Halo: Mortal Dictata Hardcover – 21 Jan 2014
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"Traviss here employs a raw, unadorned style that makes this a real page-turner. But while "Dictata" is a quick read, it's not quickly forgotten.... "Dictata" is also Traviss's best "Halo" novel..." --Paul Semel, "Official Xbox Magazine"
Traviss here employs a raw, unadorned style that makes this a real page-turner. But while "Dictata" is a quick read, it's not quickly forgotten . "Dictata" is also Traviss's best "Halo" novel "Paul Semel, Official Xbox Magazine""
"Traviss here employs a raw, unadorned style that makes this a real page-turner. But while Dictata is a quick read, it's not quickly forgotten.... Dictata is also Traviss's best Halo novel..." --Paul Semel, Official Xbox Magazine
Wars end. But hatred, guilt, and devotion can endure beyond the grave. The final novel in the Kilo-Five trilogy. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.See all Product description
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And then we get to Mortal Dictata. It's a strange book in that a number of plot threads built up in its predecessors are completely ignored and the story instead switches its whole focus to anti-Earth 'militant' Stefan Sentzke. I use the term loosely as Karen Traviss paints him as more of a poor doting grandfather with no real axe to grind. It's really poorly done and undermines all that has gone before, especially his portrayal as a merciless UNSC-killing terrorist up until that point. A lot of time is spent on his backstory, which is fine, but it doesn't go anywhere. I think you're supposed to feel sorry for him and his family, but what of his supposed victims? Why is it so black and white?
The trilogy is set between Halo 3 and 4. The Thursday War set-up characters and situations clearly heading in the direction of Halo 4 (as a good number of characters appear in the main campaign and Spartan Ops) but this is all completely dropped in Mortal Dictata, which I found very strange and very disappointing as it could have set-up the continuation of the Master Chief's story nicely.
Then there's the ret-conning of Elizabeth Halsey's past and character. I know a lot of other reviewers here have picked up on this and I can only agree. Sure, she has her bad points and has been involved in a very morally dubious military programme, but she has never, ever been treated with such outright hatred within the Halo universe as her character is here. Perhaps this is down to 343, but I think Traviss gets carried away and it spoils the book. Constantly being bashed over the head with how evil she is (the fact Halsey is part of a much bigger organisation and has clearly followed orders is largely ignored) and what the members of Kilo 5 would do to her gets really tiresome.
All of the Kilo 5 books have struggled with a lack of action, and this book is the worst. It's honestly just boring and Traviss' habit of telling us what everybody is thinking or going to say all the time gets irritating and repetitive. More dialogue would have quickened the pace, as would more story elements. As it is, Mortal Dictata is a slog.
As this is a book based on a videogame, you can't expect much. The Halo novels are not consistent by any means, but this is the worst I've read. I had stuck with the trilogy all the way through, as the first two books aren't great but they held my interest. Now I wish I hadn't bothered.
The storyline wasn't particularly enchanting. The threat that the team had to resolve was made more grandiose than it actually was, and could have been sorted out in a short story. Travis forced the story further than what was reasonable, which ironically is somewhat pointed out by one of the side-characters in one of the last pages.
I did like the interactions between the Kilo-five characters, considering this series is about blending the insides of aliens, these interactions were very human, enjoyable, and at some times sweet. This was the most enjoyable aspect of the book.
Unfortunately however, a lot of this book just wouldn't hold true in the canon universe. The abilities, behaviors, and personalities of kilo-five, are utterly inconsistent with the established canon. Spoilers: at one point,a few civilians overwhelmed some ODST soldiers, which would be the equivalent of us taking out a squad of SAS even if they knew we were coming for them. Even before that, when a Spartan-II is seen out of armor, no civilian notices. Strange considering that it's established that this Spartan is a female 6.6 ft tall slab of muscle. This implies that Travis is not aware of the Halo story and universe at all, and in an interview she confirmed that she had never read a Halo book. Ah - the discrepancies make sense now.
The other big issue with this book is the Halsey hate. I can see why 343 industries would want to instigate this for the upcoming games, but Travis completely overwhelms the book with it. It's so arrogant and repetitive that it couldn't be considered a mistake - it's just straight-up bad writing. For a book that seems to have a theme of morality, Travis' characters assert that there is no argument to be had in whether or not the character the saved humanity was right or wrong. Apparently she was wrong, if you read this book anyway.
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