I have been a massive fan of the Gears of War games since the very first one, way back in the day. I have devoured and finished every game, and loved the graphic novels. The additional novels by Karen Traviss? I’ve read all five multiple times, as I am such a fan of the universe that the game has created. It could be said that I’m a proper fanboy, and I’m not even ashamed to admit it.
Now that there is a new game coming soon – the imaginatively named Gears 5 – my excitement levels have been steadily rising. Promising to bridge the gap between the end of Gears 4 and the start of Gears 5 though is a new novel. Gears of War: Ascendance is authored by the New York Times’ best selling author Jason M. Hough. I did have the opportunity to read the book and put some questions to Jason recently, and here I’d like to scribble down my thoughts about the Titan Books published tome. I will do my best to avoid spoilers, but some discussion of the end of Gears 4 will be inevitable, so please be aware.
Ascendance opens almost exactly where Gears 4 ended, with Kait burying her mother, Reyna, who died at the very end of the game. Reyna has given Kait a family heirloom amulet that belonged to her grandmother, and disturbingly it appears to have a Locust symbol on the back. Why would Reyna have this? What does it mean? Will we ever find out? Spoiler alert: not in this book! Anyways, after laying Reyna to rest, Kait, J.D. et al have a choice to make: should they go back to being outsiders, or should they give the COG another try? First Minister Jinn invites the team back to New Ephrya to discuss the situation, so despite her misgivings, Kait allows herself to be drawn to the heart of the COG government.
Obviously, getting in is a lot easier than getting out, and after a meeting with the First Minister that doesn’t seem to solve anything, Kait is staying with Baird and Sam at his enormous estate. In the meantime, Jinn also gives J.D and Del an ultimatum: rejoin the COG and become Gears again, or face the prospect of some serious jail time. Obviously, this is going to cause friction with Kait, who still blames the COG for what happened to her village, and it’s here that the talent of the author begins to shine through. Jason has made a very good job of getting inside the skin of all the characters, Kait and J.D. in particular, and the book really does feel like an extension to the games. With the action on offer in this volume, I’d feel more than happy playing it as a DLC for Gears 4, as the whole story just hangs together perfectly. I’m going to avoid any further discussion of the actual storyline as the real pleasure in Ascendance is following through what the characters do and how they act.
The full spread of the Swarm feature here, from Juvies and Pouncers all the way up to a full blown Swarmak. Seeing how the characters deal with the bad guys, especially the new additions to the roster is always entertaining, and seeing the Cole Train appear and steal every scene he is in is a real highlight. All the classic weapons are in use too – Lancers, Gnashers, even a rusty old Boltok get an outing. The way these firefights are described really helps to bring the scenes to life in the imagination. Jason definitely has a flair for the action scenes, and they barrel along at a great pace, always thrilling and exciting.
I have to admit, seeing a new author take over the Gears books after reading the previous five did give me a moment of concern, but having read what Jason M. Hough brings to this table, my concerns have been laid to rest. He is a safe pair of hands to take the Gears universe forward, and he really does seem to have a grasp of the past, while at the same time the future, of the Gears universe. This book bowls along at a cracking rate, and it’s no exaggeration to say that I found it hard to put down, only stopping reading at bedtime when I couldn’t keep my eyes open any more!
If you are a fan of Gears, and its extended universe, or even if you just want a leg up on the story of Gears 5, I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending you to pick up a copy of Gears of War: Ascendance from Titan Books. I’m very excited to see what Jason does with this source material next.
Massive thanks go out to Titan for not just providing the opportunity to get hands-on with the book, but also giving access to Jason for a quick Q&A. If you wish to read what he had to say in our interview then please do so. Should you then want to get a copy of Gears of War: Ascendance in your own hands, then Titan Books will be able to sort you out.