01/03/2010. Contributed by RJ Barker
pub: Del Rey/Ballantine Books. 385 page enlarged paperback. Price: $13.00 (US), $15.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-345-49943-1 pub: Orbit. 385 page paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84149-737-2)
check out websites: www.delreybooks.com www.orbitbooks.net
On the world of Sera, humanity is fighting a desperate struggle against the underground dwelling, Locust Horde. The main concentration of humanity has been forced into one city, Jacinto, and even that is being squeezed by the onslaught. Marcus Fenix, a Sergeant in the C.O.G army known as 'the Gears', together with his friend, Dominic Santiago, is doing his best to fight back the hoard. A dangerous mission to retrieve supplies and the return of a long lost colleague reminds them of another dangerous mission on the titular, Aspho Fields, in the days before the Locust Horde emerged and the sacrifices that were made.
I feel a bit sorry for Karen Traviss as I suspect she's been a bit hamstrung by the copyright owners. The most interesting thing about the 'Gears Of War' games is the Locust Horde, where they came from, who they are and the how their society is structured. I suspect this is something the game developers want to save for further 'Gears' games and details are sadly lacking from this book. What this means is that 'Aspho Fields' is military fiction featuring the characters from 'Gears Of War' rather than something that explores the most interesting parts of the world the game takes place in.
This doesn't make it a bad book by any means though I'm not sure who it's aimed at. Those reading it to find out more about the Locust Horde will be disappointed as what you get is backstory for Marcus Fenix and his men. Lots of it. It's well written and drags you along with it but doesn't add anything. There's nothing really new, there's no great secrets revealed or conspiracy's unravelled that add to the game. What it does very well is make the metal-clad supermen of the game a lot more human. Of all of them, the surly Colonel Hoffman comes across as the most interesting.
I also expected a lot more action from this book and was surprised by how considered and slow it is, especially compared to the level of action in the game. It's not the gung-ho insanity of David Gunn's 'Death's Head' books and neither is it the 'little guys against impossible odds' of Dan Abnett's 'Gaunt's Ghosts'. Instead, this is military fiction that's all about the people. It may well leave fans of the game a frustrated and fans of military fiction wishing there was just a bit more action but it is worth picking up if men (and women) with guns and their lives is your thing.
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