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Halo: The Cole Protocol [Paperback]

Tobias S. Buckell
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 25 2008 Halo (Book 6)
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. Many are called upon to rid the universe of lingering navigation data that would reveal the location of Earth. Among them is Navy Lieutenant Jacob Keyes. Thrust back into action after being sidelined, Keyes is saddled with a top secret mission by ONI. One that will take him deep behind enemy lines, to a corner of the universe where nothing is as it seems.
Out beyond the Outer Colonies lies the planet Hesiod, a gas giant surrounded by a vast asteroid belt. As the Covenant continues to glass the human occupied planets near Hesiod, many of the survivors, helped by a stronghold of human Insurrectionists, are fleeing to the asteroid belt for refuge. They have transformed the tumbling satellites into a tenuous, yet ingenious, settlement known as the Rubble--and have come face-to-face with a Covenant settlement of Kig-Yar . . . yet somehow survived.
News of this unlikely treaty has spread to the warring sides. Luckily for the UNSC, this uneasy alliance is in the path of the Spartan Gray Team, a three-man renegade squad whose simple task is to wreak havoc from behind enemy lines in any way they see fit. But the Prophets have also sent their best---an ambitious and ruthless Elite, whose quest for nobility and rank is matched only by his brutality . . . and who will do anything to secure his Ascendancy and walk the Path.

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Halo: The Cole Protocol + Halo: Contact Harvest + Halo: Ghosts of Onyx
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"[HALO: THE COLE PROTOCOL] is one of the best-made audio books in my fairly extensive collection. Jonathan Davis is a very good reader, using accents well, easily distinguishing even closely related characters, and making the pronunciation of all the Covenant vocabulary seem effortless."--Bruce Baugh, Tor.com
"The eleven hours of this audio book seemed to whizz by, such is its pace and excitement. Enthusiastically narrated, the listener is taken straight to the action and is immersed in it totally.... be aware that in listening to this you will probably want to listen to others in the series. Make sure you have plenty of shelf space."--Rod MacDonald, SFCrowsnest

--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

About the Author

Tobias S. Buckell is the author of Halo: Evolutions, Sly Mongoose, Ragamuffin and Crystal Rain. His books have been finalists for the Nebula Award, the Prometheus Award, and the Romantic Times Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. He hails from the Caribbean, where as a child he lived on boats in Grenada and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands. When he was a teenager, his family moved to Ohio after a series of hurricanes destroyed the boat they were living on, and he attended Bluffton University in Bluffton, Ohio, where he still lives today. Buckell fell in love with science fiction at a young age, reading Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov novels when he was seven years old. He is now a full-time author and freelancer.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars a little slow July 14 2014
Verified Purchase
Good story but moves rather slowly. Adds to the covenant story and adds to things that we didn't already know about the covenant
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4.0 out of 5 stars Halo Sept. 20 2009
I bought this book for my husband who love the Halo' series in video games and in books. So he loved it!
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3.0 out of 5 stars The weakest of the books Feb. 27 2009
I have all the books and this one is the weakest in the series. Though it gives you a deeper look into the Sangheli (elite race) which is okay but not great. It also diggs deeper into the history of Captain Keyes. Obviously he's not Captain yet but it tells more of his history and the history of the attacks of the Covenent. As a huge Halo Nerd I will buy every book that ever comes out ever but if you are just looking to educate yourself in the world of Halo then the books First Stike, The fall of Reach and The Flood are your best books to be schooled. The previous books are also for Master Chief Junkies. Spartans are in this book but they play a much smaller role as far as Spartans go. Master CHIEF IS NOT IN THIS BOOK...Be Warned
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5.0 out of 5 stars Expanding the Halo Universe Feb. 13 2009
By AlZ
An interesting look at the Kigyar/Jackal relationship in the Covenant as well as insight regarding the Sangheili/Elite culture. There is also more exploration of Jacob Keyes' background with the story detailing his service to the UNSC. The Spartans are portrayed rather differently than known before, but they play a relatively small but important part.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  99 reviews
36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as Nylund Nov. 27 2008
By Matthew Willett - Published on Amazon.com
This book, taking place 9 years after the book Contact Harvest (also in the halo series) tells of Capt. Keyes and the designated Grey team of Spartans protecting the Cole Protocol to keep the location of Earth safe from the Covenant. I do have to hand it to The Cole Protocol for not tethering off new problems or destroying some of the fabrication in place in the Halo Universe, but overall the writing just isn't as good as Nylund's works in the series (Fall of Reach, First Strike, Ghosts of Onyx). Buckell knows the series and knows what he wants to do in this book while keeping sure not to add more bumps in the series with misplaced (cronologically) monikers, weapons, or the sort.

In short, if you are following the series, get this book. It is a good read. Much better than Contact Harvest, but not on the same level as some others, though still enjoyable.
33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars promising, but flawed Jan. 9 2009
By Elizabeth Lakewood - Published on Amazon.com
I looked forward to this book with great interest from the moment I found out that it would be handling a major Elite character's backstory. Sadly, I find myself underwhelmed with it. Writing-wise, it's about the level one would expect from a spinoff book of a video game. Essentially, it's not well written, not terribly well-characterized, and extremely poorly proofread ("cyrogenic" jumps out at you right on the first page-- not only should a proofreader have caught that, but a spellchecker should too). Needless to say, you need to be quite well-read in the Halo mythos for this book to make a whole lot of sense, as The Cole Protocol assumes an array of prior knowledge. What matters, then, is what it does for the canon as a whole.

I mainly read Halo novels for the worldbuilding, and the back history of characters we've come to know and love through the game. I don't expect each author to do equally well with all aspects of the Halo world, and this book is no exception. Captain (here, Lieutenant) Keyes gets a turn in the spotlight, and he's kept in-character, with a properly Keyesian, out-of-the-box maneuver at the end. There's a part played by Spartan Grey Team, and while I (only a mild fan of the Spartans) was satisfied with it, people who are focused on them will likely come away disappointed. Still, their interaction with other characters (ordinary humans and the Elites (Sangheili)) is interesting more for what it says about the other characters than what it illumines about the Spartans.

Where Cole Protocol shines is its depiction of ordinary humans. Nylund's books give a good military/UNSC perspective on the Human-Covenant war, but Buckell gives you a sense of what it's like to live there and be a civilian trying to make your way through a series of completely sensible, but still extremely onerous laws. You get a better sense of the Insurrectionist perspective here, and the Rubble (a ragtag civilization built by refugees, Innies, and miners behind enemy lines) is well depicted. Delgado, a civilian pilot caught in the middle, is an interesting character and a nice counterpoint to Keyes and the Helljumpers. Buckell also carries on the tradition of novels exploring AIs in the Haloverse-- Juliana, an AI on the verge of rampancy, has a small part that I wish were a bit larger, because it seems right on the edge of really exploring the ramifications of rampancy for people who depend on the AI (and for the AI herself), but skates away before dealing the subject much more than a glancing blow.

Which is the main flaw of the storytelling in this book, it tries to tell a few too many stories, and ends up giving short shrift to most of them. This is, sadly, especially apparent with what should be a selling point of the book, that it delves further into the culture of the Sangheili and tells the backstory of one of the most important Elites in the universe (Thel 'Vadamee-- who will be a bit more familiar to readers by story's end). The previous Halo novel, Contact Harvest, developed rather well the backstory of Halo's nefarious Prophet Hierarchs, and I had hoped for something similar for 'Vadamee and the Sangheili. Instead, Buckell bounces off every "warrior race" stereotype known to military SF and fantasy and settles nowhere in particular. 'Vadamee gets a lot of attention in the story, but is only thinly characterized-- though the one exception is that some good attention is paid to conflicting notions of "heresy" and showing the fault lines already present in the Covenant. Considerably better is the depiction of the Kig-Yar (Jackals). I'd even go so far as to say that a Kig-Yar leader named Reth somewhat steals the Covenant side of the story away from 'Vadamee, at least for being a bit more unexpected and interesting.

In sum, it's worth reading if you're a canon completist, but falls well short of its potential. I think the Haloverse is complex enough to support a much, much better book, and I continue to hope that one day we'll see that book. Until then, enjoy Cole Protocol for the things it manages to do well.
20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cole Protocol Nov. 27 2008
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Simply put, quite a good book. Although I will admit, this book is not for everyone. Essentially, if you like Halo, and the Halo book series, then you will like this book. I've also read Contact Harvest, the other three, and Ghosts of Onyx. For the uninitiated, this is not a book for you. The book makes references and allusions to other parts of the Halo mythos; so unless you are up to speed, the book would probably be ponderous, lacking in information, and probably not all that fun to read. For other people that have followed Halo, and liked the other books, go out and by this. Its not a difficult read, but a fun one. It reads like the books that came before it, and puts a human face on humanities struggle against The Covenant.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but is just not the same Nov. 7 2012
By Jimmy Kim - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
All the previous books such as Ghost and Harvest were excellent and this by any means is not far behind.

It is a good read but the importance in this lies whether or not you have read all the other previous books to understand the allusions and references made. Newcomers will find it difficult to refer back to something they are unaware of; they will not understand the significance or relevance of things being said or done and thus will feel alienated. Hardcore Halo fans who have read and played will catch on quick and will absolutely love each page.

To that heed and warning, I really did enjoy this book and would highly recommended any sci-fi readers to pick it up and definitely to Halo fans.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Halo: Cole Protocol July 1 2012
By Travis Knight - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
For some fairly obvious reasons, there has been a taboo about videogame-inspired literature that is in essence the same as the taboo about videogame-inspired cinema. The short of it is, in general, the quality is quite low. I don't think that this has to do with the writers hired (usually), or with the transfer of the medium itself, but more to do with the fact that in general, the tasks and logic assigned to the player during an interactive play experience are essentially different to those assigned during a reading or viewing experience. This interactivity is, of course, an illusion (you can't argue about the particulars of a quest or directive, nor can you rebuke a foolish non-player character), but it gives the player a distinct sensation of control that other media can't replicate.

There are exceptions, however, to this "quality barrier" among the available videogame literature. Among them, the Halo novels have typically carried a bar-setting craftsmanship. They may not be built to the scale of an Alastair Reynolds epic, or as personal as an Orson Scott Card narrative, nor as hard-fact informed as a Niven novel, but they are usually solid reads that you can count on to keep you interested and change the way you think about the Halo-verse. This is due in large part to the fact that the Halo design team, now 343 Industries (owned by Microsoft) has a remarkable quality-control team that keeps their license under tight reign.

Strange, then, that Tobias Buckell's novel emerged the way it did. Cole Protocol, the sixth of a rapidly growing number of Halo novels, is easily one of the weakest installments. Note here that the Halo series is not one of those that degrades in quality over time; indeed, some of the strongest entries came later. This is due in part to the fact that 343i brings in new and established authors constantly. Buckell is one of the youngest and most untested authors they have brought in, and it is a wonder that they didn't assign more of an editorial team to the book. It is rife with typographical errors and strange phrasing that snaps the reader out of the narrative on an almost chapterly basis. Sometimes these errors occur page after page.

Thankfully, Cole Protocol's story is relatively easy to understand. There are four narratives: Jacob Keyes, a mainstay of the Halo-verse, Gray Team, a guerrilla Spartan trio, Thel Vadam'ee, a Covenant Shipmaster, and Ignacio Delgado, who is a pilot and guardian of the coveted coordinates to Earth, which are threatened under the titular Cole Protocol. Keyes and Thel are both investigating the sudden appearance of human-modified Covenant weapons into the human black market, while Delgado and Gray Team are playing cat-and-mouse with the coordinates. All four plot lines merge around the cobble-crafted space-station known as 'the Rubble,' which is the result of a joint effort of human and Kig-Yar engineering.

The Rubble alone is almost worth buying the book for. Almost. Megastructure science-fiction and Halo are like peanut butter and chocolate, but Buckell doesn't spend his time describing, exploring, or even developing the Rubble. He takes for granted that it is a marvel, only occasionally reminding us how large and uncanny this orbiting city made of anchored and colonized asteroid habitats is. This is a shame, since the time he spends enacting intrigue among the UNSC and Covenant forces makes for a pretty terrible, eye-rolling read. He had a golden goose in the form of the Rubble, and dropped the ball.

Part of this might have been due to the fact that there were just too many plotlines. Aside from Ignacio Delgado, there really aren't many compelling narrators in the book. Even the once-off guys are uninteresting. Keyes is whiny, the Spartans are too emotional, and Thel Vadam'ee is, frankly, one of the worst-written narrators I have read in some time. For an established, honorable, full-grown Sangheli master warrior, he has more self-doubt than an unggoy asked to design a nuclear reactor. For a fan of the series, the time spent in his head is uncomfortable and alien, but not in a good way. (But this makes sense, since he is breaking of one of my sci-fi rules.)

These problems, combined with the many, many typographical errors and jarring, stilted phrasing, makes for a difficult read. The charm that Buckell has by way of his sense of humor, too, is often ruined by the bizarre phrasing that sounds like it came off of an internet board with over-inflated intellects. Even a casual reader will notice often that there are repeated words together in the same sentence (e.g., "The unnogy randomly bumping around complaining about their random movements was giving Thel a headache") reads as if this is actually an honest-to-god fan fiction bound and published to the mass paperback market. Buckell also uses unusual terms that other established authors step around, making him sound like a player talking about the game, rather than an author dictating new canon. For example, instead of calling the Covenant's grenades "plasma grenades," he calls them "sticky grenades." In the other fiction entries, they go by the former name. Unexplained terminology changes are rife through the novel, and leaves me wondering, Where were the copy editors?

I hadn't read a Halo book since my early college years, and I was looking forward to diving into another one while I was on my honeymoon. Cole Protocol was a poor choice (especially since I had Kim Robinson's 2312 in the car). While it is a fun novel, to be sure, and has a fair amount of well-written action, the sheer volume of potential that was dropped makes the finished product look like a paltry, naked little thing. I know it is unfair to wonder what might have happened had the novel been handled by more sure hands, like Nylund of Traviss, but I can't help it. The Rubble was too cool an idea to dismiss as fast as it was, and if you're a high-caliber sci-fi fan, you ought to dismiss this one, too. It will only please the hardest core of the Halonauts.
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