For Halo fans, Halo Infinite‘s December 8 release date can’t come fast enough. But it might come a little quicker — or at least seem to — if you read Troy Denning’s new Halo novel, Halo: Divine Wind (paperback, Kindle, audiobook). In the following email interview about it, Denning discusses what inspired and influenced this sci-fi space opera spy thriller, including why he thinks it might not work as a Halo game.
To start, what is Halo: Divine Wind about, and how does it connect, narratively and chronologically, to your previous Halo novel, Shadows Of Reach?
Divine Wind grew out of an idea I tossed into the Shadows Of Reach manuscript. During one of our first conversations, I mentioned that a minor character who appeared in one of Castor’s early scenes was, in my mind, a Ferret (from the Veta Lopis books) working undercover. 343 [Industries, the people who oversee everything Halo] liked the idea so much we decided to develop it into an entire subplot.
The story starts just a few hours after Shadows Of Reach ends, as the Ferret subplot from Shadows blossoms into its own story.
Shadows Of Reach was set a year after Halo 5: Guardians, and before the upcoming game, Halo Infinite. Can you tell us when Halo: Divine Wind happens in relation to Infinite?
I’m not privy to the current thinking on Infinite‘s place on the Halo timeline, but the entirety of Divine Wind occurs within two weeks of the end of Shadows Of Reach. So, I feel safe in saying that it occupies a similar slot: a year after Guardians, and sometime before Infinite.
One interesting thing about Halo: Divine Wind i that it takes place at the same time as Halo: Shadows Of Reach, and Shadows was part of your Master Chief series, but Divine is not part of it. Why isn’t the O.G. M.C. also in Divine? What, was he busy doing Dancing With The Stars or something?
On a thematic level, the Master Chief isn’t in Divine Wind because it’s not his story. Divine Wind is very much Castor’s and Veta Lopis’ tale; it expands their Shadows subplot into an ordeal that will shake them to their cores.
We took some risks with their characters that, frankly, I wasn’t sure 343 would accept. When they came back and said “take it further,” I knew we were going to have something special. I’ll let the readers judge the results for themselves, but I’m proud of where we ended up.
Like every Halo novel, Halo: Divine Wind is a sci-fi space opera story. But are there any other genres at work in this novel as well?
It’s also a spy thriller. I’m a big fan of the genre. I learned how to plot thrillers by outlining each scene in the first three books of Robert Ludlum’s Bourne series, and most of my own books owe their structural bones to that exercise.
So aside from Ludlum’s Bourne novels, what other writers and stories do you think had a big influence on Halo: Divine Wind?
I’d also list Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp books; Ken Follett’s Jackdaws, The Eye Of The Needle, The Man From St. Petersburg, The Key To Rebecca, and Triple; Frederick Forsyth’s The Day Of The Jackal; most of John LeCarre’s work; and Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series.
What about non-literary influences; are there any movies, TV shows, or games that had a big influence on Halo: Divine Wind? Other than the Halo ones, of course.
Most of the books I’ve mentioned above have been made into movies. It’s fascinating to study the changes made to adapt them to the big screen.
But I can’t think of any TV series or games that had an influence.
One of the things that I always ask you about your Halo novels is whether you think they could work as a Halo game themselves, or as part of a Halo game. And you always say they could. Is that like a driving principal when writing these books, or is it more that they just naturally go that way?
During the writing process, the last thing on my mind is translating the novel into a game. My answers to you are after-the-fact reflections. It just happens that most of my books probably would make decent video games. And there’s a simple reason for that. Video games — especially Halo games — are story-telling forms. So it’s only natural that most action novels could be translated into some sort of video game. It’s analogous to translating novels into films; they’re very different art forms, but, at heart, they’re still stories.
But Divine Wind might be a bit tougher to translate into a game than most of my books. It relies heavily on dramatic irony, where the suspense arises from the reader knowing more about the situation than the characters do. I have a hard time seeing how that could be translated into a video game. Either the players know too much to make the game suspenseful, or they don’t know enough and get confused. But I’m sure there are game designers capable of doing it. There are a lot of very creative people in the field.
Finally, if someone enjoys Halo: Divine Wind, what sci-fi space opera novel of someone else’s would you suggest they read while waiting for Halo Infinite to come out?
Well, in the Halo universe it’s a no-brainer: Kelly Gay’s Point Of Light. You know there’s some deep lore there. Plus, it’s a great story, with some of my all-time favorite Halo characters. If you haven’t read it already, do it now.
As for non-Halo space opera, I always enjoy Asimov’s Foundation trilogy. Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination is a haunting book that’s stayed with me since I read it as a teenager. Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers is something I think most Halo fans would enjoy reading, if they haven’t already.
Frank Herbert’s Dune is a great book that grows richer with each re-reading. I love Anne McCaffrey’s The Ship Who Sang — and any story with a formerly-human AI who runs a ship has obvious relevance for Halo fans. Larry Niven’s Ringworld is another one that any self-respecting Halo fan should know
Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game is an interesting take on a Halo-like war against aliens. I think I’ve mentioned David Weber’s On Basilisk Station before, but it’s so much fun that it should be mentioned again. Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey and Old Man’s War by John Scalzi are both smaller-scale takes on interplanetary war, and both are probably closer to our future than we realize.