Like books based on movies, TV shows, and other games, the novels based on the Halo games do their best to feel like they fit in with the shooters that inspired them. But with his new novel Halo Envoy (trade paperback, mass market paperback, digital) — in which a civil war between the Sangheili threatens the peace on a world where they and human colonists are trying to make a new life for themselves — writer Tobias S Buckell has actually come up with a story that doesn’t just compliment the Halo games, it could work as a game as well.
Photo Credit: Marlon James
Where did the idea for Halo Envoy come from?
Over the years of playing the Halo games, I’ve always ended up wondering how the various alien groups that are at war could ever settle down near each other. That led me to thinking about how the jointly occupied areas between Sangheili and humans would work. What if both Sangheili and humans ended up living in one of the same worlds? Ostensibly, there would be an attempt at peace, but just years ago they would have been at war. There would be people whose lives were shattered by war, staring across at individuals who had been the “enemy” and the conflict potential would be huge.
How was it decided that Halo Envoy would be set around the time of Halo 5: Guardians, given that it’s unconnected to that game’s story?
Once I had the core idea, 343 [Industries, who oversee the Halo universe] and I worked together to figure out where it made the most sense to set this book, so that it wouldn’t interfere with any properties they had.
So in writing Halo Envoy, were there any instances where you wanted to do something, but the good people at 343 Industries told you, “No, you can’t do that…and we can’t tell you why?”
They’ve always been super awesome about giving me the information I need ahead of time so that I don’t end up trying to do something that they have to ask me to stop on.
Halo Envoy is the second Halo novel you’ve written after 2008’s Halo: The Cole Protocol, though you did write the short story “Oasis” for last year’s collection Halo: Fractures. How was writing Halo Envoy different from writing “Oasis” and Halo: The Cole Protocol?
Every book is its own beast, so each process is different in its own way. You never know what to expect in terms of demands a book has. I got to know the folks at 343 a little better on this project, they checked in more often, and had a lot of great comments and ideas for things we could slip in, lines here or there, that fans would enjoy.
Do you feel there are any writers or specific novels that were a bit influence on Halo Envoy, both in terms of what you wrote and how you wrote it?
It’s a stew of writers and novels that make the creative loam a novel stews in. Asking which writers influence which project is like asking which child is your favorite. I know that my general interest in space opera probably had an influence on this project, but that’s generally true of a lot of what I write. I like explosions, space, and action in all my work. The list would be hundreds of writers long.
What about non-literary influences, were there any TV shows, movies, or non-Halo games that were an inspiration for Halo Envoy?
Aside from the Halo novels, you’ve also written a number of books not connected to video games. How, if at all, does writing a book set in someone else’s universe impact your original stuff?
Basically, I take the same approach to my writing no matter what universe its set in, Halo or my own inventions: I try to entertain people. The biggest impact, obviously, is that I’m not writing an original novel of my own while doing something like Halo Envoy. I don’t do many projects outside of my own universes, Halo is the only one so far. I’ve had requests, but Halo is one of my all-time favorite games, so getting a chance to be paid to play in a world I love is great fun.
Finally, if someone enjoys Halo Envoy, which of your other novels would you suggest they read next and why?
Try Sly Mongoose. It’s pretty high-octane as well.