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Exclusive interview with Jason M. Hough, author of Gears of War: Ascendance!


Gears of War Ascendance

Excited for Gears 5? Gone back to play through the previous Gears of War titles? You’ll probably be wanting to get fully immersed in the whole lore of the series. And with that in mind Titan Books’ Gears of War: Ascendance should be something to check out. We certainly wanted to know more about the thrilling novel which begins immediately after Gears of War 4 and leads directly into the action of the new game. Thankfully the writer behind it, the New York Times-bestselling author Jason M. Hough no less, was more than happy to spend some time answering our questions…

Hi, please could you introduce yourself? What has been your role with the Gears of War – Ascendance book from Titan?

Hello! I’m Jason, an author from the Seattle area. I’ve written a bunch of original science-fiction novels, which were published outside the US by Titan. My books are known for being fast-paced and full of big action sequences, with ensemble casts of characters, and I think it is a combination of all these things that led to Titan calling me when it came time to find an author for Gears.

So, sell it to us, why should gamers be looking to give this book a read?

There are two approaches to such novels. One is to expand the lore of the universe by exploring other eras or areas. Off-shoots, if you will. And these are great, but it was important to me when I first met with the developers that we go for the second approach. That is, to be part of the main, active story line that the games are on. For fans of Gears of War, I think this book will feel like reading a novelization of a ‘missing’ chapter of the Gears games, as it picks up the moment Gears 4 ends, and concludes at the point where Gears 5 will start. If I’ve done my job right, reading this will enhance both their enjoyment of Gears 5, their understanding of Gears 4, and maybe most importantly give them a stronger connection to the characters.

Are you a gamer yourself? How much did you know about the Gears Universe before taking on this project?

Showing my age a bit here, but I’ve been gaming since I was ten years old, which was all the way back in the early 80’s. I grew up on games, from coin-op to Apple ][ to Sega, and went on to make games as a 3D artist and then a Designer at a studio called Zono. I still play games constantly! For most of my life I’ve been a PC gamer, though, and didn’t pay much attention to console titles. So I was aware of Gears when Titan first called me, but only very generally. After we talked I spent the weekend playing Gears 4 and getting familiar with the earlier games via video play-throughs others have posted. This was plenty to clue me in to how awesome the Gears Universe is, so by that Monday I was ready to give Titan the thumbs-up on the project.

How much access did you get to the story writers of the game?

Essentially as much as I needed. They were incredibly helpful throughout the process, which mainly meant answering a million questions for me at the start, and then the occasional ping during writing. When the book was done in first-draft form, they all read it and gave me tons of notes. It all added up to me feeling very much like part of the team, and I’m incredibly grateful to the time they afforded me, especially considering how busy they were with Gears 5 during all that.

Having Kait front and centre in the story is a bit of a departure from the norm for the Gears games. How did you get under her skin to bring her to life?

One of the big benefits to starting the book at the moment Gears 4 ends was that the entirety of that game could inform what I was doing. I spent a lot of time playing it, but also watching others play it so that I could focus on the story and — specifically — the characters and their voices. I’m not sure if I’d say Kait was the main character of Gears 4, but for me she’s the one who ends up in the most interesting place from a drama standpoint, so I think it’s only natural to shift the focus to her.

And where did that pairing of Sam and Baird come from? 

That’s right from Gears 4. I don’t know the history behind it, just that Rod Fergusson told me they were an item, but not married, and to roll with it.

Will we ever find out for sure why Kait’s grandmother’s medallion had a Locust symbol? Internet rumour seems to think Kait is related to Myrrah, the Locust Queen! Is there anything you can add to that?

That’s getting into territory the game will probably cover, so I’m pretty sure some NDA or another prevents me from answering. Nice try, though! Heh.

Can you ever see a time when a Gears game won’t have Marcus in it? He’s certainly knocking on a bit now. 

Well, I certainly can. To be clear I’m just speaking for myself. The longevity of a franchise like this comes from the setting. I suppose earlier stories could be told, or a reboot could happen. Some silly time-travel tech could be forced in there (ugh). Personally I always prefer when the story keeps marching relentlessly forward, deals head-on with the aging and eventual passing of beloved characters, and allows new ones to fill the voids they leave. That said, Marcus has some life in him yet. I wouldn’t be too quick to count him out.

Do you feel that now is the time for Kait, J.D., Del et al to step into Marcus’ boots and carry the future arc forward?

Personally, yeah, but I don’t think that means Marcus goes away. He leaves his boots for them and finds a new pair. In the near term he’s still a warrior, but shifts into the role of mentor, which I explore a bit in the book. Beyond that there are plenty of ways his story could go, but that is up to the Coalition and I’ve no idea what they have planned. What I am confident about is that the story is in great hands over there, and whatever they do it will be awesome.

Have we seen the last of Oscar, or will he return with the kids?

Again for NDA reasons I can’t say, but I sure hope we haven’t seen the last of him. I can say (I think!) that we’ll learn some things about a younger Oscar in my next book.

And finally, are there more Gears books in you. Should we be looking to see your name attached to further novels?

I’m working on a second book right now, but I’m not at liberty to say yet what it will be about. There’s a decent sized hint in the previous answer, though. 

Massive thanks go out to Jason for spending the time to answer our questions. If you’re interested in how Gears of War: Ascendance works as a bridge to Gears 5, how Kait seals her mother’s tomb, where J.D. Fenix and Del Walker come into play, and what exactly happens when the swarm comes once more, make sure you consider picking up a copy of the book. We’ll have a full review of it soon, but in the meantime you can grab Gears of War: Ascendance from Titan Books right now.

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