Review by C.J. Bunce
One of the year’s best military sci-fi novels awaits you in the next Gears of War tie-in novel, Gears of War: Bloodlines. Author Jason M. Hough creates a gritty tale of an unthinkable mission by current lead game character and former Gear soldier Kait Diaz and a forgotten, impossible mission by her father, Lt. Colonel Gabriel Diaz. The story begins in the future at war, after the destruction of Settlement 2. Kait’s comrade J.D. Fenix is severely wounded. While Kait awaits his outcome, she is approached by an old man who claims he fought with her father years ago. The man slips her a secret file, which recounts a mission that determined the fate of her father, marked a turning point in his life, and may influence who she may become.
The reader is taken back to the events surrounding that prior battle. Gabriel “Gabe” Diaz, joins a long-lost brother–not Oscar–but another brother, Wyatt. The mission is in part to take out a communications antenna, but it becomes much more. Back in the future, Kait leaves on a mission to bring in Outsiders as the enemy begins to change… to evolve. The robotic DeeBees have been corrupted. And Kait will soon learn the name of a new nemesis on the horizon.
Gears of War: Bloodlines is a great military sci-fi story, full of smartly choreographed action, plotting, and intrigue, improving significantly on past Gears tie-in stories–far more layered with better character development than Hough’s last Gears adventure, Gears of War: Ascendance (reviewed here)–what Hough didn’t do in that novel he succeeds at here, creating a story accessible to those even unfamiliar with the games. The battle sequences evoke World War II movies like The Guns of Navarone or accounts and images of D-Day. All those missions to take out some key opponent threat–here that’s an antenna. The soldiers could be found among Browncoats in Firefly, with young Han Solo and the marines in Solo: A Star Wars Story, and the necromongers and bounty hunters in Vin Diesel’s Chronicles of Riddick, with the swagger and attitude of the pilots in Battlestar Galactica. These are hardened, armored warriors, like the mobile infantry of Starship Troopers–tough and unyielding.
For the sections featuring Kait Diaz, readers will find she’s like Lara Croft in Tomb Raider or Ripley from Aliens, but also with that cool edge on a path to become something bigger like Aeon Flux, Alice in Resident Evil, and Rita Vrataski in Edge of Tomorrow. As subordinate characters go, I found myself a fan of Davis, who fought with Gabe Diaz in the backstory. If the backstory is World War II inspired, the future story is more Chronicles of Riddick.
Highly recommended escapist reading, check out Gears of War: Bloodlines, now available from Titan Books. Order it here at Amazon in an affordable paperback edition. And fans of the game series won’t want to miss Gears Tactics: The Art of the Game, reviewed here at borg yesterday.