Xbox game, I thoroughly enjoyed Halo: The Cole Protocol, highly entertaining military SF that comes across most effectively as an audiobook.

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