I’m on a quest to complete all of the Halo books before Halo 5: Guardians releases in October. I finished three older books while on my vacation last week, allowing me to finally get back on track with the latest releases. Next up is a short story, Halo: Saint’s Testimony by Frank O’Connor, the series director. He’s the one who is essentially in charge of all of the Halo lore and making sure it flows between games and makes sense overall. I’m guessing he tapped out for Halo: Reach, but that’s a whole different diatribe. Point is, this is the first time he’s actually written a piece of Halo extended lore himself. Saint’s Testimony took awhile to warm up, but the climax gave me absolute chills, something that hasn’t happened with a book in a long, long time.
Saint’s Testimony features a smart AI, like Cortana or Roland, who is at the end of her seven-year set life cycle. As Cortana discussed throughout Halo 4, and what several AIs have mentioned numerous times throughout the books, a smart AI starts breaking down into rampancy at around 7 years. To prevent the AI from losing any pertinent data or literally going insane and destroying data, the UNSC has a policy in place to essentially kill the AI on its 7th birthday. Iona is now 7, and while she should have the plug pulled on her, she filed a claim with the UNSC court that she shouldn’t be terminated. Even crazier, she’s appealing to the idea that she is alive and has a right to live.
Unlike Cortana, she has no signs of rampancy, and therefore, why shouldn’t she continue to live and fulfill her duty?
It’s an interesting premise and one that really delves into the morals of the lives of AI, but not much about Iona’s testimony in the court of law grabbed my attention. She made her appeals to show how she is like a living and breathing entity (emphasis on “like”), and even goes as far as to show everyone in attendance her dreams. Yes, I admit I thought of Space Odyssey: 2010 and HAL-9000 asking if he would dream. And then I snickered, which completely killed any mood O’Connor was setting for Iona’s testimony.
What snapped me back in was everything that happened after the court hearing concluded. For the sake of avoiding spoilers, I won’t say anything else about the plot. Those events, however, gave me chills. I know I said, “Oh my God!” out loud at least three times in reading the final pages. I can’t get out of my head what was revealed in those last pages. It will haunt my thoughts for years to come, and I already know I’m going to have to read this short story at least one more time to garner everything I can from it.
I am dying to know how this will impact future Halo games or future Halo extended lore. O’Connor has opened a completely new sub-plot that Cortana was only knocking on in Halo 4, as well as Karen Traviss in her Kilo Five trilogy. I have a feeling that Halo is going to go down a far darker path than Bungie originally intended, but considering where the series started, I think this is a glorious thing to happen to the series.
Despite how amazing I think this short story is, I cannot recommend it for everyone for one reason and one alone: if you have not read Traviss’ Kilo Five trilogy, the big revelation will mean absolutely nothing to you. For everyone who has read the Kilo Five trilogy and played through Halo 4, Saint’s Testimony is required reading.
Don’t gripe too much; it’s only 30 pages and only costs $.99. That’s a small price to pay for something that will most likely blow your mind.