on 17 February 2014
Regardless of any review true halo fans are going to read this book regardless of how good or bad it is. Is it truly worth three stars, I doubt it but it is a Halo book and that always warrants a few stars anyway.
I am kind of at a loss about how to be nice about this book. Let's start with a basic fact, it was 343 Industries that set the tone related to underlying Halsey theme not the author. However, the author has been so overzealous regarding this point that the actual story line suffered immensely.
I don't do spoilers but suffice it to say that this book promised a lot, delivered little and went out on a whimper. This isn't the worst Halo book out there in terms of writing style but it was let down by content, reader engagement and an overzealous and unbelievable background theme.
To put all of this in context, this is the first Halo book that I have struggled to read from start to finish, taking weeks and not days.
This is the third in the Kilo 5 trilogy of books and by some considerable margin, the worst. Glasslands (book 1) struggled to get going whilst continuing the story at the end of Ghosts of Onyx, but got there in the end. The Thursday War (book 2) kicked off an Elite civil war and is the best book in the series.
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.
on 16 April 2014
I like the way Karen Traviss writes about people and relationships, but the constant bombardment of Halsey hate every 10 pages really kills it for me. Am I suppose to hate her? The book will not give you a choice, but attempt to FORCE you to hate her. Lets not forget about the fact that this book like the rest negates and tries to change cannon. Not only does the Halsey hate make me dislike the book entirely, but also the fact that Staffen is about as flip-floppy as a soggy waffle. One time he states he's completely reasonable and under control, only then to state that he will glass millions for revenge. So lets think of this rationally; We're suppose to feel sympathy for a man who is about to commit atrocities on millions on a hunch, but we're being forced to hate someone who is inherently a grey character?
If you actually read the first Halo book: The Fall of Reach, you would know that Halsey actually asked the spartans if they wanted to go through augmentation. Something she conveniently changed in Halsey's Journal. Not to mention that there is so much inherent hate in the book, they they even consider framing Halsey even more for no good reason but to show their hate. That the AI who is supposed to be generally reasonable, has turned into a pubescent child who even hates Halsey despite knowing that all of ONI, including themselves, has done enough crap to go to hell for and be shot over ten times over.
If this is a moral judgement, then why are they given impunity? They even mention they've done terrible things like contemplating sangheili genocide, but for some reason that is instantly forgiven and forgotten. This book literally destroys cannon in order to fit these characters into Karens flawed idea of who they should be (She hasn't read any books before hers; admitted in an interview). Why is she in charge of the books? Because she knows how to get a reaction from you, by destroying cannon and conveniently creating facts out of nowhere to support her misguided ideas. If a character has done things that are terrible, I expect a reaction from the characters, but this has been taken way too far. Its unbelievable, and comes off as a direct attack on the readers because it's so distant from facts and deliberate. Let us form our opinions by ourselves, and try to explore both sides of the coin instead of doing the most overly used cliches; bad cop, good cop. Bad villain, good guys.
If it wasn't for the Hasley hate, this would have been a three. Without the hypocritical characters, this would have been a four easily. But 343 and Karen has to go and mess it up with their obvious deliberate agenda in order to have a clear cut bad guy for the next games to come out. Will I buy her books again? No. If she's hired back on at ANY point. I'm done, I can't take the condescending attitude of "You HAVE to hate her, you HAVE to like him." I'm 22 gosh dang years old, I can make my own choices. Its what generates discussions and wonder, not this clean cut garbage.
on 5 February 2014
Well that's the end of that trilogy and for the halo universe that we love so dearly that's not a bad thing , although I've generally liked Traviss work in the past , i feel like she has had no respect for any of the previous cannon established in both the expanded and mainstream universes. I feel that people should still read this book because it is still despite my misgivings a well written sci-fi story that is not purely focused on super soldiers killing aliens with big flashy guns, which is important because it helps us as the readers see more of the human element (both UNSC and the rebels) which is often overlooked in the games. The best thing about this novel is that it handles a scenario which has been kind of left in the air since the end of the war in halo 3 / Glass lands which is what if one of the parents unraveled the lies surrounding the spartan two project and had the means and was willing to start a galactic cold war to get his answers.
In contrast the worst thing it does is effectively throw Halsey from the highly secretive complex decision making character that we know and love into the worst war criminal humanity has ever had , now don't get me wrong shes no saint but from every character in the book we get a constant anti Halsey sentiment that's borderline fanaticism that only a very small number of characters in the franchise itself should legitimately have (and among this small number a lot of them do not). I really don't care how important you think your main characters are Karen they don't have the right to start determining the morality of the UNSC as a whole , a lot of authors and story writers from 2 company's have spent 10+ years establishing the UNSC as an edgy borderline military junta , that makes complex morally grey decisions because they need to be made for the good of the human race as a whole but this ties into my earlier point about the cannon. I have head mutterings of a new fictional contract which will hopefully lead to an author who is more respectful and more true to the established lore .
on 29 May 2014
Having read all of the other halo books i was excited to read the final part of the trilogy. well wish I dident.
In most of the other books its left up to the reader for the most part to decide how morally questionable Halsey and her plans were. For the most part she is considered some what of a parental figure to the spartans, although distant from them she dose care. In this books she is turned into the offspring of Satan and Hitler. Karen Traviss started in the other books to plant the seed then went full in on this one. I will be sure to avoid any book wrote by the author in future!
on 18 October 2015
Considering this is the third part in a trilogy of books you would expect the pace to start fast and end with a bang. Yet the whole nature of the trilogy has been more about realism, that sense of seeing these last few months as just a normal part of ONI life. That isnt actually false but doesn't really make for a gripping read. The second half does pick up the pace and is enjoyable, but after two and a half books it does fall somewhat flat.
Overall worth a read if you love the Halo universe but if its action and intrigue you are after, this particular trilogy may not be for you.
on 18 June 2016
I have yet to read as I'm stuck into glasslands at this moment,,but when I see this was going as cheap as it was I didn't hesitate to get a copy.....and it turned out to be the hardcover version !!! very chuffed indeed
on 4 February 2014
The expanded Halo universe has been up and down over the past thirteen years. There have been some absolute belters - Eric Nylund's work particularly, as well as aspects of the recent Greg Bear series - and there have been more than a few stinkers. Mortal Dictata is, by far, the worst of them all.
Let me say first of all that I understand why 343 Industries picked Karen Traviss to assist with the Halo fiction. Her background as a defense correspondent and journalist lends an understanding of war and post-war environments that mesh perfectly with this brand of post-Halo 3 fiction. The UNSC covertly arming Sangheili in order to prolong a civil war that keeps them away from Earth and humanity? I believe it, fully.
What I don't think 343i should have done, though, was actually let Traviss handle the character side of the fiction.
Mortal Dictata's characters are largely flat and poorly realised. Not just that, but almost all are carbon copies of each other. Every single one has near-identical thought processes. There are literally no discerning traits between 90% of the cast. This problem is magnified by the fact the main cast is so small. Even some of the more differentiated figures such as Admiral Parangosky are only half a brush stroke away from the rest.
Too much of the book is devoted to internal monologue. Now, this isn't something I have too big a problem with generally - if only Traviss did not repeat the same thing! So much of the introspection is highly repetitive, not just across a large arc but even within a handful of pages. The same points are reiterated time and time again - and, combined with the above paragraph, not just from one perspective but four or five. It's infuriating, but more than that, the ceaselessly repeating nature of it actually feels ham-handed. As though 343i passed the novel to an unpractised author, and the only way the writer was able to communicate their single point (a thread which has stretched across and tarred this entire trilogy) was to constantly shove it down the reader's throat via every vessel possible.
These complaints are just those the average reader would take issue with. That's not even getting into what faces die-hard Halo fans like myself. Since the beginning of the Kilo-Five trilogy, Traviss - and 343i, because I don't for a moment think they passed the universe to her on a platter and allowed her to do what she wanted unchecked - has flown in the face of long-established canon. This in particular stretches to Catherine Halsey. Halsey has always been a morally grey part of the universe, but since Traviss took the reins, that greyness has been shifted into black. Jarringly so. And how has she been demonised? Not with any justification, not with any finesse on Traviss's part. It is by simply having every character who has given Halsey so much as a passing thought, in each of these three books, to think of her as the universe's Adolf Hitler. This completely disregards all the prior work done on the series by greats such as Eric Nylund. And this complaint, though the largest, is only one of many instances in which Traviss has trampled long-established canon, or at least bent it to better fit her view of the universe and one of its most interesting characters.
Of course, none of this is surprising. Traviss herself admitted in a Halo fiction event panel several years ago that she has never read any of the other series works produced before her. So there should be no shock that she has so effectively obfuscated the fiction in her short tenure. But it is still disheartening, now more than ever, particularly as a die-hard fan of the series for over ten years.
I liked Glasslands. In spite of the issues with it, I found myself able to enjoy it. The Thursday War, too, was an okay book. Not brilliant, but at least one story thread was interesting enough. But Mortal Dictata embodies everything I, and many other fans of the series, have come to hate about Traviss's involvement. It is by far the worst entry in the Halo universe, and one I sincerely regret having spent money and time on.
Just today a new Halo fiction partnership was announced, with the first new book coming later this year. The author has not yet been announced. Until he or she is, I will have my fingers tightly crossed that Karen Traviss is not involved.
on 19 March 2014
If there's one thing video games often can't get across, its the human drama of war. It's fair to say that Halo, with the possible exception of Halo 4, certainly doesn't focus on the effect a 30 odd year long war has on those fighting it. This trilogy does, if there's one thing Karen Traviss does best its human drama. These books are a perfect continuation of the Halo narrative, filling in blanks left between games and telling a very different side to the war against the Covenant. Whilst not particularly action packed Traviss fills this book with beautifully crafted characters and captures the personalities of existing characters perfectly, there's plenty of emotional moments, witty humour and perfectly paced plot that keeps you wanting more. This trilogy is must have for Halo fans.
on 16 April 2014
The characters seem to have conflicting personalities. Instead of have quirks and a certain mindset, the author seems to forget which she is trying to portray and use them interchangeably. Also, the Halsey comments do seem to get old after awhile. As another reviewer has said, let us form our opinions.