Halo: Outcasts is the latest novel in the Halo universe by author Troy Denning. Taking place in between the events of Halo 5: Guardians and Halo Infinite, it follows the chase for a weapon capable of fighting back against the tyrant Cortana. Featuring the Arbiter, Spartan Olympia Vale, and the Banished leader Atriox, it is a tense and well-told tale. Whether this Halo canon continues is anybody’s guess at this point, but let’s break Outcasts down, without heavy spoilers of course.
Sanghelios & Netherop
Early on the book focuses on the political struggles of trying to keep societies afloat under the oppressive rule of Cortana and the Created. She is mercilessly using them to “bring peace” to the galaxy, and this takes place not long after a certain Halo Infinite event that was quite the shocker at a planetary level. Thel ’Vadam a.k.a. The Arbiter is working his hardest to bring the Sangheili together. Spartan Olympia Vale is working alongside him to strengthen the bonds between humanity and their former enemy. A chance to obtain a weapon of immeasurable power arises and Sangheili, Humans, and other factions begin a race to a distant planet that Mr. Denning has used before in his novels, Netherop.
The planet has made appearances in two prior Halo novels, Silent Storm & Oblivion. Both take place a few months into the First Contact War with the Covenant. While lightly featured in Silent Storm the majority of Oblivion takes place on the planet. It is swelteringly hot and is a solid backdrop to an entertaining tale about Blue Team being general Badasses with hearts of gold. While it isn’t required reading to understand the plot of this novel it adds some helpful context to the story and a few returning characters,
If you take the book as a small part of a bigger tale that will most likely not influence much going forward it is highly entertaining. After the failure of Halo Infinite to become a successful live service game it appears that any future campaign content has been scrapped, though. If those plans had still been in motion it would have made the story and results of this book more meaningful to me. On their own they’re ok, but as part of a greater (still existing) whole, it could have been massively important to the franchise.
Characters vs Action
Style-wise Mr. Denning chooses to go first person through different characters for each chapter. The motivations of the characters are well thought out, and he earns the growth that various individuals both do and do not go through over time. I never felt lost on motivation or location during a section, nor did I feel like I knew exactly how anything would play out. There are a lot of action and character deaths. Outside of the main characters, no one felt safe, nor was any death a cheap way to elicit an emotional response.
There are some difficult themes touched upon with a gentle hand. It can be difficult to write realistically and convincingly about giant-hinged jawed aliens, bipedal ape aliens, and future space-faring humans. There are occasional grown-worthy lines but on the whole, I never felt pulled out of a scene by it. It’s tough to describe without spoilers, but as a parent, a few of the themes hit here got to me. New and returning characters alike are uniformly either likable or properly detestable.
Wrapping Things up
Halo: Outcasts is a fine addition to the long list of Halo novels. Featuring solid characters, great action, and a clear through line it is an easy recommendation for any Halo Extended Universe fan.
A physical copy of Halo: Outcasts was provided for review by Gallery Books