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Literature / Halo: Hunters in the Dark

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"It is 2555, more than two years after the Master Chief went missing-in-action following a decisive conflict on Installation 00 — the massive, extragalactic Forerunner construct known as the Ark — as part of the final chapter in humanity’s bloody thirty-year struggle against the overwhelming forces of the Covenant. Now, as a tenuous peace exists between the humans and the Elites, a startling scientific discovery is made…and the riddle behind its Forerunner origins could very well seal the fate of the entire galaxy within a matter of weeks. In order to unravel these dangerous secrets, a heroic, hastily formed coalition of humans and Elites must attempt to overcome their differences as they embark on a covert mission back to the Ark — an astonishing, enigmatic place beyond comprehension from which few have returned and where mortal danger awaits them all..."
— Jacket description

Halo: Hunters in the Dark is the 15th novel-length book in the Halo franchise, written by Peter David in 2015. Set in 2555 (two years after the end of Halo 3 and two before Halo 4) the novel follows a joint UNSC/Sangheili expedition to the Ark to solve a mystery that threatens everyone in the galaxy.

During an expedition to the seventh Halo ringworld, scientists Luther Mann and Henry Lamb uncover a strange alien signal emanating from the Halo array, which turns out to be a Forerunner countdown reading five weeks from today. Fearing that the Halos may have been reactivated and will fire upon the galaxy once time's up, the Office of Naval Intelligence plans for an expedition back to the remains of the Ark, the enormous space station that controlled the rings. But the portal to the Ark from Earth has been inactive for years, so the UNSC are forced to ask the Sangheili for help in restoring access, with the expedition itself slated to be a joint-species affair. Tensions broil between the two species from old wounds inflicted during the previous war, but the dangers aboard the Ark will put their cooperation to the test.

Hunters In the Dark brings back old characters like N'tho 'Sraom and Usze 'Taham (the third and fourth player Elites from Halo 3 co-op) and introduces many new ones, including Olympia Vale, who has a major role in Halo 5: Guardians.

Contains Examples Of:

  • Action Girl: Olympia Vale is a civilian, not a soldier, but her combat instincts and training are enough to impress even the Spartans.
  • Actual Pacifist: Like all Huragok, Drifts Randomly is a pacifist. Though familiar with the Human-Covenant War, Luther telling him about The American Civil War gives him pause, as he's never imagined the concept of humans warring against each other.
    • Badass Pacifist: That said, though peaceful he's capable of disarming stronger opponents, can survive extreme temperatures, float fast enough to keep up with a Sangheili at full sprint, and even forces Tragic Solitude into submission when he hacks into the monitor's data stores. For a pacifist mechanic, Tragic Solitude rightly considers him the greatest threat of the party.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Subverted. When conversing with Olympia, Tragic Solitude takes the form of a hologram identical to herself, claiming it's to put her at ease around him. Rather than comfort her, Olympia finds speaking to a machine that looks like herself to be rather disconcerting.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Tragic Solitude has turned into an Omnicidal Maniac as a result of millennia alone and thirst for revenge for the inadvertent damage to the Ark. Olympia wonders at one point if maybe he too was also damaged, hence why he's become a sociopath.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: After Tragic Solitude is destroyed, Olympia laments in private to Usze that she feels guilty for being unable to convince him to relent from annihilating all sentient life. Usze, normally fairly aloof, shows pity and tells her that she hasn't failed as a mediator; she's still done so much for peace with Elites and Humans, and still has more she can do.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: When the blind wolves that attack the party start fleeing, the group first assumes Olympia's attempt to trick them and the Elites' show of force worked. Instead it just turns out there are worse predators in the area, enormous tusked chaefka.
  • Artificial Limbs: Spartan Kodiak has a prosthetic left arm, though it's usually disguised by long sleeves or additional armor. He lost it during the war to an Elite who turned out to be N'tho 'Sraom, and sees his chance for revenge when the two are assigned together for the expedition.
  • As You Know: When trying to reason when Usze 'Taham, Otar 'Bemet's soon-to-be-assassin, the Sangheili remarks on how Usze turned down several offers to be on the Prophets' esteemed Honor Guard. 'Taham finds it odd that 'Bemet is telling him his own backstory, the Sangheili responding that he had been studying 'Taham in hopes of recruiting him to his anti-Arbiter cause.
  • Batman Gambit: Tragic Solitude activated the Halo Array so as to get humanity to panic and reopen the portal in Africa in hopes of reaching the Ark. Once it opened, Solitude could now send through his army of heavily armed Retriever Sentinels.
  • Big Bad: 000 Tragic Solitude, the monitor of the Ark, who intends to strip-mine Earth and all other life-bearing worlds as revenge for the destruction to the Ark.
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • Hunters in the Dark sees the return of N'tho 'Sraom and Usze 'Taham, two Sangheili that serve under Thel 'Vadam (the Arbiter) and were last seen accompanying the player in Halo 3 (being the third and fourth players in co-op mode, respectively).
    • In Halo 3, on the level "The Ark", the player can find a Terminal with a short exchange between 343 Guilty Spark and an unknown AI. That AI turns out here to be 000 Tragic Solitude, the monitor of Installation 00.
  • Brutal Honesty: After Henry is killed by a Sentinel Kola openly calls him a fool for examining a weaponized droid. He's right but Henry just died ten seconds ago and now's not the best time to tell the mourning Luther that his friend was an idiot. Indeed, Luther is furious to hear Kola say so.
  • Children Are Innocent: As a child Luther didn't have much of a concept of death and war. So when watching the Covenant bomb his homeworld to glass, he thought it looked pretty. Too bad for him that he said so in earshot of his traumatized mother, who responded by screaming and slapping him until her husband pulled her away.
  • Cool Sword: The Elites have their signature plasma swords. Being allies with the Arbiter, their swords are in a broader shape based on pre-Covenant designs. Kodiak also has a sword, stolen off an Elite he killed during the war.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • When reaching the Citadel (the control room of the Halo Array on the Ark), Luther Mann remarks on several sights the readers might find familiar from Halo 3, including the wreckage of two Scarabs and the raised circular dias of the control panel. When leaving they even jump down the same tunnel the Chief and Arbiter took when escaping the Flood there.
    • The book opens with the narration of the last crewman of the UNSC Rubicon, the ill-fated starship sent to examine the remains of the Ark in Halo: Primordium.
    • While examining Installation 07, Luther points out that its structure is so different from the other Halos that it was either built before or after all the other rings. As Primordium reveals, it was the former.
    • Dr. Iqbal, a scientist studying the portal at Voi, appears in this book as a consultant. He was first introduced in Halo: Evolutions, his letter about the portal and the post-war state of the galaxy being the book's final short story.
  • Cunning Linguist: Both Luther Mann and Olympia Vale. Luther Mann is a foremost expert on Covenant and Forerunner tech and has spent decades studying their technology, cultures, and languages. He's also good enough to perfectly mimic the call of a strange whale-like Giant Flyer and even infer that it's not a language per se but an expression of emotion. Olympia is able to speak perfect Sangheili, despite a completely different mouth structure (e.g. two jaws instead of four mandibles).
  • Curiosity Killed the Cast: Henry Lamb is killed when he examines a seemingly inert Sentinel and the droid comes to life and slashes his throat.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: The last remaining member of the UNSC Rubicon, Bobby Kodiak, was captured by Solitude and "repaired" as a cyborg. But after re-meeting his brother, he remembers just enough of his old life to give Solitude one last 'screw you'.
  • Description Cut: After the Arbiter says at the end of a chapter that the humans would only send their most cooperative humans for a mission of such sensitivity, the next chapter immediately begins with a description of a human Captain who hates the Sangheili.
  • Distressed Damsel: Olympia Vale is kidnapped by Solitude, the monitor wanting another companion, so half the team splits off to search for her.
    • Distressed Dude: She's not his only prisoner. Spartan Kodiak's brother, Bobby, has been held captive by Solitude for the past two years.
  • Driven to Suicide: Luther Mann's mother killed herself when he was fifteen. When he asked his father why she did it, he responded that her soul had been dead ever since Verent was destroyed, it just took her body a while to catch up.
  • Everybody on Trial: 000 Tragic Solitude is convinced that the sentient species of the galaxy will never change their ways, and will forever war with themselves or others, or (more importantly) unleash more Flood and destroy more Forerunner installations.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Almost all the animals at the Ark are hostile, the blind wolves, the huge tusk beasts, the quadwings, the trees. This is justified for two reasons: 1. Luther theorizes many of the animals at the Ark are predators that the Forerunners kept off their homeworlds so that they wouldn't proceed to slaughter the sapient survivors returned there, and 2. Tragic Solitude is controlling them in hopes of killing off the party.
  • The Extremist Was Right: Though still belligerent about the action, Captain Richards grudgingly admits that N'tho was right to fly his ship straight into the portal with the ONI personnel still aboard, as it will spare them the days of bureaucracy she was demanding the team go through before they head on the voyage.
  • Foreshadowing: When studying Zeta Halo, Luther notes that its Monitor is nowhere to be found and wonders if it's possibly hiding because it's heard about the damage humanity wreaked to three other Halos. Word has indeed spread about their damage, all the way to Tragic Solitude.
  • Friend to All Living Things:
    • Downplayed with Luther Mann. He likes most animals and manages to communicate with a few to convince them to leave the party in peace, but he's still a target for predators and will fight if it means his life over the animal's.
    • Olympia Vale gets along well with the Sangheili and the Huragok. Later on some of the animals are friendly to her, but really because Tragic Solitude is controlling her and their minds.
  • Giant Flyer: The Ark's wildlife has two such fliers: the enormous sky whales and the pterodactyl-like quadwings.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: Like many other monitors, 000 has become rampant in the 100,000 years alone at his installation since the Forerunners' extinction. He is aware of this to a degree, choosing the name "Tragic Solitude" in reflection of his loneliness. Despite claiming to be hyper-rational, though, he cannot resist kidnapping Bobby Kodiak and Olympia Vale as pets of sorts, even while planning on wiping out the rest of their species.
  • Hope Spot: When Luther Mann was growing up on Earth and doing well in his studies, he saw his mom growing more cheerful and hoped she was recovering from her emotional trauma after their homeworld was glassed. Then he came home one day to find she had hanged herself.
  • Hypocrite: 000 Tragic Solitude. He claims that the people of the modern galaxy are a violent, hopeless case, unlike his ideal image of the Forerunners. Olympia Vale reminds him that the Forerunners most likely went through the exact same thing in their millions of years of development.
  • I Am Not Left-Handed: In his first duel onscreen, Usze 'Taham feints his opponent into striking at the wrong time by feigning dropping his left shoulder each time before he lunges.
  • Interspecies Friendship: Usze 'Taham and Olympia Vale express a mutual interest in each other and over the course of the book establish a companionship untroubled by past grievances between their species.
  • Irony: Olympia Vale asks 000 Tragic Solitude to try and see her point of view, and hypothetically suppose that some all-powerful race arbitrarily decided that the Forerunners simply weren't good enough. Funny enough...
  • Knight Templar: Tragic Solitude believes himself to be in the right by wiping out all life in the galaxy, as he views the species living in to be too violent to ever find peace.
  • The Load: Captain Richards views herself to be this after 1. she and her men are basically kidnapped by N'tho and the Sangheili to travel to the Ark and 2. she wrenches her leg too badly to continue traveling with the others. However, Admiral Osman sees differently and offers her a medal and a promotion. Richards chooses to retire instead but accepts the medal.
  • The Lost Lenore: Otar 'Bemet mourns the death of his wife. However, he blames her death on the Arbiter when she really died trying to rig a bomb they were planning to use to assassinate 'Vadam. When Usze kills him at the end of their duel, 'Bemet hallucinates seeing his wife again.
  • Meaningful Name: Tragic Solitude chose his name in reflection of his millennia of isolation at the Ark.
  • Mythology Gag: Several of the creatures on Installation 00, including blind wolves, sky whales, and chaefka are ambient wildlife that were cut out of previous Halo games.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: A minor example. Luther tries to strike up conversation with Drifts Randomly, as the alien repairs the portal, by explaining to him the origin of the human word "deadline" and how it originates from the American Civil War. The concept of humans fighting each other is foreign to Drifts, and Luther claims that the current tension between humans and Sangheili has led to humans uniting against a common enemy. As a result, Drifts halts on fixing the portal, because he mistakenly believes Luther to be telling him that repairing it, an action that will advance human and Sangheili peace, will lead to humans breaking into civil war again. Fortunately Usze quickly deduces what Drifts is thinking and urges him to continue repairing.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Both Luther and Olympia were viewed as this during the war for wanting to study the Covenant, since most human folks didn't take kindly to the extraterrestrials currently in the midst of slaughtering them. Luther at least tends to fight things fascinating until they're trying to kill him personally that moment. He even needs some convincing from Henry to be assured that being attacked by a carnivorous tree was not at all cool.
  • No Endor Holocaust: Of a sort. It was assumed after Halo 3 that the Ark was destroyed by the events of the climax, though none of the characters managed to see what actually happened to it. ONI's worry in this book is also that the Ark will be too reduced to rubble to be of any help. As it turns out, the Ark is still mostly in one piece and many of its ecosystems are still thriving, though there's been three years to repair the damage and what did occur was catastrophic enough to send Tragic Solitude over the deep end.
  • Not Afraid to Die: As Kodiak approaches the trapped N'tho with an energy sword, the Elite reflects and decides he doesn't mind dying this way, as he gave his last minutes his all so he could go down fighting. Fortunately, it's not yet his time.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Towards the climax Usze and Kola are seemingly trapped in a room with countless of deadly armigers. When Luther manages to get the door open, he finds the two Elites panting and wounded... and all of the armigers destroyed.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • As ONI scientists Luther Mann and Henry Lamb are studying Forerunner machinery, they notice a signal that has begun a slow countdown from about three million seconds, or five weeks. The occasion? The Halo ring they're standing on has started charging, and is preparing to fire the Array.
    • Otar 'Bemet, a Sangheili planning an assassination attempt on the Arbiter, falls into fear when a counter-assassin shows up at his door claiming that the Arbiter knows full well of his plan and that all of 'Bemet's co-conspirators are dead or surrendered.
    • Kodiak thinks he's doomed when realizing the tree mimic he's fighting has got its branch-tentacles inside his armor and is forcing it to lock and strangle him.
  • Pet the Dog: Though Serin Osman, the Commander-in-Chief of ONI, has shown herself to be a ruthless individual on many occasions, she demonstrates a surprisingly large measure of empathy when she convinces Captain Richards to accept the Medal of Honor, even though the Captain insists she did nothing to deserve it.
  • Planet Looters: When the portal to the Ark is opened, a Retriever Sentinel appears and begins mining the area nearby as it's programmed. Tragic Solitude's plan involves him sending an enormous fleet of Retrievers to strip-mine Earth to repair the Ark. Olympia points out that he could instead mine uninhabited worlds, but Solitude does not care; he wants to murder humanity.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Sangheili venerate fighting, as shown prior in Halo fiction. N'tho has no fear of dying as long it was in battle, and Usze turned down a job offer in the esteemed Honor Guard of the Prophets because he felt it was too ceremonial and wouldn't have enough fighting.
  • Red Shirts: Captain Richards brings several troopers with her as bodyguards to the Ark, many of whom are killed when the blind wolves and chaefka attack. Despite not knowing their names, Luther takes the death of one very badly after a trooper is killed shortly after saving Luther's life, partly because he never took the time to know the guy. Richards herself doesn't know the troopers all that well either, and while she briefly scans the names of the remaining ones she finds it's easier to keep relaying battle orders to them if she doesn't think of them as people.
  • Revenge Before Reason:
    • Usze 'Taham expresses his concern that any co-operative mission between his species and the humans is doomed to failure over lingering animosity over that whole holy genocide thing to the Arbiter. The Arbiter assures him that with galactic sterilization a possibility should they fail, ONI wouldn't send anyone to research the Ark except their best (and most reasonable) people. Unfortunately, Usze may be right about lingering animosity jeopardizing the mission.
    • Inverted when Kodiak halts his attempt to kill N'tho when the portal's storm threatens to tear them apart. He saves the Sangheili's life but afterward is angry at himself for not killing him when he had the chance. Captain Richards demands he realize he did the right thing by obeying his reason rather his emotions, though it takes a while for Kodiak to convince himself.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge:
    • After a blind wolf kills a soldier who saved Luther's life, the scientist goes into a frenzy, grabs the fallen soldier's rifle, and promptly slaughters every predator that approaches him.
    • 000 Tragic Solitude, the monitor of the Ark, is on one of these after seeing the devastation that humans seem to bring to almost every Forerunner artifact they touch (even if he claims it's merely "justice"). He intends to send heavily armed mining machines back through the portal to Earth, slaughter every last human, and strip mine the entire Solar System, before moving onto other human colonies. After that, he intends to sterilize the galaxy with the Halo array and rebuild the Ark at his leisure.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Seemingly averted; it's noted that even with the most powerful ship-based human, Covenant, or Forerunner slipspace technology available, it'd still take months to travel the possibly greater-than 270,000 light-year distance between Earth and the Ark, hence why travel through the portal in Africa is necessary.
  • Sequel Hook:
    • Towards the end, Kodiak, impressed by Olympia's combat skills, recommends she join the SPARTAN-IVs. When we see her again in Halo 5: Guardians, Olympia has indeed become a Spartan-IV.
    • The description of the armigers brings to mind the Prometheans. Sure enough, a Promethean armiger variant called the Soldier is a new enemy in Guardians.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The subtitle refers to a poem by William Cowper:
    Philologists, who chase, A panting syllable through time and space, Start it at home, and hunt it in the dark, To Gaul, to Greece, and into Noah's Ark.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: After being forced to listen to 000 Tragic Solitude's motives for hours and failing to get through his insanity with her reasonable arguments, Vale gets pretty sick of him.
    Vale: If you really believe that destroying my people is the right course of action, then do it! End it—starting with me! I have no desire to wind up being a prisoner here on the Ark—because that's what I'll be. And you will be my jailer. I am a human being, not one of the animals currently running around on your installation's surface, If you don't release me and recall the Retrievers, then we have nothing else to talk about. You should know that no matter what happens to me, you will be hunted down and expunged from the Ark's system permanently. The Huragok managed to force you out, and it is only a short matter of time before it terminates your operability and your control of the Retrievers. And I'll be damned if I am going to listen to any more nonsense from your mouth. So, if you are inclined, kill me.
  • Taking You with Me: Bobby Kodiak kills himself and Solitude in a suicide attack, not wanting to live as this cyborg creature.
  • Unknown Rival: N'tho 'Sraom senses that Kodiak has resentment for him, but can't figure out why the Spartan keeps watching him. As it turns out, it's because he had sliced off Kodiak's arm years prior in the war.
  • Wham Line: One negative, one positive, respectively:
    Tragic Solitude: Why would you assume that I care in the least about humankind?
    Drifts Randomly: I have control of the Ark.
  • When Trees Attack: Henry, Holt, and Usze are attacked by a creature pretending to be a tree, taking two Spartans and an Elite to be finished off.
  • You Have Failed Me: Tragic Solitude took a liking to Olympia and kept her alive while planning the rest of humanity's destruction, but after she tells her friends to purge Solitude out of the Ark's network rather than save her, he decides he'll kill her after all.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Stopping the rings from firing doesn't end the conflict. Luther achieves this with still a quarter of the book left to go. But Solitude counted on humanity managing to stop the rings; his true plan was to get them to open the portal at Earth so he could send his army of Retrievers through it.