Tor, out now
The conclusion of the Kilo-Five trilogy
Mortal Dictata is the third volume in Karen Traviss’ Kilo-Five trilogy. The first volume, Halo: Glasslands, follows on from the events of Halo 3. With the Covenant war over, the book follows three separate narrative strands: in the first, Dr. Catherine Halsey, Senior Chief Petty Officer Mendez and a number of Spartan IIs and Spartan IIIs are trapped in a micro Dyson sphere. The second follows a team of ONI picked personnel (Kilo-Five) that have been tasked with disrupting the balance of the Elite’s power. The third strand follows an Elite known as Jul M’Dama who wants to destroy the Arbiter so that he can realise his goal of wiping out humanity. These three threads gradually intersect, leading to a conclusion that sets up the second volume, Halo: The Thursday War.
In that, Kilo-Five have been tasked with preventing the resurgence of the Elite, whose aim is nothing less than the destruction of the human race. Originally a case of stopping the Elites causing trouble by keeping them occupied with their own insurrection, the mission becomes a battle to save one of their own, trapped in the middle of the civil war. The novel ends with the unit spotting the father of one of the Spartans (Naomi), in the company of a known terrorist – one they believe to be in possession of a stolen Covenant space cruiser.
Halo: Mortal Dictata sees the culmination of the plot strand dealing with Naomi, a Spartan, and her father – Staffan Sentzke. The colonies are a mass of discontent; still angry at the upheaval and loss caused by the Covenant war, people want answers. And they want justice. No one wants this more than Staffan Sentzke, still searching for the truth about his daughter Naomi after all these years. He’s never believed the official line that she died of an illness – he never accepted the clone that ONI placed with him in her stead was in fact his daughter, and will stop at nothing to find out where the real Naomi is, or even if she’s still alive. He’s stolen a Covenant cruiser, and is intent upon threatening to ‘glass’ Earth unless someone tells him the truth. Kilo-Five are tasked with stopping him, and recovering the cruiser.
Various members of the unit are disenchanted with their lot, the revelation of their origins and how they were ‘recruited’ sowing the seeds of dissatisfaction. While they search for the battle cruiser and wish to stop other colonies from acquiring it, there is a certain amount of sympathy for Staffan and his fight for the truth. As Naomi and the others come to terms with what has happened to them, so must Staffan.
The novel ends with a battle between the various factions and offers a satisfying resolution to each of the threads mentioned so far; leaving the reader wondering what’s next for Kilo-Five, the ONI, Earth and the colonies.
Verdict: A story of family, loyalty, and the battle for justice. 8/10