Chronique:Canon Fodder - Jurassic Ark
BY GRIMBROTHER ONE - 8/20/2015
Welcome back oh ye folk who favor fiction, and thanks for joining us for another lovingly-crafted issue of Canon Fodder. Last week, we not only took a look at a couple new playspaces in Halo 5: Guardians, but we also promised you a look back on Halo: Hunters in the Dark, a recent addition to the Halo fiction penned by Peter David. And you know me, when I make a girl a promise, I always try to keep it. So this week let’s dive a bit deeper into the latest full-length Halo novel, and revisit the recovering surface of Installation 00.
Halo: Hunters in the Dark takes place in 2555, and follows a hybrid crew of human and Sangheili operatives as they overcome incredible odds to stave off a galactic threat. Halo: Hunters in the Dark straddles an adventurous line, containing a fairly large variety of references to other stories and events, all while creating a compelling new thread of its own in the Halo tale. We’re not going to go through and pick apart the story start to finish, as we’d much prefer you experience the narrative for yourself. We did, however, want to focus on a few key aspects of this new addition and shed a bit of light on some of the finer details and additions to the overall Halo universe. Needless to say, from here on out you should consider this Grade-A spoiler territory, so if you haven’t grabbed yourself a copy of the book yet, go and get on that!
CHARACTER BUILDING EXERCISE[modifier]
Halo: Hunters in the Dark features a robust cast that encompasses both alien and human stakeholders, some brand new to the universe, and some returning favorites. Usze 'Taham and N'tho 'Sraom – the two main Sangheili characters – had been encountered by fans before as playable characters within the campaign of Halo 3. While familiar however, these characters didn't exactly have much in the way of substantial characterization prior to this book. One of the most fun things to undertake during the development of the novel was the opportunity to breathe extra life into these noble warriors. While in essence beginning life as quite literally “side characters,” players soon found a certain affinity for Usze and N’tho, many having experienced iconic moments of the Halo 3 campaign from within their hooved alien boots. More than once over the years, passionate fans mused over the fates of these characters, especially as the unrest within Sangheili society began to further surface. Needless to say, we hope fans will be excited to have these two a bit more entrenched within the Universe proper.
While Usze and N’tho represent a bit of a blast from Halo’s past, other characters, such as Olympia Vale, stand poised to be vanguards of its future. While plenty of fans have already been growing excited to learn more about Vale simple on the merits of what we’ve shown so far of Halo 5: Guardians, many others have already gotten a taste of what the new Spartan-IV is capable of through her exploits on Installation 00 during Hunters. I grabbed Brian Reed to ask him about his thoughts on this type of “co-introduction” strategy, not just for Vale, but for other heroes players will be interacting with – and as – throughout the Halo 5: Guardians campaign. After I was sure he would not escape, I let go of him and got his answer.
“The fun of the Halo franchise is that we have all these outlets for telling stories.” Says Reed, who is the lead writer for Halo 5: Guardians. “So we got to meet Locke in Halo: Nightfall, and Tanaka in the comics, and Vale in the novels. That’s a luxury a lot of other games/movies/etc don’t share. We were well into development on Halo 5: Guaridans when Peter started work on Halo: Hunters in the Dark, so we were able to inform him quite a bit on who Vale was and how she thought, but we were really only talking about our own experiences working with her in the course of Halo 5, when she’s already part of Fireteam Osiris. Peter took what we said and figured out how Vale behaved before she was a Spartan, which again fed back into our work on the game and has the effect of making Vale more rounded as a person and therefore more “real” in the long run.”
As you’ll notice at the end of this week’s issue, there’s even more to learn about Usze, N’Tho, and now-Spartan Vale, as we’ve added entries for each to the Universe encyclopedia for your perusal. Hope you enjoy!
Three for P.D.[modifier]
I was able to catch author Peter David in the middle of his very busy summer for a couple of quick-hit queries about his thoughts on bringing Halo: Hunters in the Dark to life. Here’s what he had to say…
GrimBrother One: You’ve now written both a novel (Halo: Hunters in the Dark) and a comic series (Halo: Helljumper) set in the Halo universe. Can you talk a bit about the difference in writing for those mediums as far as how you might go about telling the story?
Peter David: The big difference is the difference one always has to deal with in terms of comics versus novels. When writing a comic, you have to think extremely visually since comics are primarily a visual medium. With a novel, if you have two people talking to each other in a room for five pages, the reader will stick with you as long as the dialogue is interesting. With a comic book, you have to have much more action displayed on the page. Scenes can't be static; there always has to be some sort of movement.
GRIM: What would you say your favorite aspect of the story was to write about?
PD: The actual exploration of the Ark. That was a lot of fun because it was really like writing a big video game, which is appropriate, I guess. Actually I liked the Ark itself so much that I desperately wanted to title the story "Raiders of the Lost Ark," but Pocket Books wouldn't let me. That's a shame.
GRIM: What? Why in the world would they say that?! A shame indeed. Aside from that, what makes writing specifically for the Halo universe unique?
PD: I've worked in any number of other universes, and I have to say that Microsoft is great to work with because they know this stuff so cold. If there was something I had in there that conflicted with something that was established or something that was going to be happening, they not only flagged it, they suggested things to repair it. They did far more than any other licensor that I've ever worked it. And what I'm most pleased about is that everything in the game is canonical; it's all official (as opposed to Star Trek which is often dismissed by the movie studios as "Star Trek fiction" and not to be considered part of continuity.
GRIM: Well, I’m sure I speak for many of the fans when I say we’re extremely happy to have Halo: Hunters in the Dark as an important part of the Halo canon. Thanks for lending your thoughts!'
Fauna have to put a ring on it[modifier]
From the very beginning during the initial cover reveal, to the final conflicts on Installation 00, Halo: Hunters in the Dark became one of the most ambient alien life-infused titles in the Halo canon. Many of the featured fauna have roots that can be traced back to Halo concepts in everything from Halo 4 and Halo Wars all the back to Halo: Combat Evolved’s original, pre-FPS days. Let’s take a look at some of the awesome animals our heroes encountered on the Ark…
The sky leviathan, or olfmeri, as it was known to Lifeworkers, is most accurately described as an “avian cetacean,” and is one of the most elusive and mysterious creatures encountered on any Forerunner installation. In many ways, their ability to defy gravity seems almost impossible, given the incredible size and nature of these beasts. These gentle leviathans are as large as many Earth species of whale and bear striking similarities to the huge aquatic mammals, but with one key difference: while whales on Earth find their domain in the planet’s oceans, these creatures witnessed on Installation 00 actually grace the skies of the ancient forge world. The biological mechanisms behind their buoyancy is still a mystery to ONI scientists, though there are no shortage of curious theories. Fans might recognize the visual origins of the leviathans in concept art for Halo 4, shown here.
The tusk beast, or chaefka, are beautiful but powerful creatures that were encountered on the surface of Installation 00. Known as neldoruut to ancient humanity, these predators have the ability to give off a pheromone that when encountered by other creatures can produce intense psychotropic effects. Chaefka are perhaps most closely described as polar bear-like creatures, with long white fur rippled across their bodies, and horned protrusions sticking out from their backs. Their faces were particularly menacing, featuring large tusks extending from their mouths. Between these two huge tusks and a pair of smaller horns, their mammalian-like snouts feature three white mandible pairs, one atop the other that when splayed wide open, showcase row after row of razor sharp teeth. Keen-eyed fans have recognized that these creatures have actually been “seen” before, in concept art for ambient life originally meant to appear in Halo Wars.
Known as the blind wolf, morolaath are bipedal predators with a theropod-like anatomy, appearing to be something akin to Earth’s ancient dinosaurs. While they have no eyes or arms, unnervingly large fangs extend from their jaws. These deadly creatures are most often known to hunt in packs, and were encountered several times during OPERATION: FAR STORM. Upon the unveiling of the full cover from Halo: Hunters in the Dark, long-time Halo fans everywhere were excited to finally see the blind wolves “brought to life” after being seen for years as concepts from Halo’s earliest beginnings.
Known by Lifeworkers as rangmejo, quadwings are one of the most ubiquitous species of fauna that have been encountered on Forerunner installations by the UNSC, with a few individual specimens even being procured for scientific study. What scientists have found is remarkable evidence of genetic optimization; the creatures representing one of perhaps a number of species specifically selected and adapted by Lifeworkers to play diverse and important roles within a wide range of ecosystems, helping contribute to the overall health and stability of a biome. Quadwings are large pterosaur-like creatures with two sets of impressive wings flanking a narrow, muscular body. At one end of that body is a head featuring a strong, lengthy beak and a protruding crest – often brightly colored. At the other is a long tail that can represent over half of the quadwing’s body itself. Keen-eyed fans may have seen quadwings roaming the skies in Halo 2 and Halo 3.
CF CHATTERNET – Lights in the Dark[modifier]
Earlier this week, we took to the forums to pose a new question for out CHATTERNET feature, where we get your thoughts on a particular subject. Considering the subject matter for this week, we thought it might be fun to grab some of your favorite moments from Halo: Hunters in the Dark. Let’s hear what the community had to say!
GRIM: What were some of your favorite aspects or moments of Halo: Hunters in the Dark?
M0aHerder: My favorite moment was easily when I realized just what the snow beasts actually were. The book mentions Vale hopping on the back of one of these creatures, grabbing on to the two horns that protruded from its back. It was right then that I realized why the description of these creatures sounded so familiar. I immediately stopped reading and start searching through all of the Halo concept art I have stored on my computer, and before long I had found the concept art for a creature that was planned to appear in Halo Wars. Sure enough, I compared it with the descriptions and there was no doubt that the two were the same. Something about bringing back something that was cut from previous games, especially an alien creature (if you can't tell by my name, I'm kind of a fan of alien fauna), makes me so excited. Especially because this creature in particular was something so minor from a relatively old and less popular game. The Sky Leviathans and Blind Wolves both take a close second, but that feeling when I recognized the snow beast (now known as the Chaefka) description was just great, and made me super excited for what the rest of the book would bring.
Dab1001: My favourite moment was probably around Chapter 15, when the group in the Citadel is split up. Some of them jumped down the chute John-117 and Thel 'Vadam took at the end of The Covenant, in Halo 3. Not only did it excellently describe the tunnels - so well that I was having Halo 3 flashbacks - but [REDACTED]’s death was also so sad and unexpected.
Shedrakzo: A favorite scene for me was when N'tho took the Mayhem through the Ark portal to the protests of the humans on the ship. It really showed an interesting side of his personality, that he would continue on with the mission without delay, even if there were those that disagreed with him.
Onyx81: Easily the moment when Vale is questioning 0000 Tragic Solitude about why he is the one to judge humanity, and the judgement of the Forerunners at the hands of the Flood gets brought up.
jayman567: For me it was when the book described all the areas that we had previously been to in Halo 3 (Shell of High charity, Scarab wreckage, The towers and the Citadel). My second favourite bit was when the Retriever sentinel appeared just after the portal opened, it really added a sense of danger even before they even left for the Ark. Finally I would say that the interactions between Vale and Solitude were my third favourite moments, but in all honesty the entire book was filled with great moments in every chapter.
Toa Freak: Going back to the Ark in general was pretty awesome, as was meeting the Ark's Monitor. The meeting between Vale and Solitude was a lot of fun to read about, and Vale came off a an extremely well rounded character, one I cannot wait to meet in Halo 5. However, I think the absolute best aspect of HitD was the story of Kodiak and N'tho. The dynamics between these character, Kodiak having to deal with the baggage of his past and growing as a person was spectacular! Oh, and before I forget, thank you for bring both N'tho 'Sraom and Usze 'Taham back into the fold. It was awesome to see these characters again.
DH1762: The Wizard of Oz, the man behind the curtain but in the case of Hunters in the Dark, the monitor of the Lesser Ark. In the first 2 games we had two different monitors for the Halo rings and it was weird that during the events of Halo 3, we had humans, the covenant, and a gravemind trampling all over the Ark, but never saw a new monitor for the Ark. So finally getting a chance to read about Tragic Solitude and how he took the destruction of the Ark and what he was willing to do to correct the wrong that was done to the Ark while getting his revenge that almost came to fruition.
Sith Venator: For sure the Sangheili and Spartans working together, it's the kind of joint-operation story I've been waiting on since 2004. In addition to that I really loved the relationship between Vale and Usze. You can bet every time I play an Osiris mission in Halo 5: Guardians I'll be Vale.
ajw34307: Mine is one of the book's weirder moments - the conflict with the 'not-Ents'. First of all, I was deeply amused by how aware Peter David was of what he was making reference to, as Kodiak recalls "a centuries-old fantasy story that had living trees" - it's wonderful to know, and quite topical for the overall theme of the book, that Tolkien's books of a great adventure undertaken by a Fellowship of people from very different backgrounds and cultures find common ground fighting against an evil that threatens all their lives and has the mantle of the world passed from the great civilization of the Elves to men... It's nice to know that such a story still lives in human hearts and minds all those centuries on. Secondly, I have a great love for the 'weird' side of Halo's universe - the things that have you re-evaluate the preconceptions that you'd built, the things that seem quite out there. The 'not-Ents' reminded me very much of the organic kind of technology possessed by the Path Kethona Forerunners and the Stoics of Janjur Qom who we see in Broken Circle.
She Sangheili: My favorite moment? Gah Grim you don't make this easy but I have a few but for me the Sangheili stole the show. Their character development was incredible plus bringing back Usze and N'tho we were gladly spoiled. The author took Player 3 and Player 4, whom were just given names and bare bone personalities and he gave them personalities. N'tho went from the youthful Sangheili eager to work with humanity to, well he didn't change much but he took control of the situation and I honestly expected him to say, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." I was grinning widely at his antics. Usze had wonderful interactions with the rest of the characters but more importantly Olympia Vale. A favorite moment of mine is when Usze was called out that he was pacing. As N'tho and Usze were both wonderfully sassy and snarky.
Another thing that made me giddy, which I think a few others mentioned, was that this book was wonderfully weird. The Ark was completely alien and that was amazing. How there were mentions of animals that were cut from the original games. Sure one could argue that toward the end the book grew a bit fanciful. My response is simple... "ITS HALO! We've come to accept weirder things."
We'll end with one last bit of info for this week; for fans of the Halo: Escalation comic series, you can get a preview of Issue #21 right here from our friends and partners at Dark Horse. Go check it out and get a jump on the continuation of the Absolute Record storyline!
And with that, good citizens, we part ways for another week. We hope you’ve enjoyed our look back at Halo: Hunters in the Dark, and hope you’ll join us for some more exciting pieces in these pages coming up very soon. Also, if you are planning on being in Seattle for PAX next weekend, let me know on Twitter. Would love to get a chance to meet some of our awesome community members! Okay, done for real now, have a great weekend, folks.
Until next week… Live well, play Halo, and never refer to a blind wolf as “clever girl.”
New universe entries this week![modifier]
Usze ‘Taham is one of the deadliest Sangheili Special Operations commandos alive. His skill in war has proved invaluable in service to the Arbiter.
N’tho ‘Sraom is a veteran warrior who stands with the Arbiter as his lieutenant within the Swords of Sanghelios.
An unusually gifted Sangheili linguist, Vale was ONI Special Liaison to the emerging Swords of Sanghelios coalition before her recruitment into the Spartan branch.
Soldiers are Armiger-class bipedal combat platforms developed and employed by the Forerunners. These war-machines proved incredibly useful for raiding ancient human warships and combating the Flood.