In her three previous Halo novels — Smoke And Shadow, Renegades, and Point Of Light — writer Kelly Gay expanded upon the military sci-fi space opera universe of the titular video games in a rather interesting (and interconnected) way. But as she explains in the following email interview about Halo: The Rubicon Protocol (paperback, Kindle, audiobook), this new (and unconnected) story hits a little closer to home.
To begin, what is Halo: The Rubicon Protocol, and when and where does it take place, both in terms of our lives and in relation to the Halo games and books?
The Rubicon Protocol tells the story of the UNSC’s fight against the Banished on Zeta Halo in the six months prior to the start of the game, Halo Infinite. It follows the story of three Spartans — Horvath, Kovan, and Stone — and a group of soldiers and support staff from the downed flagship, UNSC Infinity, who must survive on the ring against an enemy that far outnumbers their now scattered forces.
More specifically, when does Halo: The Rubicon Protocol take place in relation to your previous Halo novel Point Of Light, which was set at the same time as Halo 5: Guardians?
It’s about a year and change if I remember correctly between Point Of Light, which took place in 2558, and The Rubicon Protocol, which takes place at the end of 2559 and into 2560.
Even more specifically, Halo: The Rubicon Protocol is set in December. Is there any reason it’s set in December as opposed to February or May or August?
It begins in December but runs the course through to May of 2560. The time period was already fixed since it aligns with Halo Infinite and had to match with some of the in-game audio files players can find, which reveal some the hardships the UNSC was facing as they tried to maintain a military presence on the ring despite overwhelming odds.
Who came up with the idea for Halo: The Rubicon Protocol?
I think the initial conversation with 343 Industries [who oversee all things Halo] centered around their idea of a prequel with an outnumbered, against all odds scenario. While there were a lot more parameters to follow due to the book having to match up with the game environment and backstory, I still had a lot of freedom to create the plot and characters, etc. The story came about through the whole idea of a small group being stranded on the ring without the full force of the UNSC behind them. They don’t know when or if help will even arrive, they just know they can’t let Zeta Halo fall under Banished control. That situation led to a lot of questions: What trials they’d face? How they’d survive? What things they could do to throw a wrench into the Banished’s plans? Etc…
So, had you played Halo: Infinite before you started writing Halo: The Rubicon Protocol?
I was writing the book while Infinite was still in production, and throughout this process we were able to identify areas that needed revising in order to match with what players would see in game. I wrote off of art concepts, audio files, and a whole lot of phone calls and texts to get a general idea of how the game environment and story was looking.
The Halo games and books have all been military sci-fi space opera stories, but some have added elements of other genres as well. The Flood, for instance, brought body horror to the mix. Are there any other genres present in Halo: The Rubicon Protocol?
Not really. I’d say it fits pretty neatly into the realm of military sci-fi.
As we’ve been discussing, Halo: The Rubicon Protocol is not directly connected to your previous Halo books, save for being part of the Halo-verse. How was this for you? Was it daunting, were you excited to write something that was different but still Halo, did you not think about it until just now and now you’re getting all freaked out and why the hell did you put this in my head Paul, I hate, I HATE YOU SO MUCH!?!?!
Ha ha. No, not daunting at all, and I was very interested in the prospect of writing something entirely new and to challenge myself.
Now, in the previous interview we did about Halo: Point Of Light, you said, “I would definitely be open to more Rion and Spark,” referring to characters from your previous Halo stories. Are you still open to that, or have you moved on?
I’m definitely still open to it, and certainly have some ideas on how the Forge story could move forward, but right now there’s nothing in the works.
You also said in the interview we did about Halo: Renegades that you were, “finishing up a fantasy novel and plotting a sci-fi novel.” Where do things stand with those books?
They’ve been relegated to the backburner. Point Of Light took up headspace and then The Rubicon Protocol followed on its heels, so I haven’t had the chance to devote much time to them. It’d probably be more accurate to say I could have devoted a little time to them, but I have to be careful of burning myself out. I used to churn out two books a year while also working on other projects but the last few years the process has slowed down quite a bit.
Going back to Halo: The Rubicon Protocol, as we’ve been discussing, it’s a prequel to Halo: Infinite. What do you think people will get out of Infinite if they read Protocol beforehand?
I think they’ll get a deeper understanding of just how bad things were on Zeta Halo prior to their arrival in game. When they come across fallen soldiers, destroyed vehicles and ships, or are facing an enemy or running through an outpost, I hope they’ll feel connected to what they’re seeing and remember the dogged fights and acts of heroism made by the UNSC survivors. And maybe this will create a greater sense of gravity and urgency to what they must now achieve through Master Chief’s fight against the Banished.
So, is there anything else you think people should know about Halo: The Rubicon Protocol?
Yes, the book is a companion piece to Infinite, but it isn’t required reading in order to play the game. It’s designed so that a reader doesn’t need to read any other Halo books to understand what’s going on, they can just jump right in and follow along with the characters as they move through Zeta Halo.
Finally, after reading Halo: The Rubicon Protocol, people are probably going to play Halo: Infinite again. But after that, they might want a break from the whole military sci-fi space opera thing. So, what would you recommend they read next?
Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse. It’s a fresh, diverse, big, fast-paced, beautifully written epic fantasy inspired by pre-Columbian and Polynesian cultures. There’s myth, magic, gods, politics, prophecy, awesome characters, settings, plots, creatures…so much goodness and highly recommend.