Why I still can’t reconcile with the Kilo-5 Trilogy

The year is 2012 and we’re on the cusp of a whole new era of Halo.

We’ve marked the tenth anniversary with Halo Fest and a remaster of Halo 1. The Forerunner Saga has taken us back 100,000 years; the first live action feature is on the way; Halo 4’s release gets ever closer…

I have never been more excited about the future of this series.

But we’re also in the middle of another trilogy of novels, exploring the post-war state of the galaxy, and it is here that I am struggling… a lot.

Six years after its conclusion, I thought to revisit the Kilo-5 Trilogy to see how my thoughts may have changed – how I might be able to reconcile with it.

Regrettably, despite my best efforts, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to. And this is why…kiloLet’s get some important disclaimers established before we go any further.

I do have some genuine love for a number of things that Karen Traviss has contributed to the Halo universe.

‘Human Weakness’ is one of the best stories in Halo: Evolutions. It was the first piece of media to actually say “Hang on, we really need to actually do something about the awful, rape-coded torture that Cortana endured in Halo 3 beyond it motivating the Chief…” And what that story did within the limitations it had to work with was spectacular.

Nobody else seemed to want to touch this, and I’m glad Traviss did. The result was one of the best short stories in Halo.

Despite some issues I have with their execution (pun totally intended), Jul and Raia ‘Mdama carried me through much of the first two Kilo-5 books. There’s a spark of something there, ideas that a lot of us – even us naysayers – were able to connect with.

And Mortal Dictata, the final book of this trilogy, eschews much of the baggage carried by its predecessors’ mandated connections to Halo 4 in order to tell what feels like the story Traviss wanted to tell. Tears were shed, and I think that Kilo-5 would’ve been a lot more palatable if this had been a standalone book.dictataThe whole concept of Kilo-5 is not a bad one by any stretch of the imagination either. An ONI black ops team navigating the political fallout of the Human-Covenant war? That’s a great premise.

I preface the article with this because – deserved or not – there’s a lot of vitriol attached to Karen Traviss. I cannot claim to be a fan of much of her work (or, indeed, her), but I do think it worth acknowledging that she has made substantially positive contributions to Halo.

I also do not begrudge anybody who likes – or even loves – these books, nor do I mean to suggest that Traviss’s politics (which I’ll go into in due course) reflect on you for that.

Several good friends of mine got into Halo through Kilo-5, which is awesome. These books have the same value to them – and many others – as the Forerunner Saga does to me. I see you, you’re valid.

This hasn’t been written as a slight against you, nor do I intend to change your mind if you find these stories resonate with you. People like what fiction they like, that really doesn’t affect me at all.

What follows is purely my axe to grind.

Because there’s a definitive moment for me in The Thursday War which is an amalgamation of all of the issues I have with Kilo-5 and Karen Traviss, and is – to my mind, without hyperbole – the worst scene in Halo


THE DEATH OF THE READER

thursdayAt the mid-point of The Thursday War, Professor Evan Phillips finds himself lost on Sanghelios after unlocking a portal inside a Forerunner temple.

Teleported a vast distance away, he is discovered by three Unggoy field labourers who escort him to Nes’alun keep, where he meets a Sangheili named Elar ‘Nas.

Elar has been left in charge of the keep, as only women and children remain – the Sangheili males all left to assist the Servants of the Abiding Truth in their war against the Arbiter.

In the absence of their fighting force, the rival Arbiter-loyal forces of Lacalu keep have struck upon an opportunity to take Nes’alun for themselves and gain more Acroli land (the small rural state in which these keeps are located).

While Elar and her sisters defend themselves with nothing more than plasma pistols, they shelter Phillips and he is eventually located by Vaz, Mal, and Naomi-010, who come to pick him up in the heat of battle.

At this point, Vaz Beloi (ODST, ONI operative, and the “moral compass” of the team) encounters a Sangheili child.

This is what happens next…hf395

It took him a moment to realise that a Sangheili kid was standing right next to him. He didn’t know if it was male or female, and he didn’t feel any instinct to take care of it or save it from harm. It wasn’t a kitten: it was the enemy. It would grow up to hate humans and kill them.

If he looked into an animal’s eyes he could usually see some kind of self within, some living connection, but he couldn’t see a damn thing in the Sangheili’s. The eyes were empty and alien. [Halo: The Thursday War, p. 238-9]

He looks at a Sangheili child as less than an animal. Despite the awful situation these practically defenceless civilians – these women and children – are in. Despite how he almost killed Halsey in Glasslands because of the age of the Spartans-IIs, he doesn’t even see this child as a sentient being.

(Yes, Vaz’s xenophobia is an aspect of his character. Bear with me, we’ll get to that.)

It’s an especially uncomfortable angle because the Kilo-5 books are laden with heavy-handed Nazi analogies, specifically around Halsey.

When Halsey’s involved there’s a moral hill to die on, but this Sangheili child is ‘Untermensch.’

And then?

And then they leave.

Then a huge hand clamped down on Vaz’s shoulder and spun him around. Elar, the mouthiest of the hinge-head girls, loomed in his face.

“You destroy our land and then you run away.” She pointed behind her but he couldn’t see anything. “My children and my sisters can’t defend themselves against an entire keep.”

It wasn’t Vaz’s problem. He shook her off. “Not my war,” he said. “I’ve got one of my own. Sorry.” [The Thursday War, p. 244]

It was at this point that I realised I had just read the worst scene in Halo.mult232Karen Traviss has a very unique, unmistakably distinct style of prose because the third-person narration isn’t presenting the perspective of the characters, it’s Traviss herself talking.

She develops very strong opinions about the source material which manifests as an ideologue that directly influences her narrative voice.

The narration itself chooses sides, and it sides with Vaz.

Then a huge hand clamped down on Vaz’s shoulder and spun him around. Elar, the mouthiest of the hinge-head girls, loomed in his face.

Vaz is referred to here in the third-person. This isn’t his perspective we’re seeing things from, the narration itself is providing independent commentary in calling Elar “the mouthiest of the hinge-head girls.”

There’s… a lot to unpack with that…

It verges on parody how the narration jams in a lethal dose of (in-universe) racial slurs and a dash of misogyny. This isn’t the only time the narration refers to Sangheili as hinge-heads either. And why? There’s no framing device in Kilo-5 where the story is being told by an in-universe narrator (unlike, say, Buck’s commentary in New Blood).

The line “It wasn’t Vaz’s problem” adds nothing here beyond further showing that the author is rooting for Vaz.

A far more economical writer could have simply articulated this moment as:

Then a huge hand clamped down on Vaz’s shoulder and spun him around. Elar loomed in his face.

“You destroy our land and then you run away.” She pointed behind her but he couldn’t see anything. “My children and my sisters can’t defend themselves against an entire keep.”

“Not my war,” he said. “I’ve got one of my own. Sorry.”

By removing the narration (that is, by removing the voice of Karen Traviss), the reader is given far greater latitude to interpret this interaction based on their own perception of these characters. In this instance, less really is more.

Traviss, however, finds it to be very important that you are aware of exactly what you should be thinking about these characters and their choices at all times.

Writing characters has the same personality-shift effect on me as it does the reader – I’m not immune. If someone doesn’t know what I think as Traviss, K., then they won’t guess it from my books. That’s not what I’m there for. Like I say, I have one groove, and that’s reporting. Everyone has their right of reply in my books, even people I’d shoot on sight in real life. See? I can be liberal if I try. [Infinity Plus – ‘An Interview with Karen Traviss’ (11/3/2006)]

One of the central anxieties in this book is the danger posed by the Didact, should he ever be awakened.

It strikes me as rather meta that the actual didactic figure who emerges from the text is the author herself.kilo5tiredWhen I first read The Thursday War, I approached this story beat in good faith. I told myself that I was missing the point, I shouldn’t jump to any conclusions.

This event is both the mid-point of the book and of the Kilo-5 Trilogy. Surely this is going to be explored further in how it affects these characters.

After all their detached moralising about what Halsey did to children, here they’ve made an active decision to leave innocent women and children to die. That is going to have resonant effects on the team, perhaps we might see them grow as characters when the reality hits…

This situation is never referenced again.

This was the definitive point of no return for me.

Phillips, instead, is reprimanded (read: gaslit) by his comrades for being sympathetic towards Elar and her people. At worst, he’s treated as if he’s being ungrateful that they didn’t leave him to die with them; at best, he’s treated as if he’s naive for displaying empathy.

Aside from one brief, indirect mention in Mortal Dictata, no consequence comes of this. It doesn’t inform or affect the relationships of these characters, it’s just a thing that happened; Vaz goes right back to his moral crusade against Halsey and the author is with him every step of the way.

You may well be inclined to think that being complicit in the murder of women and children should be a bigger deal, a cause for some reevaluation and reflection. But it isn’t.

And there are another seven hundred pages to go until Vaz concedes that he guesses Halsey must’ve had help from other people to make the Spartan-IIs.

Speaking of Halsey, we conclude this chapter with a brief rumination from Vaz!

He still felt worse about not shooting Halsey than leaving a bunch of hinge-heads to fight for their lives. [The Thursday War, p. 260]


AUTHORIAL BIAS

vad29I am the last person to point at something and say “That’s not Halo,” but the way this beat of the story is handled is perhaps the most egregious tonal, thematic, and narrative departure from the series.

Awful things happen in the Halo universe. Atrocities of all kinds have been committed, but they actually have some weight to them – they’re not just treated as incidental interludes in the geographical progress of characters moving from Point A to B.

Karen Traviss is an infamous name in fandom because she has unambiguously stated that she doesn’t do research on the established universes she writes for.

If it’s military, if it’s a game, if it’s an IP I know nothing about (essential – I can’t work on things that I might have a pre-existing opinion on) and it has the moral grey areas I work best in, then I’ll probably give it a go if I have the time.

There is absolutely value in bringing people aboard who have a fresh, outside perspective on an existing universe. It’s especially necessary for a long-running franchise like Halo

Traviss goes on to describe her process:

First and foremost, I’m still a news journalist at heart. I want to start from scratch, ask my questions, and get answers. I want to be objective,  tell the truth, and  let the interviewees speak for themselves, without twisting their words or injecting my own opinions – to see the world through their eyes.

So I decided which existing characters I wanted to follow, and looked again at the raw data – the absolute neutral basic  facts, i.e. what they did and when they did it. Then I rebuilt the characters using psychological profiling techniques.  The result is that you’ll see characters you think you know portrayed differently, perhaps too differently for some fans’ tastes, but I’ve done what I always do – build or rebuild fully realised characters who behave like real people, place them in the environment, and then follow where they lead, seeing the situation and the events through their eyes. They won’t always see the event the same way and there will be contradictions – the reader has to do some work and make their mind up about who they believe. No easy answers, no heroes or villains – just people, even if those people are aliens. Make up your own mind. [Tor Forge Blog, ‘Q&A with Karen Traviss’ (1/11/2011)]

Based on what we’ve covered thus far, I find Traviss’s description of her process thoroughly unconvincing. And the issue herein is that she distances these ‘facts’ from any sort of context.

For as much as she talk about “moral grey areas” being her bread and butter, there are three entire novels (spanning 1500 pages) based entirely around giving us a single perspective.

All we see of humanity is ONI, and they all hate Halsey.

All we see of the Sangheili are these rural redneck extremists who don’t know how to farm.

If you expect to see much of Halsey’s perspective or get a broader picture of the cultural and political shifts in the setting over the course of Halo’s three longest novels, you will be left sorely wanting.

Indeed, any character who is pursuing a path to peace and trying to build bridges is portrayed by Traviss as weak-willed and generally inept, their previously established presence and authority being entirely subverted by the author’s own tough ‘n’ ready soundboards. Thel ‘Vadam and Lord Hood see some of the worst of this…halsmeme1In the chapter immediately after the quickly-forgotten events at Nes’alun keep, Parangosky makes direct reference (through the narration, Traviss once again speaking) to the ‘Halsey Haters Club’ when Henry Glassman enters the room.

Traviss takes far too much enjoyment in writing about characters delighting in how Halsey cries herself to sleep every night holding a picture of her dead daughter, calling her (in narration) a “bitch,” and seems to never once think about the fact that maybe there’s something we could do with Parangosky in these stories…

Y’know, the woman who gave the go-ahead to the Spartan-III project, where they trafficked over nine-hundred war orphans – aged four-to-six – to become suicide soldiers by the age of twelve?

There are some great moments set up where the potential exists for characters and their perceptions to really be challenged. One such example is when Jul sees Phillips solve an arum – a Rubik’s cube-esque Sangheili puzzle that is meant to teach their children the value of patience and order.

To Jul’s horror, the stone fell out.

It was marbled blue and green, like a little planet, like a tiny version of Earth, the world that had nearly been within the Covenant’s grasp. Jul almost felt more ashamed at seeing a human solve the arum with such ease [than] he did at being captured.

“It took me a few hours to get there.” Phillips dropped the stone back in the slot and scrambled the spheres again. “I used to love things like that when I was a child.”

Jul couldn’t work out if it was a psychological trick or genuine innocence, but whatever the intention it had shaken him to his core. Very few Sangheili could unlock an arum within days, let alone hours. [Halo: Glasslands, p. 340]

Traviss establishes these things, lingers on this for a handful of sentences, and then belies the notion that they had any substantial intention as they never come up again.

There’s some great symmetry here. Jul believes that humanity is a species wholly inferior to his own, and Glasslands has Thel tell Jul at the start of the story that there are honourable humans. As this first book approaches its conclusion, he meets Phillips, who solves an arum before his eyes – demonstrating an ability that is considered to be well beyond his own species’ and it horrifies him.

Characters being forced to reflect on their prejudices and reevaluate their black-and-white perceptions of the world? You wish!

From this point, neither of these things turn out to be actual character beats in this story, as Jul never thinks about them again. Like the rest of Traviss’s characters, he’s never really challenged again.

In fact, the opposite happens, where an almost comical series of events entirely vindicates his hatred of humanity – only for ONI’s genocide-by-famine plan, arming the Servants, nor the needless fridging of Raia to never come up in his characterisation in any other media. (I think this is why we love the concept of Jul, how we see the ways these threads could work for his characterisation.)

Savour these sentences in the book, as it’s essentially the only time there’s any substantial worldbuilding for the alien races where they’re not just repeating human idioms with no unique voice or culture of their own.arumIn an interview a friend of mine did a few years back with Traviss, she says:

“I don’t actually have favourites – it’s not how I work.” [Gamer Guide, ‘The Thursday War – With Karen Traviss’ (8/12/2012)]

While I think this is demonstrably untrue, even if Traviss doesn’t “have favourites” in the sense of attaching that kind of ‘love’ to a character or thing, she certainly decides what she hates.

Looking at her larger body of work provides some additional context here, as she has also been prolific for writing Star Wars novels in the Legends canon.

When she writes for Halo, she hates Halsey; when she writes for Star Wars, she hates the Jedi.

I feel it’s worth mentioning that it’s absolutely fine to hate both. Halsey and the Jedi Order are compelling narrative constructs because of their flaws and deeply problematic elements.

But Traviss’s articulation of this hatred often manifests in the universe itself and all its characters bending to match that hate.

[Lucy] grabbed Halsey by the shoulder again, spun her around and threw a punch that sent a shock wave right up her arm. Halsey hit the ground with a loud crack. Someone grabbed Lucy from behind, but the switch had been thrown and she didn’t know how to turn it off. The fury shut out all sound: her lungs froze and her skull was bursting. She fought to break free and get at Halsey, this focus of all that was threatening and bullying in her world, but she couldn’t.

If she didn’t let it all out right now, she’d collapse.

“No!” she screamed. “No! No! No!” [Glasslands, p. 316-7]

It bends to the point where Lucy’s post-traumatic vocal disarticulation – a mental illness from the trauma of watching over three-hundred of her fellow then-twelve-year-old Spartan-III suicide soldiers die – is something that can be overcome because she just manages to hate Halsey enough in the moment.

Topping it all off, an SPI-armoured Spartan-III punching a sixty-one-year-old in the face so hard that said SPI-armoured Spartan-III feels the shockwave up her own chemically-augmented arm and it doesn’t turn Halsey’s face into pudding (it just breaks her nose)… seems like a refutation of the whole ‘no research’ approach to me.


NO PRISONERS

traviss

Really, I don’t relate to any characters that way when I write. That’s identifying with them, and I find that very icky. Once a writer identifies with a character or has favourites, they start investing too much in that character, consciously or subconsciously, and that leads to neglecting other characters and also trying to make the reader like that character as much as they do, rather than just letting the character behave naturally. It’s very fanfic-ish. [Gamer Guide, ‘The Thursday War – With Karen Traviss’ (8/12/2012)]

Meanwhile, also from Karen Traviss…

I see Vader as a tragic character who’s been betrayed by everyone, and I can’t help thinking of the Jedi as self-serving unelected elitist spoon-benders making whoopee on Republic taxpayers’ credits. It’s an iconoclastic journo world-view. Believe me, Order 66 was long overdue. I have a couple of Jedi that I don’t want to shoot on sight, but they’re my own creations, so I could make them a little humbler and more aware of the consequences they create for others. [Infinity Plus – ‘An Interview with Karen Traviss’ (11/3/2006)]

You see, it’s the other Jedi who are awful. But my Jedi? My Jedi are the good ones – I don’t play favourites though!

It is for these reasons that Vasily Beloi earns his title as the worst character in Halo.

This isn’t even getting into how she begins No Prisoners with Gilad Pellaeon talking condescendingly to fourteen-year-old Ahsoka about her outfit in front of a ship’s entire crew, including the people under Ahsoka’s command.

“You’re not suitably attired, my dear.” His tone was very paternal for a moment. “We do not expose flesh in this ship, not only because it’s unbecoming, undisciplined, and distracting, but because a ship is a dangerous place.” [Star Wars: No Prisoners, p. 21]

Pardon the brief tangent here, but why Traviss felt this gross sexualisation of a fourteen-year-old was necessary (and I would be greatly worried about a crew and captain that finds this “distracting”), I do not know.

A far more interesting point I can think to raise here for why Pellaeon would act with a paternal tone that wouldn’t have to be pointlessly misogynistic is trying to keep a fourteen-year-old – Jedi or not – from being sent into battle…

It’s not even a natural character interaction in this universe, it’s quite transparently Traviss having a bone to pick and writing that into a character. The misogyny isn’t a good look, and it’s something that’s present throughout a lot of her writing.

Nor, frankly, is saying that anybody who likes the Jedi is a Nazi (after stating that their genocide was long-overdue, no less)…

This is the core contradiction of what Karen Traviss says versus what Karen Traviss writes.last lightIt is an almost poetic irony that, of all writers, it was Troy Denning who became the fan-favourite writer for post-war Halo stories (with Last Light and Retribution), owing to the feud he and Traviss had in their respective Star Wars works.

(This only further convinces me that the death of the Star Wars EU was, in fact, a mercy killing that freed the series from decades of baggage.)

I had hoped that, all these years later, I might be able to return to the Kilo-5 Trilogy without my own baggage from the time in which they were released…

But it didn’t feel like I was returning to a setting, characters, and universe. It felt like I was returning to Karen Traviss writing her own journalistic report on her bugbears with Halo.

I felt inclined to revisit Kilo-5 in good faith that I could put aside the things she’s said and take this independently as a Halo story…

But it’s simply not possible to separate the author from the text when they quite literally write their own voice into it (no matter how much she has historically denied this).

[…] if a reader notices my style and not the story, then I’ve failed. I want to be invisible as an author, at least in the book. This is going to sound arrogant, but less really is more, and you have to know your craft first to be able to strip down your style to its basics. No frills; just something that pulls the reader through the story and doesn’t distract them.

[…] I still wouldn’t trust the Jedi Council with my wallet, let alone with running my country, but you won’t spot that in the books. I keep my spoonbenderist views to myself. [Infinity Plus – ‘An Interview with Karen Traviss’ (11/3/2006)]


REGRET, REGRET, REGRET…

glassI honestly hadn’t set out to write this article as a caustic hit piece on Traviss herself, but while chasing a quote for this article I found myself at her Twitter doorstep and was met with a vile mess of pro-Brexit nationalism and Nigel Farage.

Naturally, I find myself somewhat disinclined towards backing her corner any more than I already have at the start of this article.

On a broader level, it really is a terrible shame that this is the legacy of the first woman to have her name printed as the sole author of a Halo book (shoutout here to Tessa Kum, who co-wrote ‘The Mona Lisa’ with Jeff VanderMeer in Halo: Evolutions, and all the amazing creative talent that has come since, and failed to be acknowledged before).

As I previously stated, I do not begrudge anybody who likes Kilo-5, nor do I think Traviss’s politics reflect on you for that. But I cannot find reconciliation with these books.

I find them so crushingly cynical, so dire in their misanthropy, that there is not an ounce of joy in reading them.

These are valid perspectives to have in Halo, but as part of a larger whole – not as the sole tone for over 1500 pages. It took several years before the post-war era media actually felt like it had balanced things out.

The whole situation with Vaz at Nes’alun keep represents the fundamental failure of this trilogy to me, how this simply does not jive with the series and its themes.

It’s so completely blinkered towards the treatise Traviss wants to write about Catherine Halsey that not even a moment can be found to give any substantial thought – let alone focus – to the other moral grey areas (and outright atrocities) of the Human-Covenant war.

The thoroughly unsatisfying conclusion of this trilogy’s arc is a minor concession towards common sense, stating “Well, I guess Halsey would’ve needed help…”

Letting women and children die is something the narration will defend so it can round the chapter off with Vaz finding deeper regret in not putting a bullet in Halsey’s head in the previous book.halsdefenceLastly, the Kilo-5 Trilogy is thematically incompatible with the game it was meant to build towards.

343 holds a characteristically optimistic view of humanity in the Halo universe, even as they delve into the more problematic elements of our species’ development – recovering from the Human-Covenant war not simply as a survivor, but victor. They explore how that affects the impact the UNSC and ONI has on the setting moving forward.

On this, former-creative director Josh Holmes has said:

“Another part of Halo that I always talk about […] is there’s a belief in the potential of humanity. I think this is really important because Halo has kind of a hopeful feel to it and I think you could take a lot of the stories that take place in the Halo universe and tell them in a more cynical light and it would feel completely different. […] Humanity is something worth fighting for.” [Josh Holmes, Game Informer – ‘Halo 4 Creative Director interview’ (3:20)]

The moral character of humanity is itself one of the core dimensions of Halo, and that manifests in Halo 4 is how it takes the idea of humanity being Reclaimers forward.

It turns out that this isn’t simply about being given lots of cool toys and gadgets by a long-dead civilisation, but the burden of inheriting the Mantle of Responsibility – becoming the protectors of life and biological diversity in the galaxy.

The Librarian sees this potential in humanity (there’s greater moral and political complexity in this which is explored, but at a high-level this is the concept); the Didact believes that humanity is violent and only the Forerunners are worthy of this burden.

And this further connects to the themes of transhumanism in Halo 4. Spartans are “our destiny as a species,” as Halsey puts it; the deep connection between man and machine – the Master Chief and Cortana, Spartans and Prometheans – is another key part of this.

Whereas Kilo-5 seems less like another dimension to this thematic core and is instead a refutation of it. It focuses exclusively on who we are at our worst, while championing those individuals as our moral compass – neglecting the best of both humanity (and the Sangheili) to be helpless, stagnant, and naive.

Comparatively, The Forerunner Saga managed to tell a story about the final days of the Forerunners’ gasping empire in the greatest cosmic tragedy… while bookending it with our naked Forerunner protagonist wearing a hat made by his human companions, and a great feast between these former-enemies where they get drunk and dance together at the dawn of the new galaxy.

Even with the harrowing threat of the Flood, it retains the charm, levity, and warmth that is so central to Halo. I would struggle to name even a handful of such moments in the Kilo-5 books.hf603Over the years, people have asked me about my thoughts on the Kilo-5 Trilogy. I have seldom referenced these books in the last six-and-a-half years that I’ve been writing this blog (incidentally, the same year this trilogy ended), and I realise now that I have about as much to say about them as they have to say about Halo.

Like the author’s own fixation on Halsey, it, too, is impossible to actually talk about Kilo-5 without fixating on Karen Traviss – and I don’t like where that takes me.

I don’t jive with her detached approach to writing and disregard for continuity. I don’t like how she comes across in interviews, her contemptuous misanthropy, her misogyny…

And I don’t like her proclivity for writing – across three franchises – just one type of story about the Squad™ of tough ‘n’ ready badasses who Cross Lines™ to Get The Job Done™, who are all loyal to each other and largely share all the same opinions, while being championed as unimpeachably moral.

I’ve broken a bit of a personal rule with this article, as I actively try to limit the negative content that I write on here. I have held true to that for a long time, so consider this a one-off.

I find that it is much more energising and fulfilling to talk about what I love rather than what I don’t, especially for a trilogy that ended six years ago (and has largely been only conceptually acknowledged by its successors).

On the road to Halo Infinite, and (hopefully) beyond, expect that to be my continued focus.

As for this… maybe I’ll give it another go in 2030?

7 thoughts on “Why I still can’t reconcile with the Kilo-5 Trilogy

  1. You know, reading this I couldn’t help but make comparisons (and yes, some might say it’s slightly self-centered of me) to the “Halo” novel I pitched at 343 last year. It was soundly rejected because their current publisher doesn’t accept submissions (just pick from an internal stable of their own personal authors).

    I bring this up because naturally, with so much said about why people didn’t like Kilo-5, it made me think back on the way I’d approached both similar concepts (grey areas) but at the same time avoided the missteps Kilo-5 definitely made with the characters and plot I’d built. The biggest one being that the grey areas are things that the characters are actively working to fix and solve in one way or another, and that the characters were, if flawed, genuinely good and optimistic individuals who could make ground on their problems, prejudices, and weaknesses. Kilo-5, from what I remember, never really did that. It just stayed in a mire of uncertainty (or worse, stayed negative, like the obvious specism against the Sangheili). The world in that series was very much one where no one could every trust anyone else, and that was just how it was.

    And you’re right. Halo has always been a lot more optimistic than that.

    And more fun. Which was why one of the side characters in my pitch was a Unggoy newscaster on a post-war mostly-human border world.

  2. Love following you and reading . My biggest disappointment with this series is simply how it reminds me of Halos wasted parts. Cool ideas that ultimately go nowhere (ONI and the resurrected Insurrection? Nah, the Created! Jul dying in a cutscene!) make me weary of Halo Infinite. That said, another solid article. Any idea when you’re going to do a Halo Wars 2 breakdown? 😁

    1. I think that, in the place of Glasslands, there should’ve been an anthology novel (like Evolutions and Fractures) dedicated to short stories from a multitude of perspectives in the post-war era. That was the key ingredient of what was missing here, and it took a VERY long time before it felt like we’d reached an adequate balance after the Kilo-5 Trilogy was done.

    2. Probably something similar as to how the fall of the Empire was handled in the original Star Wars Expanded Universe, where many Imperial remnants took their shot at taking over the galaxy, while still having divisions and civil wars against each other, considering how big the Covenant Empire was and how their industrial and population centers were barely touched by the war.

  3. Good read! Made me notice a bunch of things in the K5 trilogy I’d only subconsciously absorbed. I still enjoy the series, and Karen Traviss’ Star Wars works as well, but I cannot deny the questionable themes in them. I guess now it’s my turn to reconcile.

  4. Glasslands was my first Halo book and I still think Kilo Five was just cruel towards the Sangheili. The line cited from Thursday War proves it.

Leave a Reply