The Cole Protocol (Halo #6) Review

The Cole Protocol (Halo #6) is a 2008 science fiction military novel written by Tobias S. Buckell and published by Tor Books.  Set in the first, desperate days of the Human-Covenant War, the UNSC has enacted the Cole Protocol to safeguard Earth and its inner colonies from discovery by a merciless alien foe.


Positives:

  • Great characters
  • Complex story
  • Good writing
  • Good pacing
  • Good setup

Negatives:

  • Too many characters
  • Too many subplots

Plot:  There are four basic storylines.  One is the Spartan Gray Team sent to the Rubble to destroy any data concerning Earth’s location while giving hell to both the Insurrectionists and the Covenant. They discover that a group of Jackals are trading weaponry with the Insurrectionists. The second follows Jacob Keyes who is sent to enforce the Cole Protocol, the elimination of all navigational data pertaining to Earth’s location.  The third which follows Elite Thel ‘Vadam and his experiences in the Covenant army. Thel is sent to the Rubble to find out who is manufacturing augmented Covenant weaponry.  And the fourth follows a Rubble citizen who gets involved with a conspiracy involving the Covenant.  The pacing is good enough to keep the story engaging though at times the focus of so many things happening does become a little convoluted.  There’s nothing wrong with complexity but there is a such thing as too much.  The Insurrectionists are just as big of a threat to the USNC as the Covenant are and this is explored through both Keyes’ story and that on the Rubble.  The climax is just epic, the stakes are really high and it does come to a great conclusion. (3 out of 5)

Characters: There are several parties in the story but the main are Lieutenant Jacob Keyes, the Spartan Gray Team, and the Elite Thel’Vadam.  I though Jacob Keyes was awesome in The Flood and he definitely earns his medal in this story.  He shows off his brilliance in military tactics and it’s easy to see why he becomes such a respected figure in the series.  There’s this one sequence where he does a pretty cool trick with the spaceships. Interesting supporting characters are pilot, Jeffries, an ONI officer Major Watanabe and Commander Dimitri Zheng, all who do a great job.  Loved the cameo by Keyes daughter, Miranda.

Spartan Gray Team, consisting of Adriana-111, Jai-006, and Mike-120, are these black ops super soldiers who are investigating a colony of Insurrectionists who’ve come into contact with the Covenant and pose a threat to the UNSC.  At first, I had an issue with the number of Spartans because I felt it was too few but it actually worked out really well.  I will admit they aren’t as fleshed out as I would’ve liked them to be.  They are aided by a Rubble civilian named Ignatio Delgado who’s investigating a possible traitor attempting to sell Earth’s location to the Covenant.  Delgado is actually a pretty decent character and I liked seeing the war from his perspective.

Thel ‘Vadam, who would go on to become the Arbiter in later entries, is just a total badass, right off the bat he is attacked by assassins and quickly dispatches them as well as their employer.  Like Keyes, Thel’Vadam is younger and much more into the beliefs of the Covenant.  He’s young, he’s ambitious, he’s brutal, the fanatical factor is definitely bumped up to eleven.  I like how his story kind of mirrors that of Keyes, so you see how Sangheili society and Covenant inner workings operate.  We also see the tension between the Elites and the Brutes and how the Thel notices that the Prophets aren’t as forthcoming as they appear.  Reth was a pretty cool Jackal and it shows that the Elites and Brutes aren’t always the go to guys or the ambitious guys for the Covenant. (4 out of 5)

Writing:   Tobias S. Buckell does the series justice, especially giving a good side story set earlier in the war. The setting of the novel takes place on the Rubble, a collection of asteroids that center between the human controlled space and Covenant controlled space.  It’s a unique location especially showing the downtrodden environment of the Insurrectionists in comparison to the USNC controlled places.  It’s a great backdrop that helps to show that the Insurrectionists aren’t just rebels but poor people trying to survive.  Also, the setting is enclosed so the firefights feel more intense.   On both the sides of the Covenant and the UNSC we get exposition into their ranks and how their operations go.  I like how the story establishes that the Covenant aren’t always on the same page.  There is some in fighting with the various species.  The Elites don’t like the Brutes or the Jackals, although I do appreciate their relationship with the Grunts.  The action sequences have good presentation, especially the description of the space battles.  Loved the fight between Thel and Jai, I thought it was well done and really engaging.  The writing and storytelling is good and when all of the plots come together they do fit nicely.  One of the few problems I actually had with the read is that there are too many character perspectives.  Yes, it gives the story more depth, especially when sympathizing with the survivors in the Rubble, but at times it can feel a little overwhelming and it does affect the pacing and plot. (4 out of 5)


The Verdict:  In the end, The Cole Protocol (Halo #6) is a good read and great addition to the Halo mythos.  Yeah, there are a few too many characters and the plots do feel a little convoluted.  However, the characters are great, the writing is good, the action is good, and the story is pretty complex.  The Cole Protocol (Halo #6) gets 4 out of 5.

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